I’ve never really got the whole 4-wheel-drive-car-around-town thing. The black Range Rover with the matching blacked-out windows on a side street in London smacks so much of mis-placed oligarch chic that it makes my jaw clench with embarrassment for the owner.
But the Lexus NX300h F Sport could yet make a believer out of me – at least around town. For starters, there’s the low-guilt factor, something that really matters to Greenies like me who worry about the impact on the planet (and my neighbours) every time I switch on the engine of any of its diesel-powered rivals.
Under the bonnet is a hybrid engine that lets you feel that, at an urban crawl at least, you are relatively amongst the motoring angels. A 2.5 litre petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack definitely significantly reduces carbon (and sulphide) emissions at low speeds. On the city streets, it’s smooth and pleasantly nippy too, packing enough punch when you hit the accelerator to make nipping in and out of even fast-moving traffic feel effortless. Looks-wise, I suspect the Lexus NX may be a bit of a marmite vehicle. My 14-year-old daughter Scarlett described it as ‘ugly-pretty’, while her brother Fin, 11, sized it up as ‘like a silver Batmobile.’
The interior got a big family thumbs up too. Dual-zone climate controls kept everyone at optimum operating temperatures, leather seats throughout suitably roomy and luxurious, and electric folding door mirrors, and front and rear parking sensors gave me a feeling of being totally in control of the driving situation. Lots of boot room too.
It was only out on the open road, heading out from London for a weekend in Dorset at Camp Bestival – road trip playlist Bluetoothed to the car stereo system full blast – that I began to have a few niggles of doubt. Top of my list was my old enemy, the in-car SatNav.
It looked great with a Star Wars-style full-colour screen sliding neatly out of the dash when you turned on the engine (which itself got ‘oohs’ of admiration from the kids in the back.) They were less impressed when Daddy tried to get it to navigate us anywhere.
Tricksy icons on the less-than user-friendly touchpad interface soon had me muttering words that are not fit for child-consumption, and even by the end of the weekend, I was still struggling to get to grips with the system. For example, trying to change the destination or switch it off before getting to your destination is more difficult than it should be; you can still hear the directions even if you’ve seemly switched off the whole SavNav, which can be frustrating.
Performance at speed was also a bit of an issue. It was smooth and easy to drive, but, for such a racy-looking car, it felt rather sluggish and heavy at times. There was also some jarring on bumpy surfaces, and more road and wind noise on the motorway that I would expect from such a high-end car. My final verdict would be that the Lexus is actually the perfect 4-wheel drive for the city, as well as for navigating the inevitable bumpy fields of festival parking, but that I’d have to give it a ‘could do slightly better’ mark as a serious contender out on the open road.
Insurance group: 32E
CO2 emissions: 121g/km
0-62 MPH: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 112 MPH
Combined fuel consumption: 54.3 mpg
Total OTR price: £40,640