Lexus NX 300h E-Four and Audi Q5 in the comparison test: Can the Hybrid SUV from Japan score highly?
So you want to go the whole hog, you are looking to make a big debut, want something special from among the host of mainstream SUVs? The Lexus NX 300h E-Four could be just what you are looking for: it is striking and still rare. Or is the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI Quattro, a car that has proven itself a thousand times over within the mid-size category, preferable?
Let's not deceive ourselves: SUVs are sold because they offer a big presence. You only have to study the sales figures to reach the following conclusion: the bulkier the design the better. As such, with the NX 300h, Lexus has managed to be bang on the mark; there is nothing more striking within the vehicle class built around the Audi Q5. On the other hand, the latter comes across as downright reserved.
The Lexus NX 300h E-Four produces 194 HP
Lexus only offers the NX as a hybrid. A 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, plus an electric engine, drive the front axle via a stepless transmission. Upon request, as is the case in our test car, a second electric engine can also exert torque on the rear axle. The Audi, in contrast, is available as either a front-wheeler or all-wheel drive version, and with petrol or diesel drive systems - plus as a hybrid version. However, the latter has much more power than the Lexus NX 300h E-Four, on account of which we have chosen a 2.0 TFSI with 222 HP and an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission for this test.
The system output of the Lexus NX 300h E-Four is 194 HP, which is less than the sum of the individual engines – it is available when the combustion engine and electric drive are both running in the optimal range, simultaneously. How does this feel? Sophisticated and unobtrusive – provided you are driving in the city or are on a cosy country outing, not using much of the power reserve. On the other hand, when it comes to overtaking, then the four-cylinder howls as though being tortured.The Audi is quicker in the corners
Here the most annoying thing is the artificial tone, created by a sound generator. The sound varies depending on the position of the accelerator pedal, but not depending on the speed of the combustion engine – which messes with your head, as both rarely line up. Thus, you quickly give up on sporty ambitions, espeecially since the chassis does not encourage them: in spite of active stabilisers and adaptive shock absorbers, the Lexus NX 300h E-Four tilts considerably to the side as soon as you want to take a corner quickly. Also on account of its insensitive steering, it seems cumbersome, but without being weighty.
The Lexus cannot keep up with a progressively driven Audi Q5 for long, regardless of whether on a country road or motorway – especially since any further forward thrust is electronically denied at 180 km/h, in order to save fuel. Successfuly at that: with an average taken over the whole test, the hybrid required only 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres (Audi: 10.7). However, when it comes to electric range, the Lexus NX 300h E-Four cannot gain any points: it can only stroll along for two kilometres running solely on electricity - with a full battery.
The storage battery in the Lexus NX 300h E-Four cannot, incidentally, be externally charged, and is reliant on recuperation and the four-cylinder as a power source. The switching, selection and de-selection of the drives takes place completely smoothly in the background. In the Audi, on the other hand, in stop-and-go traffic occasional jerking is evident in the drive train.Simpler controls in the Q5
There is still a certain fascination with the power supply display in a hybrid, and you repeatedly notice it on the screen. In any case, the many control options in the Lexus NX 300h E-Four still attract the driver's attention. In particular, the selection of menu items with a type of mouse pad requires a little practice. In contrast, it is comparatively simple to make sense of the logic in the Q5 – although the system is now a little outdated.
Compared to the Lexus the Audi seems almost petite, but offers a little more space inside – in particular, passengers on the rear seating bench will feel a little less restricted. What's more, when getting into the Q5 you don't have to lower your head as much as in the Lexus NX 300h E-Four. Here the disadvantage of the flat roof line becomes evident; although it doesn't impact the boot volume.
The wide backs on the narrow front seats of the Lexus are a little cramped; what's more, they do not provide sufficient lateral support. Here it is in any case fitting that the hybrid doesn't encourage you to tear into corners, instead encouraging comfort. Graceful cruising would therefore by its specialist area, if only the suspension responded better. Here too, Audi has found the mastered the tuning more skilfully.
Lexus NX 300h E-Four with clear braking shortcomings
In all respects that relate to the chassis, the Lexus NX 300h E-Four still has considerable room for improvement: the shortcomings when braking are particularly striking. From a speed of 100 it takes almost two-and-a-half metres to come to a stop; while from 130 km/h the difference from the Q5 even increases to 4.2 metres – which corresponds to the length of a VW Golf.
With regard to safety equipment, the Lexus NX 300h E-Four doesn't have the knee airbags found in the Audi Q5 Quattro, but the customer does get trailer stabilisation and the so-called driver attention assistants. It is soon clear that the Q5 has an unassailable lead in the features evaluation.
This lead is so large that all that remains for the Lexus NX 300h E-Four in the cost evaluation is damage limitation. In actual fact it shines, especially in the - very expensive – F Sport variant with comprehensive equipment. In the end this remains its true advantage, alongside the low consumption and large presence.
Date26 May 2015