Lexus have made its intentions very clear. They have their hearts set on dominating the luxury, executive corner of the car market. Unfortunately, it has entered itself into one of the most competitive sectors in motoring. Surrounded on all sides by BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and even Jaguar, Lexus has a fierce battle on its hands. Lexus’ expertise is in executive saloon cars. The IS model is a true competitor against the likes of BMW’s ubiquitous 3-Series and Audi’s brilliant A4. Now, they’re taking on the luxury crossover SUVs with the NX 300h and 2015’s brand new 200t. Will they bother the top players here? We took them both for a spin to find out.
Competitors – Before we get stuck in, let’s take a glance around us. The Audi Q7 and the BMW X3 are the ones to beat in this market. At the upper end of the spectrum, the Range Rover Sport is out on its own, but sets a benchmark for quality. Hovering around the £40,000 – £50,000 mark, the Lexus will be hoping to edge out Audi and BMW here.
The Lexus factor – As a brand, Lexus are a little over twenty years old. That’s pretty young when you compare it to their giant competitors. As a subdivision of Toyota, they are focused solely on dominating the luxury market. Visit any Lexus dealer and you’ll see the attention to detail and luxury on offer. They’re certainly making inroads and their cars are fantastic.
Styling – The first thing you notice about the NX 300h is the breath-taking design. It’s enough to make anyone stop and stare. When the car first arrived for test drive, we couldn’t take our eyes off it. The sharp, angular edges and the giant grill distinctly set it apart from its competitors. In fact, it looks more like a sports car than an SUV. It’s quite simply the best looking crossover on the market.
Engine – The NX 300h comes with very reasonable hybrid drive. It features a 2.5 litre petrol engine, complemented by an electric motor. That means you’ll squeeze out a fairly impressive 54 miles to the gallon. Not bad for a large, chunky SUV. A gas guzzler, this is not. Of course, if you’re looking for some serious power, you’ll want to check out the NX 200t.
NX 200t – Released as a follow up to the 300h, this new model is the one we’ve been waiting for. There’s no dual hybrid engine here. It’s all about power and speed.
Driving experience – Unfortunately, it seems Lexus may have tripped at the final hurdle. They have crafted a beautiful vehicle, but the handling and driving experience falls short of its peers. Don’t get us wrong, there isn’t much to dislike here. But, when your competitors are the luxury Audi and BMW models, anything less than perfect is a fault.
Lexus have a little work to do if they’re to leapfrog the bigger players. The company is still relatively young, and it won’t be long before they’re setting the bar even higher.