The 2019 Lexus NX 300h premium compact SUV has an EPA rating of 31 mpg for combined city and highway driving. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2019 Lexus NX 300h premium compact SUV has an EPA rating of 31 mpg for combined city and highway driving. (Manufacturer photo)

2019 Lexus NX 300h hybrid SUV is seamlessly sophisticated

Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and an upgraded version of the Lexus Enform system are new features.

The Lexus NX 300h is a hybrid version of the company’s NX premium compact SUV. It adds great fuel economy to NX’s many other virtues, which include a gentle ride, sure-footed handling, a cozy interior, lots of safety features as standard equipment, and the reassurance of Toyota’s established reliability quotient.

Base pricing with a $1,025 destination charge included is $39,860 and only one version is available: a five-seater with all-wheel drive. The overall list of standard features isn’t comprehensive, so buyers on the more restrictive end of the budget spectrum can forgo fancy items while people on the opposite end can load up on them from the options list. It’s an appreciable setup for the NX 300h, given that premium compact SUV hybrids are a rarity.

An NX 300h with all the trimmings would cost just shy of 50 grand, and that describes the car I tested. Three of its options were in the four-figure range, and among those the one I wouldn’t want to live without is the Premium Package ($3,270) adding 18-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, a sunroof, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel column, memory mirrors and driver’s seat including lumbar support, and a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.

Another option, adaptive triple-beam LED headlamps were wonderful on my beloved unlit Snohomish County backroads, but they add another $1,515 to the bottom line.

For 2019, the NX 300h (and all NX 300 models) built after Oct. 1, 2018, have Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa functionality, and an upgraded Lexus Enform remote system with smart watch, Amazon Alexa skill integration, and Google Assistant integration. If you can’t live without those, pay attention to build dates when shopping.

Unfortunately, the NX 300h infotainment system still includes a center console touchpad for its operation. Many people, hypothetically me, aren’t very fond of touchpads even on a laptop, where they actually belong. To expect a person to also use a touchpad while driving is just too much. To begin with, anything that promotes taking hands off the steering wheel or eyes off the road can be dicey, but a touchpad is an especially puny plan. So, just no, Lexus. Please?

Fortunately, Lexus is merciful enough to have included traditional buttons and dials in addition to the touchpad.

The NX 300h hybrid system’s 2.5-liter four cylinder engine and an electric motor produce a combined 194 horsepower. To deliver all-wheel drive, an independent second motor operates the rear wheels, kicking in to provide extra traction when needed. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) completes the powertrain.

Regenerative braking changes the electric motor into a generator that stores the kinetic energy of the wheels when the brakes are applied.

In sum, the highly sophisticated NX 300h hybrid system works seamlessly in all situations.

Fuel economy ratings are 33 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. In electric-only mode, the NX 300h can travel for up to a mile at speeds below approximately 25 mph. Normal, Eco, and Sport modes are other driver options.

2019 LEXUS NX 300h

Base price, including destination charge: $39,860

Price as driven: $49,507

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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