Recent Comments

    Auto: Choosing Size in Hybrid Crossovers

    By Philip Ruth

    How much vehicle do you need? It’s a good question to ask as the summer road-trip season begins, and the answer is ultimately very personalized.

    If you’re looking at luxury crossovers, such as this week’s compact NX 300h and midsized RX 450h, then chances are you’d appreciate the utility aspect at least as much as the elevated driving position and typically chic styling. Maybe you’d then want to maximize that with a midsize.

    Or maybe you’d prefer a compact if you park in San Francisco, or have a tight garage space. Maybe you’d simply prefer a lower car payment and higher gas mileage.

    These two from Lexus have the last point covered—they’re both hybrids, and there’s not a lot of difference in their fuel use. Both are rated 30 mpg highway in their 2016 front-wheel drive forms, and adding all-wheel drive drops that figure on the RX to 28 mpg. Note that you’ll spend more at the pump with the RX, because it demands premium grade.

    Lexus NX 450h

    Lexus NX 300h

    Gas-powered crossovers have shown the widest gap in terms of reaching their EPA numbers, particularly as my press cars climbed San Francisco’s hills. But the trip computers in both the RX and NX hybrids usually displayed 25 mpg and above, whereas some non-hybrid compact crossovers had dipped to 15 mpg.

    Hybrids aren’t known for performance, and both the NX and RX hybrids offer a mixed bag of responses, depending on which part of the gas-electric spectrum they’re engaging. The NX can feel lazy when pressed, while the RX feels lighter on its feet, which is remarkable, given its claimed 4,740-pound curb weight. The NX isn’t far off—it weighs more than two tons, making “compact” a relative term. Over the road, the NX’s poundage seems to register more than the RX’s.

    Inside, the NX and RX evince different vibes. The NX aims for youthful and sporty, while the RX is more settled and classy. The NX’s angled center stack enhances its techie appeal, though the plastics seem more Toyota than Lexus. The richer RX has no such discrepancy, and it rewards its occupants with broad contours and supple textures.

    Both crossovers are plenty useful, but the NX packs in more volume for its size. While the NX is just over 10 inches shorter than the RX, its cargo room gives up little to its bigger brother. The RX’s 55.9-cubic-feet total cargo capacity is just 2.2 cubic feet greater than the NX’s.

    Styling brings the NX and RX closer together. They both have pointed examples of the now-signature Lexus grille, which can be described either as an hourglass or an angry alien, depending on your perspective. The RX is unique in offering an F Sport package, which gives the crossover a more serious look while adding handling upgrades.

    Then it comes down to prices, with the RX 450h adding about thirteen grand to a comparable NX 300h. Both have their appeal, but if were me, I’d spend the extra for an RX.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant at www.gaycarguy.com. Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com