I had a chance to drive a brand new 2017 Lexus NX300h hybrid SUV and while I was expecting a terrific experience, it was more frustrating than I had any reason to expect. After all, I’ve owned a Toyota hybrid SUV — a Highlander Hybrid — for many years and the Lexus is the luxury brand of Toyota so it should be like my vehicle, but better and newer, right?
Certainly, it’s a beautiful vehicle in “Autumn Shimmer” brown:
Photographed in front of the lovely Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was a bit dirty from a small accumulation of snow and ice, unfortunately!
The interior of the car is well appointed too, with lots of buttons and switches, not to mention a simple and easy to use navigational system and entertainment center:
Look closely and you’ll see there are even heat warmers and coolers for both driver and passenger, as well as the all-important dual-control because it’s rare to find two people who like their temperature exactly the same.
But what bugged me is hinted at by the inclusion of an analog clock smack in the middle of the dashboard, something that presumably harkens to a more genteel time when your Rolls Royce would have an analog clock because, well, digital clocks weren’t yet invented. Instead, though, the Lexus trades accuracy and precision for elegance, but it’s not even elegant. Just hard to read when I kept looking at the dashboard for the current time.
And then there’s the Remote Touchpad:
It’s a touchpad with bounce, which works fine if you’re parked and manipulating the controls (navigation, entertainment, etc). But while driving I found it way too difficult to get the gesture “just so” while actually in motion. Instead, I’d find again and again that I’d hit a tiny bump and pushed to select something, rather than still be navigating the menus. It made me long for the simpler controls of the Toyota line or even the dial of the Mazda entertainment system.
But the thing that really drove me nuts was the automatic seat adjustment system.
The design on paper is great, and you can imagine engineers at a meeting coming up with a seat that automatically slides backwards, a steering wheel that pulls towards the dash and side-view mirrors that tilt down when you turn off the car and are ready to exit. In practice, however, almost half the time I turned on the car it wouldn’t resume the pre-programmed settings, causing me to have to move back into Park and push the preset button again. Other times I’d be sitting idle at a red light and it would randomly shift into exit mode, meaning the seat was too far back and the side view mirrors were useless.
Random seat adjustment wars? Not good. But there’s another reason that the entire system is poorly designed, as I found when I parked on a street, turned off the car and went to glance at the side mirror to check for cars heading towards me or bicyclists: It was no longer adjusted for my height and preferences and I couldn’t see anything. From the user manual, it appears you can disable the automatic seat adjustments, and I probably should have done so the first time it acted up, but isn’t part of the reason you buy a luxury car to be pampered by all its great design and engineering?
On a more positive note, I love how many cars are getting the wireless charging systems integrated into the vehicle. On the NX300h, it’s in the center armrest storage area:
Note in the shadows the addition of a 12V “cigarette” lighter, a USB connector and an AUX in jack for hooking up audio sources. In modern times, you can’t have too many power plugs and sources, so that was much appreciated!
Confusingly, though, the Lexus engineers seem to be stuck on 1990’s cellphone design, as shown by the icon that appears when you’re actually on a phone call with the hands-free system:
A BlackBerry Pearl? What even is this phone in the graphic? 🙂
Credit where it’s due, I did like the dashboard controls design and layout, and the 2017 Lexus NX300h gets quite acceptable average gas mileage, as shown:
In summary, I enjoyed a week of putting the NX300h hybrid through its paces – it’s certainly fun to drive with its peppy hybrid drivetrain – but am ultimately disappointed with the glitches and overall driving experience. A luxury vehicle in this price range should wow and delight with every facet, not have feature after feature present challenges or frustrations.
AS DRIVEN: 2017 9844A Lexus NX 300h 5-DR SUV in Autumn Shimmer. 2.5 liter hybrid engine, 194 HP with dynamic torque control all wheel drive. Options: Qi-Charger, Electrochromic Rear View Mirror, LED headlamps, Luxury Package, Navigation Package, Electrochromic Outer Mirrors, Parking Assist, Cargo Mat, Illuminated Door Sills, Mudguards. MSRP: $50,433.
Disclosure: Lexus loaned me the 2017 Lexus NX 300h for a week to drive so that I could write up this review. Much appreciated!