Discovering Lexus

Words: Anand Mohan Photography: Varun Kulkarni 

‘To my eyes, some of the detailing and the sharp cuts and creases make the NX a very striking SUV’

We aim to find out if Lexus has a place in India and what’s special about the brand through its youngest offering, the NX 300H

You’d think there are more than enough luxury car offerings in India and far lesser buyers at the moment to really care for more but every month, a few new cars are launched. How do you stand out in a crowded space when you are this late to the party? It’s a tough question Lexus India is attempting to answer, but with a refreshing portfolio of sedans and SUVs and the carrot of top-brand positioning and exclusivity, they might just be on the right path. We drove to Mumbai to pick up an NX 300h for A  few days to delve deeper into the charm of owning a Lexus. The dealership is strategically located at Taj Santacruz, and the minute you walk in through the lobby of a five star hotel, the brand definitely earns a few more brownie points. When you walk into the Lexus showroom, there are golf kits and collectibles displayed on the front facade. It’s all an attempt to create brand value and it works. This was just after Gudi Padwa, and on that day, the Mumbai showroom delivered 12 cars.

Despite on-road prices starting from `70 lakh (that’s how much this NX 300h F-Sport costs) and going north of `2.5 crores, the sales are great – 12 car in a day is a very good number. Except for the full-fat LX 450d, every other product in the lineup uses a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. It’s a forward thinking approach and helps the brand stand out in the sea of luxury cars you’ve got the option of purchasing. The powertrains don’t claim of big numbers or standout performance, but a creamy drive befitting a relaxed and comfortable luxury car.

Petrol-electric hybrid powertrain a lot more likeable than the usual diesel units you get otherwise

Panaromic glass roof makes the cabin feel airier than it actually is

NX isn’t fast by any means but still fun

The NX 300h is the newest of Lexus offerings and also the most affordable, yet there’s nothing about the NX that makes you think it was built with a strict price target in mind. On paper, the numbers won’t tempt you so if you are that kind of guy or gal, maybe Lexus has lost you before you get to the showroom. It’s got a 2.5-litre petrol motor powering the front wheels and an electric motor chugging the rear wheels, but all you get is 194bhp and 210Nm. What you don’t realise is that the engine is not as stressed as most petrol motors are, will live a longer life than you and your kids, and the electric motor will save you so much money, you will question the need of a lowly diesel SUV. It won’t matter as much that 0-100kmph comes in a lazy 9.2 seconds or it can’t go beyond 180kmph, or the fact that that CVT gearbox will make you late for a meeting if you’ve got a lot of stop-go traffic. On the move, you can hustle the SUV and still get over 600km on a full tank of fuel, when most of the driving is done with a heavy foot.

The electric motor intervenes during highway cruising quite seamlessly, every time you get your foot off the throttle or are steady with one, the petrol motor cuts off to give you your free miles on the road. It doesn’t feel like you are freewheeling though, which is very confidence inspiring. Lexus offers adaptive suspension as standard fitment on the car due to which the damping works so well with the comfy seats to give that plush luxury ride without much wallow. The NX has good body control and the steering isn’t lazy for an SUV; it stays planted at high speeds through sweeping bends and holds its own in tight corners courtesy the AWD system. It’s no sportscar or a particularly sporty SUV, but the NX strikes that fine balance of luxury and sport that’s very pleasing. The Sport variant will even play the engine note in the cabin through the fantastic Mark Levinson audio system if you like your engine notes piped through speakers. It comes with heated seats, a large glass panoramic sunroof, and a full-size spare wheel too.

The design is unmistakably Lexus

Except for the output numbers, I’m all for the Lexus. In fact, that petrol-electric combination is lovely; you let the revs build beyond 4000rpm and allow the electric motor to take over intermittently and that basic thought of the need of a diesel engine in an SUV is totally wiped out. It even turns more heads than any SUV will at this price point. Some probably because they are just too puzzled by the whacky design, but to my eyes, some of the detailing and the sharp cuts and creases make the NX a very striking SUV. Even the quality paint job adds to one of its many charms. There’s so much character in this NX, you will need to spend a few days in one to appreciate it, and I’m guessing this charm is carried forward in spades to its larger siblings. Should we call Lexus to send us the `1.82 crore LS 500h next?



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