Lexus bristles at some of the criticisms levelled at its hybrid powertrain and insists that the detachment and vapidity frequently highlighted by road testers simply isn’t registered by customers living with the car day to day. To some extent, we sympathise with that difference of opinion.
To drive around town, where the hybrid dividend is already at its most advantageous, the experience is uncannily quiet and smooth. Like its siblings, the NX300h’s step-off is more a cast-off – gently slipping its moorings under the waft of electric propulsion. Above a gentle, congested crawl, the petrol engine chimes in, its contribution seamlessly incorporated by the planetary gearset and its voice barely audible below 25mph.
Driven thusly, in traffic and very modestly, the crossover tends to make even the most refined diesel rival seem gravelly and indelicate. Certainly, the intermittent reverberation of a conventional start-stop system seems impossibly invasive compared with the Lexus’s movable millpond.
However, Toyota’s hybrid system is much easier to respect than enjoy. The connection between power sources requires that the petrol engine – itself no great conveyor of character – too often plays the part of a remote generator, feeding energy into the transmission at the behest of your right foot but not strictly regulated by it in the nuanced way experienced in a conventionally powered rival.