Dale JohnsonThe Lexus NX 350h AWD is a compact luxury hybrid crossover. Introduced for the 2015 model year, the NX series is one of the most popular Lexus models. For the 2022 model year, a completely new version was introduced.

The NX line shares some components with the related Toyota RAV 4, although the Lexus versions are, of course, more luxurious. I test drove the NX 350h, one of four NX models, with the main differences between them being the type of powertrain and price.

The NX 350h, with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and two electric motors that produce a combined 240 hp, starts at $49,900. (With options, my test vehicle came in at about $60,000.) Natural Resources Canada rates the NX 350h at 5.7 litres per 100 km in the city and 6.4 l/100 km on the highway.

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Of the four NX models, the 350h gets the best fuel economy. Also in the lineup are two gas-only models, the NX 250 ($47,400) and the NX 350 ($54,850) and a plug-in hybrid, the NX 450h+ ($59,950.) All NX models are 4662 mm (183.5 in) long and sit on a 2690 mm (105.9 in) wheelbase.

As a hybrid, the NX 350h cannot be plugged in to charge it up – only the regenerative braking while driving recharges the battery. That’s different from the NX450h+, which, as a plug-in hybrid, can be re-charged by plugging it into a wall outlet or fast charger. As well, the NX450h+ plug-in hybrid can operate in pure electric mode for up to 58 km.

The exterior styling has the massive and distinctive Lexus grill up front, which some people might consider somewhat extreme. The rest of the styling is quite conservative and similar to many other vehicles on the market.

My test vehicle had a dark red soft-touch leather interior with black accents. The red leather on the centre armrest continues along the side of the console where the gear selector is, and then keeps going onto the dashboard, right under the heating and air conditioning controls.

My only complaint is with the steering wheel, which is used for much more than simply steering the vehicle. I counted, and there are 17 buttons on the steering wheel as well as two paddle shifters. But wait, there’s more. On the left side of the steering column is the windshield wiper control, and on the right side is the headlight switch. While the concept of not needing to remove a hand from the steering wheel to make various adjustments is a good idea, at some point there can be too many buttons on a steering wheel. If the Lexus designers haven’t crossed that line, I think they’re getting mighty close.

The driving position is very good, and the seats are comfortable.

I didn’t find the NX 350h as fast as other hybrids I’ve tested. Acceleration was more than adequate but not really fast.

While the hybrid drivetrain certainly improves fuel economy, other than that, there’s nothing creative or different that sets the Lexus NX 350h apart from competitors.

Although there’s nothing offensive or bizarre, there is nothing that makes it really stand out. Personal preference for styling touches and brand loyalty may be key factors for shoppers looking at this vehicle. A lot of people love Lexus.

Overall, Lexus sales were up 24 per cent in Canada in 2021 over 2020, making it the biggest increase among luxury brands and good enough for fourth spot in the sales race, behind Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.

In the crowded compact crossover segment, the Lexus 350h will appeal to people looking for a hybrid who want excellent fuel economy and more luxury than the related Toyota RAV4.

Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. While 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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