By Mike Torpey on 2021-02-07 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Lexus NX 300h
CAR manufacturers aren't averse to making bold, often exaggerated, predictions for their products - it's rare though for a new vehicle to outperform the prophecy.
That's the case, however, with the Lexus NX 300h mid-size SUV, the performance of which has been stronger than even its maker anticipated, breaking sales forecasts in all the world markets where it is available, including Europe and the UK.
So much so that it has accounted for more than 30 per cent of the Japanese company's European sales since its launch some eight years ago, many of its customers being new to the brand.
And the NX's success comes as little surprise given its sleek, almost low-slung, styling, upmarket refinement and extensive level of equipment. A luxury offering - most definitely.
Now, with improvements to safety, efficiency and driving dynamics at the forefront, Lexus has added a package of revisions to make the model even more appealing.
At its core is the asset that the NX is a self-charging hybrid and one of 20 hybrid models now available in the passenger car line-up offered by Lexus and parent brand Toyota.
The advantage is that the Lexus is engineered to run on power from both its petrol engine and electric motor, ultimately saving fuel and cutting exhaust emissions.
It also has an EV mode button which the driver can use to switch to completely electric power, ideal for driving in slow-moving traffic or for short suburban trips.
Just one engine is available across the three-model NX range, a 2.5-litre unit producing a full system output of 195bhp for a 0-62mph acceleration time of 9.2 seconds and 112mph top speed.
Those figures don't exactly scream performance and underline why our F Sport variant is more about dynamics and design tweaks than outright wallop. Even the average fuel economy of 35.7-37.6 miles per gallon is nothing to write home about.
That said, this is a beautifully smooth, engaging and well appointed car to drive through its electric CVT automatic gearbox that can be overridden via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts.
And the Lexus Drive Mode Select gives drivers the choice of Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes, selected using a dial on the centre console.
All-wheel drive in the form of E-Four, with its second electric motor driving the rear wheels to deliver extra torque, is also included.
Cabin space ensures ample room for five, the car's high roofline giving plenty of head clearance and greater rear knee-room than in some larger SUV models.
Luggage space - 475 litres - is wide enough for golf bags to be stowed sideways and you also get a power tailgate on all bar entry level cars, while a button next to the tailgate grab handle automatically closes the tailgate and locks the vehicle.
On-board technology sees the likes of a wireless smartphone charging tray, reversing camera plus parking sensors, smart analogue clock and 10-speaker Pioneer Premium sound system that includes that rare treat of a CD/DVD player.
The manufacturer makes great play concerning its safety regime and the Lexus Safety System+ is fitted to all versions of the NX and includes features which monitor the car's surroundings and the driver's responses, recognising certain collision risks. F-Sport versions also now get a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.
Lexus NX 300h F-Sport
Mechanical: 195bhp, 2,494cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 35.7-37.6
Insurance Group: 29
C02 emissions: 137g/km
Bik rating: 32%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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