The car’s new ergonomically optimised control layout is a real tribute to Lexus, as is the tactile quality of the vast majority of its dashboard fittings. Our F-Sport-spec test car had a little too much gloss black plastic on its centre console to avoid picking up smudgy fingerprints, but its new 14.0in Lexus Link Pro touchscreen multimedia is well laid out, responsive and intuitive to use. Elsewhere, the way the car’s multifunction capacitive thumbpad steering-spoke controls interact with its head-up display, allowing you to adjust various systems without either taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road at all, is very well thought out and executed – and a resounding lesson to the wider industry.
Even in sporty F-Sport guise, the lesser of two new hybrid NXs is refined, comfortable and quite effortless to drive, in a way that petrol-electric Lexus cars never used to be. The new 2.5-litre hybrid system is 25% more powerful than in the Mk1 NX and has crisp, assured tip-in throttle response, which allows it to accrue and maintain speed in everyday traffic easily.
When the car has to climb steeply or speed up more quickly, the powertrain has to resort to that old, slightly wheezy, outboard-motor-cum-three-speed-food-mixer performance routine, albeit only for a few seconds. The inevitable sense of mechanical detachment discourages you from summoning the car’s performance for the sake of it, even though there’s plenty of it available. The paddle-shift manual mode is tokenistic and unconvincing, and the sportier driving modes only really get you more revs, more detached feel and a rapidly plunging fuel economy indication. Alternatively, when you just mosey along in ‘normal’ mode, beating 50 to the gallon is very easy to do.
The NX’s ride and handling have clearly come on, though – as ironic as that may seem. In F-Sport guise, with Lexus’s clever AVS adaptive dampers, our test car had high lateral grip levels, taut body control and strikingly precise and assured handling for a car of its type. Surprisingly tactile steering also helped it to carve around corners, roundabouts and slip roads encouragingly well.
The ride offered the understated connected road feel that an interested driver might want but still filtered broken Tarmac well most of the time – although it did become fiddly and felt brittle over really complex surfaces. Without the sportier suspension, though, I strongly suspect that the regular NX 350h would be a very comfortable car.