Lexus' NX300h delivers efficiency at the expense of excitement
Eco crossover The hybrid Lexus NX300h can run silently for a kilometre or two on battery power alone. -- PHOTO: TOYOTA

Petrolheads charged up by key performance figures of the NX200t (235bhp, 350Nm, 0-100kmh in 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 200kmh) will probably be less enthusiastic about the NX300h.

The petrol-electric variant of the NX is about high efficiency instead of high performance. On paper at least, the crossover is a fuel sipper, with a claimed combined-cycle consumption of just over 5 litres per 100km.

After driving the NX200t, going green in the hybrid NX300h delivers a mild shock to my system - like downing a mug of cold green tea right after enjoying a cup of smooth warm sake.

The hybrid system in the NX300h is essentially the same one that powers the ES300h sedan, but with an additional 50kW (68bhp) synchronous motor mounted at the rear axle to achieve all-wheel-drive propulsion, dubbed E-Four by Lexus.

This green vehicle should have no traction issue over wet green grass and the like.

On the move, the NX300h is a typical Lexus hybrid in terms of sound (dull) and effect (detached). However, it boasts impressive mid-range energy, which is great when overtaking other vehicles. But the spurt of energy is good for only a short burst because the electrically assisted engine runs out of steam well before its 5,500rpm redline.

The car is also able to run silently on battery power alone for a gentle kilometre or two, depending on the battery's state of charge, the ambient temperature, road conditions and driving style. This is the eerie "giant golf cart" EV (electric vehicle) mode that allows modern Lexus hybrids to creep quietly with no exhaust emission at all.

Apart from a smaller 475-litre boot (the battery pack partially under the backseat takes up 25 litres of cargo capacity) and modified instrumentation that includes a dual-function tachometer and additional Energy Monitor display modes, the NX300h's interior is basically the same as the NX200t's.

Cabin space is generous enough to bear comparison with the larger, longer- wheelbase Lexus RX. There are sensible storage points everywhere, and the rear seats can be specified with (optional) powered folding/unfolding.

Useful gadgets onboard include a wireless charging tray for supported smartphones, a panoramic camera system for safer close-quarters manoeuvring and a redesigned Remote Touch Interface for easier management of the infotainment.

The exterior of the NX300h is every bit as eye-catching as that of the NX200t, but with blue-coloured badges to signify its hybrid configuration. Lexus' F Sport design package is available, at extra cost, to make the NX look even more aggressive.

The naturally aspirated 2.5-litre hybrid NX300h is slower than the turbocharged 2-litre NX200t, but it will arrive in Singapore sooner in October, because the Lexus factory in Japan is expected to start producing the hybrid version first.