[TEST DRIVE] Lexus tests the plug-in hybrid waters with NX 450h+

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[TEST DRIVE] Lexus tests the plug-in hybrid waters with NX 450h+

Lexus NX 450h+, its first plug-in hybrid model [LEXUS KOREA]

Lexus NX 450h+, its first plug-in hybrid model [LEXUS KOREA]

JEJU ISLAND — A full 98 percent of Lexus vehicles sold in Korea, which totals under 1,000 a year, are hybrids.
The Toyota luxury brand is now out with the NX 450h+, its first plug-in hybrid model.  
Lexus Korea also recently introduced UX300e, its first all-electric model, in the Korean market. The electric vehicle (EV) had been available in other markets for three years.
The Korea JoongAng Daily recently got behind the wheel of the NX 450h+ on a 55-kilometer (34-mile) coastal road on Jeju Island and took the UX300e model on the way back.
The NX 450h+ looks softer than before, as it ditched the highly intricate "spindle grille" design and went instead for U-patterned blocks. The "LEXUS" branding stood out at the back of the car. The company says it is the first model to have the letters instead of the logo.  
A button inside the car allows the driver to easily open and close the door.  
With the length and height increased by 20 millimeters (0.8 inches), the mid-size SUV has a spacious interior. The trunk capacity is around 520 liters (137 gallons) and expands to 1,411 liters when the back seat is folded down. It seemed like the trunk could carry up to three golf bags without difficulties.
A 14-inch touchscreen display takes up the center of the dashboard, the largest ever for Lexus. The screen is slightly tilted for comfortable viewing.
Interior of the Lexus NX 450h+ [LEXUS KOREA]

Interior of the Lexus NX 450h+ [LEXUS KOREA]

The in-car navigation was comfortable to use. A voice recognition service was also available, which was jointly developed by Lexus and LG U+.
Driving was soft but extremely quiet. The test course was free of construction sites, and the reporter never heard any noise when the windows were closed.
The back of the Lexus NX 450h+ [LEXUS KOREA]

The back of the Lexus NX 450h+ [LEXUS KOREA]

Equipped with an 18.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, the plug-in hybrid can go up to 56 kilometers solely on the electric motor, which generates a maximum of 307 horsepower.
Fuel efficiency, which is rated at 14.4 kilometers per liter, might be one of the biggest draws. During the one-hour-and-half or so test drive, this reporter recorded 20.9 kilometers to the liter, which supports the company's claim, though the air conditioner was fully turned on for the entire drive.
The price starts at 71 million won ($55,340), whereas the rival models from other imported brands usually cost over 80 million won.
More than 2,500 orders have been received, so it may take around seven to eight months to get the delivered car, Lexus Korea said.  
The UX300e test drive was quite disappointing, or maybe this reporter had too high expectations.
Lexus UX300e, its first all-electric model [LEXUS KOREA]

Lexus UX300e, its first all-electric model [LEXUS KOREA]

The interior was kind of old-fashioned, with only a seven-inch display in the center of the dashboard. In my personal opinion, the display was too small to use, and it was not even a touchscreen. It did not offer a navigation service as well.
In terms of the driving range, which is one of the most important features for an EV, UX300e fell short.  
Equipped with a 54.35-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery developed jointly with Panasonic, the UX300e can go 233 kilometers per charge. That is about half of the range of other EVs.
The SUV takes 80 minutes to fully charge.
It generates a maximum of 204 horsepower and up to 3.6 kilogram-meters of torque.    
The sticker price for the EV SUV starts from 54.9 million won. Under Korean law, only vehicles costing 55 million won or less are eligible for the entire central government subsidy.
For those who love the premium Lexus brand and would like to get an EV, the UX300e wouldn't be a bad choice. But they should be prepared to drive the car only in the city or to commute, not for long-distance business or family travel.
It seems Lexus is also not expecting much from the model. UX300e SUVs are only available for lease in the Korean market, and the company only aims to take 100 orders.
The seven-inch display in the Lexus UX300e [LEXUS KOREA]

The seven-inch display in the Lexus UX300e [LEXUS KOREA]


BY SARAH CHEA [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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