If you are a fan of white goods you’ll love discussing the Lexus NX450h+ F Sport, reckons Jeremy Clarkson in his review of the plug-in hybrid mid-sized SUV. But for the world’s best-known motoring journalist it illustrates everything that’s wrong with modern cars.
In his write-up for The Sunday Times Magazine today, the columnist and Clarkson’s Farm star likens Lexus’ mid-size SUV to his fridge-freezer, with a similarly incomprehensible (to him) vernacular that comes with it. Recharging the NX450h+’s battery takes just 2.5 hours using a 230V/32A connection and the 6.6kW on-board charger, he points out.
Clarkson also helpfully lists some of the stats related to his kitchen’s Liebherr IXCC 5155 Prime BioFresh NoFrost, which has “a hefty GTIN, a premium GlassLine inner door rack, a 70-litre freezer compartment and, even when taken to the max, an energy consumption of just 181 kWh/a.” Fascinating stuff.
Of course, this isn’t the first time The Sunday Times’ in-house agriculturist has slated a hybrid car, but Clarkson’s two-star review cuts particularly deep.
If the way the plug-in hybrid system works disinterests Clarkson, the way the doors function is far worse, he argues. Rather than fitting handles, Lexus has opted for buttons on the outside and inside that are used to unlatch the doors electrically, which is a problem in inclement weather.
“Push [the button] and nothing happens. So you push it again. Nothing happens again. Then a bus goes through a puddle and splashes you — I was in Manchester, so it was raining — and then a cyclist shouts at you for being in the road. And eventually you push it again. And nothing happens again.”
That wasn’t the only time Clarkson had issues getting inside the NX, apparently, as he adds that he was also locked out while loading the car up ahead of the trip up north. With the keys still inside the car, the small battery used to start the NX’s four-cylinder petrol engine had run flat, meaning the doors wouldn’t open.
“Eventually, having got the boot open using swearing,” he wrote, “I climbed over the back seats, which was not comfortable, retrieved the keys, climbed back out of the boot and used a proper car — my old Range Rover — to jump new life into the crappy little battery.”
If getting in was frustrating at times, so too was getting out, Clarkson wrote.
“You push what looks like a handle but it isn’t a handle. It’s a switch. And it’s supposed to open the door. But if sensors detect an approaching cyclist, the door stays shut. And as there’s always an approaching cyclist these days, you have to assume that once you arrive at your destination, you will be stuck in the car until 4am.”
He also criticised the other touch-sensitive buttons around the cabin, which aren’t really buttons “because that’s so, like, old-fashioned”, and the beeps the system makes when you press them. He critiqued the accelerator pedal, too, saying it “doesn’t feel as though it’s connected to the engine,” and the safety system that “yanks” at the steering wheel if you dare to get too close to the white lines.
All that aside, Clarkson did have some kind words for the NX, calling it “a pretty decent long distance companion. Quiet, smooth and extraordinarily economical. If my maths are correct, and they usually aren’t, we achieved 65mpg.”
But he questioned whether such a thing is really necessary, because those seeking cheap or clean transport can “get a bicycle or a train.”
“The NX is a Prius on stilts, an Uber taxi with a fancy nose job,” he concluded. “And to me, it’s not just filled with annoying electronic idiosyncrasies and rubbish door handles, it’s an affront, because it is just a white good that has exactly the same charisma as my fridge-freezer.”
The future will involve other drivers in cars like the Lexus NX “sitting there trying to work out how to shut down [their] infernal lane control” while he comes up behind in an old Triumph Dolomite Sprint, “its little single-cam engine buzzing away and its 16 valves chattering like a flock of geese at a drinks party …
“I’ll switch off my overdrive and tear past wearing a smile so bright you could use it to illuminate a medium-sized city.”
To read Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the 2023 Lexus NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid, head to thetimes.co.uk.
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