After my time with the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, I am convinced that a fun and efficiency hybrid experience is possible, and it’s given me a lot to look forward to. One car I’ve been keeping an eye on is actually a crossover, the 2015 Lexus NX, which comes to North America with your choice of a 2.0 liter turbocharged engine, or a hybrid drivetrain with a sporty side.
Based on an all-new engine architecture, the 2.0 liter turbocharged engine has been designed to switch between the more efficient Atkinson cycle and the more powerful Otto cycle using a new valve control system. While Lexus isn’t ready to discuss MPG numbers on either drivetrain, their goal is deliver a driving experience that balances efficiency with fun driving dynamics, which extends to the new six-speed automatic transmission as well. Engineers have also cleaned the engine’s interior operating functions to the point where oil changes are only necessary every 10,000 miles. Lexus rates the 2.0 liter turbo at 235 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque, which puts it in the middle of the pack in terms of power.
The Lexus NX 300h, meanwhile, gets a unique hybrid drivetrain with a battery pack split in two for better weight distribution and a transmission “kickdown” feature thanks to an electric motor generator and electric drive motor. This delivers sportier performance from the 2.5 liter Atkinson cycle engine and electric motor combination than you’d normally see in a hybrid. The new Lexus NX even measures G-forces, adjusting engine speed and gear selection to your acceleration, not the kind of feature you expect to find on a hybrid.
With the NX, Lexus gets what I’ve been saying all this time; hybrids don’t have to be boring or slow or stale. If automakers can manage to blend efficiency and fun in a quality vehicle, they’ll have no problem selling a ton of them. Now what I want is to see a drag race between the turbo and hybrid models and see which one comes out on top.