Lexus NX 300h F

Sport

Lexus NX300h F Sport, side static
Lexus NX300h F Sport, full front static
Lexus NX300h F Sport, front static
Lexus NX300h F Sport, rear static
Lexus NX300h F Sport, dashboard
Lexus NX300h F Sport, rear seats
Lexus NX300h F Sport, front seats
Lexus NX300h F Sport, boot

YOU'VE seen the young starlet on the film premiere red carpet, plunging neckline and pelmet-deep skirt guaranteed to set the photographers ablaze with "look this way, love" pleas.

Job done for the bidding screen star. Getting noticed is the name of the game.

Now let's look at the car on test today. Spot the slashes and folds down the side, the dramatically gaping grille, the pert, chromed rear. Worthy of a second look, wouldn't you say?

This Lexus, one of a family of upper crust machines from the posh arm of Toyota, looks more motor show fantasy than production reality.

You wonder how the engineers managed to make it capable of mass production - or at least the several thousands that Lexus build every year.

Almost as surprising is the way the dramatic outside translates into a cabin where five people will fit comfortably.

Actually, the rear seats are merely comfortable, the pair up front do better still. There cannot be anything at remotely the NX300h's price that sit the business class front row so well.

Then, once you're enveloped by the Lexus leather, take a look around. The dash is as dramatic as anything penned on the exterior, with a seeming waterfall of screens, dials and switches, held together visually with striking swathes of leather and fillets of what look like expensive machined alloy but are probably artfully done plastic.

It all makes for a striking place to pass the miles, raising expectations of what is to come when the starter button is pushed and forward drive engaged in the Lexus's automatic gearbox.

At first you wonder if the engine has actually started, before you realise it hasn't - and that is precisely what the designers intended.

For the first few hundred yards (or a little further on a good day) the car is powered solely from an electric motor, drawing juice from a battery buried beneath the boot floor.

Press the accelerator more than even a little and the petrol engine kicks in too, but restrain yourself and all is quiet enough to hear the sparrows coughing.

Even with petrol helping - which will be most of the time - this is a quiet car, especially if the road beneath is smooth enough not to excite a bit of a roar from the low profile tyres. The F Sport tag adds visual drama to the outside and a set of different dampers for the suspension, which can turn a bit unforgiving on bad surfaces.

When the battery can help (it charges itself usefully when you lift off or brake) it reflects in the fuel consumption, which is unlikely to achieve the 50-plus mpg of the official test but nudged nicely past 40mpg in my hands.

So, it's handsome, beautifully built and pretty frugal. Any downsides?

Well, yes. There's the awkward touchpad that Lexus uses for many commands, from Sat Nav input to delving into the audio system, and which can't match the control wheels of its German rivals. And there's a (Japanese?) liking to make doing simple tasks more complex than they need to be - like linking your mobile phone to the car.

FAST FACTS

Lexus NX 300h F Sport

Price: £37,495

Mechanical: 195bhp, 2,494cc, 4cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving rear wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 112mph

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 54.3

Insurance Group: 32

C02 emissions: 121 g/km

Bik rating: 17%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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