The right-size plug-in Lexus that doesn’t want for range.

2023 Lexus NX 450+
2023 Lexus NX 450+

By Paul Herrold

Despite diets, exercising, and eating as healthy as possible, most of us can’t help but get a little bigger as we age—a couple of pounds here, a few extra inches there, we try to avoid it but it just sort of happens… Ironically, our cars, trucks and SUVs have suffered a similar fate: With each new model redesign, vehicles happen to get bigger, too.

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2023 Lexus NX 450+

Take, for example, the Lexus RX 300—the very first luxury crossover SUV in the USA. Introduced by Lexus back in 1998, it took the market by storm—the company could hardly keep up with the demand. Considered a “compact vehicle” at the time, it was 180.3-inches long and 71.5-inches wide. Five years later, the RX was redesigned. It grew six inches longer and one inch wider—and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. Currently in its fifth generation, the all-new Lexus RX has grown into “mid-size” status, at 192.5-inches long and 75.6-inches wide, it’s over a foot longer and four inches wider than the original. The interior gained more room, sure, but in doing so the company lost prospective buyers who wanted a compact-size luxury SUV instead. To remedy this, Lexus introduced an all-new SUV in 2014 called the NX for “Nimble Crossover.” At 182.7-inches long and 72.6-inches wide, it was within inches of the original RX dimensions.

2023 Lexus NX 450+
2023 Lexus NX 450+

For the 2022 model year, a second generation NX was brought to market. The SUV grew only slightly bigger than its predecessor, as now the emphasis was not so much on the roominess of the vehicle, but rather its refinement and technological advances. Lexus has hit a homerun here—especially in their top-tier version, the plug-in hybrid NX 450h+. Part of the appeal of the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) system is that, when fully charged, the NX 450h+ gives you approximately 37 miles of engineless range with its electric motor. Then, once the main battery is fully depleted, it automatically switches over to its 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine hybrid system (36-mpg combined EPA combined estimate). It’s a pure EV for driving around town, but a full-on gasoline vehicle for longer trips. With standard all-wheel-drive (AWD) and 304 horsepower, the NX 450h+ accelerates from 0-60 mph in a respectable 5.5 seconds—making this the most powerful and quickest NX model yet.

This Lexus model is more than just about its propulsion system, however. Its ride quality and smoothness are top notch, and its steering is light and accurate. Surprisingly, the extra 400 pounds of battery weight over the regular NX models helps the chassis in softening road imperfections. Although not the most agile compact SUV on the market, the NX 450h+ corners well and tracks down the road like a champ. Inside, cabin and road noise levels are impressively squelched, especially when driving in pure EV mode: Be careful what you say under your breath—everyone in the car will hear you.

The exterior of the NX has an almost-sports car look with dynamic body panel creases and muscular wheel arches. Even Lexus’ controversial front grille is integrated well with the design—so well, in fact, that after 12 years of debate, we can officially call the Lexus spindle grille design a success. Interior materials are definitely worthy of the Lexus badge, too.

Everything is logically laid out and the 450h+ enjoys a huge 14-inch infotainment touchscreen—gone is the awkward trackpad. The steering wheel uses Haptic Touch thumb controls, which allow each button to have multiple functions, and essentially doubles the number of functions you can perform while never taking your hands off the steering wheel. Unfortunately, these buttons are overly sensitive, and are constantly activated during turning maneuvers or just by sliding your hands across the steering wheel. Despite being the smaller sibling to the RX model, interior space in the NX 450h+ is very generous for front passengers, and decent for those in the rear seat. Luggage room is still good, even with the EV battery taking up some of the floor space in the truck.

Pricing for the 2024 NX lineup starts at $41,755 (including destination) for the front-wheel-drive 203 horsepower NX250. The top-of-the-line NX 450h+ quickly raises that figure to $60,055.00, but you do get a lot more technology, features, and power—totally worth it.

As it turns out, the Lexus NX 450h+ is the perfect size for compact luxury SUV buyers, and it’s really nice to drive.  Additionally, with its plug-in hybrid system, the NX 450h+ offers one thing that most other SUV’s in this class don’t: The ability to drive short distances on pure electricity and long distances on ordinary gasoline—it’s the best of both worlds.

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2023 Lexus NX 450+
2023 Lexus NX 450+

Paul is Chief Editor at the Sons of Speed, and a regular guest on the Car Stuff Podcast

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