Automakers are adding electric and hybrid vehicles to their lineups as consumers look for products that use less gas and reduce emissions.
The first plug-in hybrid from Lexus is the NX 450h+. Like some other Lexus models, it’s essentially a dressed-up Toyota. The NX 450h+ compact luxury crossover shares a powertrain with the Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid.
Now is a good time to clarify some definitions.
Gasoline vehicles, which have been popular for more than 100 years, have internal combustion engines that use gasoline as fuel.
All-electric vehicles have only electric motors for power. These are often called battery-electric vehicles, or BEV for short. The batteries must be recharged.
Between the gas-only and electric-only vehicles are two types of hybrids. All hybrids have both a gas engine and one or more electric motors. Unlike gas-only vehicles, hybrids get better fuel economy in the city than on the highway because in the city, at lower speeds, the electric motors supply most or all of the power.
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A regular hybrid has its batteries recharged while driving when the energy from braking is captured to charge up the batteries. This is the only way the batteries can be recharged. The electric motor (or motors) drives the vehicle at low speeds, primarily in the city. The gas engine kicks in at higher speeds or when extra power is needed. The transition is seamless, and computers determine the combination of electrical and gas power management.
The other type of hybrid is called a “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle” or PHEV. As well as being recharged by capturing energy from braking, these hybrids can also be plugged in to charge up the batteries. PHEVs can also operate solely on electric power, especially in short-range, low-speed city driving.
The first PHEV from Lexus is the NX 450 h+. This compact crossover sits on a 2690 mm (105.9 in) wheelbase, the same as the related Toyota RAV4, although the Lexus is slightly longer, 4662 mm (183.5 in) vs. 4596 mm (180.9 in) for the RAV4.
The 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine produces 304 hp, and, in electric-only mode, the NX450h+ can go 58 km. Then the gas engine takes over and the batteries have to be recharged, either by capturing kinetic energy when braking or by being plugged in.
Natural Resources Canada rates the Lexus NX 450h+ as getting 6.2 litres per 100 km in the city and 7.0 litres per 100 km on the highway. By comparison, the gas-powered Lexus NX 250 AWD – which has the same body and a 2.5-litre four-cylinder gas engine – is rated at 9.4 litres per 100 km in the city and 7.4 litres per 100 km on the highway.
I recently test-drove a Lexus NX 450h+.
There’s the massive and distinctive Lexus grill at the front, although the rest of the styling is quite conservative.
The luxury interior with soft-touch leather includes extensive white trim on the seats and door panels. The seats are very comfortable, although a little more legroom in the front would be great for people over six feet tall.
Overall, it’s a smooth and luxurious ride in the very popular compact crossover market – and the advantages of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain will be attractive to many people looking to spend less on gasoline yet wanting some of the benefits of a gas engine.
The Lexus NX 450h+ has a starting price of $59,950, while the related Toyota RAV4 Prime starts at $46,090 for the entry-level model – although the drivetrains are the same. Some buyers will think the premium price is worth the added features and luxury touches on the Lexus.
Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. The manufacturer provided Dale with a vehicle to test drive. The content of this review was not reviewed or accepted by the manufacturer.
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