The 2022 Lexus NX 350h is an automotive dichotomy. Now in its second generation and eight years removed from its debut, the futuristic-looking sport utility vehicle is categorized as a subcompact luxury crossover. The description is contradictory and inaccurate.
Luxury in vehicles was once determined by spaciousness, top-end construction, top-line materials and a handsome, confident and powerful presence powering along the highway. The NX 350 is none of that.
Lexus remains the luxury brand of Toyota. Its upscale offerings were vaulted to the top of the J.D Power & Associates in 1991, the car maker’s third model year.
More than 30 years later, the brand’s SUV lineup gets similar industry ratings. But as represented to an extreme by the NX 350, Lexus has gone rogue. The manufacturer’s insistence on its in-your-face front grille remains perplexing. It looks hideous on a subcompact SUV, an unnecessarily aggressive design best reserved for vehicles in dystopian movies.
The NX 350 has further futuristic leanings with its sharply chiseled body design. It’s a collection of sharp curves and draftpersons’ imaginations that collectively look unfinished.
Exterior missteps are countered but the top-level mechanics, efficiency and overall quality driving, particularly in the hybrid trim. The SUV in its hybrid choice features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine matched with hybrid components to produce 239 horsepower. It’s 45 horsepower more than the 2021 model. All-wheel drive is standard on the hybrid trim, optional on other levels.
Acceleration is quick, a 7.2-second effort in the 0-to-60 miles per hour standard. It’s more than one second faster than last year’s model. Gas mileages represent the hybrid’s strength, 41 miles per gallon in city driving, 37 mpg on the freeway. The Lexus is propelled by an eight-speed automatic transmission. Shifting from park to drive or reverve is rough.
The hybrid’s fuel efficiency is complemented by a smooth overall ride. Many vehicles’ hybrid engines have a whiny tone while advancing to freeway speeds. The NX 350h has the same trait, although it’s replaced by near silence at freeway speeds.
The NX 350’s exterior extremes are further neutralized by another Lexus quality — state-of-the-art technology. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are standard on all levels. A 10-inch head-up display projects detailed information well. Lexus reports its navigation system is now cloud-based, a more accurate mapping approach.
The Lexus reputation has also been honed through the years via its emphasis on safety. New for 2022 are forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, road signs and oncoming traffic warnings.
A 10-speaker stereo system is standard and includes a free trial of Amazon Music; a 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo system is optional on models equipped with the Premium or Luxury packages. Optional features include a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, an ambient interior lighting system with 64 different color choices, and black open-pore wood trim.
The Lexus NX 350h has 22.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats; its overall cargo availability of 46.9 cubic feet is less than many competitors’ dimensions. The back seat and liftgate adjust easily. Seating is limited to five.
As a new generation Lexus, the improved little SUV has positioned itself more competitively in a hybrid segment that includes the Jaguar E-Pace, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Cadillac XT4, Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2 and Volvo XC40. It’s a tough market, with the Lexus priced at about $56,000.
A subcompact SUV priced in the mid-50K range seems overpriced; a luxury vehicle priced the same seems fair. Lexus avoids both. It calls the 2022 Lexus NX 350h a front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon.