Sunday, 18 March 2018

crossover king

The last time I saw Lexus's first compact crossover was in the summer of 2014, when it was half-hidden in the undergrowth at one of the world's biggest flower shows.

The last time I saw Lexus's first compact crossover was in the summer of 2014, when it was half-hidden in the undergrowth at one of the world's biggest flower shows.

The new Lexus NX300h impressed me then, firstly  because it was actually at the Hampton Court Flower Show and secondly by its size and style, more of which later.

I have attended this great flower show in its exemplary setting over many years and there was a time when  carmakers made imaginative use of the event.

However, in recent times in the same way Britain  appears to have lost its  appetite to stage an annual motor show, carmakers also seem to have lost interest in exhibiting at Hampton Court.

Which is a pity: it may be that they believe the return on their investment is  negligible, but what does it cost to put on a small  display for a new car that will reach thousands of potential customers? After all, visitors to the flower show come from every part of the world.

Anyway, full marks to Lexus for choosing this  prestigious show as a  platform for the new NX300h.

The carmakerâ??s thinking behind it is not hard to fathom. The model was on display beside the Quiet Mark treehouse in a garden created by John Lewis. Quiet Mark is an international seal of approval from the UKâ??s Noise Abatement Society, which encourages the design of quieter, high-performance technology.

Lexus felt their first new compact crossover fulfilled this brief because it is  available with a full hybrid powertrain. This system  enables the car to run on electric power at low speeds, for silent running.

Lexus clearly feels this demonstrates its commitment to making cars fit for 21st century motoring as  carmakers strive to clean up their act.

They have a tough task ahead, mainly because of the sheer volume of vehicles on the road.

However, I think the Hampton Court Flower Show is a venue well worth cultivating in future if  carmakers are serious about demonstrating their  green credentials.

Having whetted my  appetite by seeing the Lexus NX300h in a bucolic setting, I have now had a chance to test it on the open road.

I think its size and overall design are its strong points visually though some may find its extravagant front grille a tad dominant. But generally I liked the look of the car and because of its compact style it did not feel in any way cumbersome or heavy duty.

The days of the very large 4x4s may be numbered â??  although they too are on a determined trajectory to get â??greenerâ?� â?? so the Lexus NX300h will score heavily in its appeal to drivers who  desire the attributes of a  so-called Chelsea tractor,  but with more finesse.

Any new 4x4 or â??compact crossoverâ?� coming to the market needs to be completely aware of such realities of modern motoring life that road space comes at a premium. Despite all the gizmos now available to help drivers in a lifetimeâ??s quest to parallel park successfully, parking spaces themselves are hardly big 4x4 friendly.

But it is the sheer ease of driving that makes the NX300h so attractive. Once in the cabin, its overall ambience has a calming effect on the driver. The higher driving position adds to a commanding, but not overbearing road presence and the smooth, electric motor guiding you through town and city traffic congestion is one of the more pleasing experiences of driving on our roads today.

Despite having a powerful engine â?? 2,494cc, four cylinders in-line, 16-valve DOHC with VVT-I â?? this car can return 54.3mpg on the combined cycle. The Sport version I was driving could top 112mph and go from  0-62mph in 9.2 seconds. With its all speed cruise control you can reach comfortable high speed on motorways or employ this device around town in traffic.

So the power and performance were there if required: yet I found the latter, this steadier, calmer way of driving the NX300h more to my liking and sense of well-being on UK roads that are all too often peppered with aggression and argy-bargy.

My advice if you are looking to buying in this growing sector of the market â?? the compact crossover â?? is to try this new Lexus. The test car with options rounded up to just over £40,000.

Is that a high price to pay for peace-of-mind, laid-back style of driving today when there are those around you on the road who seem to be losing their heads? I don't think so.

On the road price: £36,995 (price with options £40,385)

Options include:

l Ultra Blue paint (£645)

l Adaptive variable suspension (£750)

Lexus Premium Navigation (£1,995)

Feature: All speed cruise control: when you push up or down briefly on the lever, cruise control speed goes up or down by 1mph. This functions even at low speeds to assist in queues.

Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 9.2 seconds

Maximum speed: Â 112 mph

Fuel economy combined (mpg): 54.3

CO2 emissions combined: 121g/km

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