HybridsLexus NX: Second Generation

Lexus NX 350h: A More Powerful NX Hybrid?

By most accounts, “NX 450h+” was the most interesting trademark among those filed for the next-generation Lexus NX crossover, but let’s take a moment to consider another that may have even broader appeal: NX 350h.

We are speculating, but it’s not hard to make educated guesses when tracing the lifecycle and product execution of the Toyota RAV4, the NX’s lesser cousin. The fourth generation RAV4 Hybrid and the Lexus NX 300h shared the same 2.5L I4 hybrid system generating a total 194 horsepower. When it evolved for the fifth generation, the RAV4 received the newer, fourth-generation Toyota hybrid system making a combined 219 horsepower, so it would be logical to assume that the NX 350h might receive the same one. Or… could it be different?

We know that Lexus names hybrid models with a nomenclature that denotes a total system power similar to a naturally aspirated engine. For example, the GS 450h used a 3.5L V6 paired to batteries to deliver the total propulsion equivalent to a 4.5L V8. This formula is understood by now, but it begs the question: Would a hybrid NX with 219 total horsepower feel equivalent to a “350h”?

Let’s throw a wildcard into the mix: The Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The Highlander Hybrid uses the same basic Toyota Hybrid System II as the newer RAV4 Hybrid, but with a larger battery producing a total 243 system horsepower compared to the RAV4 Hybrid’s 219. An extra 24 horsepower might not seem like much on paper, but considering that electric power is delivered from 0 rpms, we’re inclined to think that the extra oomph would make a difference… and inch the NX hybrid closer to a “350h” designation than “300h.”

Giving the NX a stronger powerplant compared to the RAV4 Hybrid makes a lot of sense: It’s more expensive, plays an increasingly important role in Lexus’ global portfolio, and competes against more powerful competition. The first-generation NX 300h was lauded as being easy to drive and returning great efficiency, but as Lexus looks to leapfrog the current model with a new one coming soon, we think a ~243 horsepower NX 350h makes more sense than one with 219 horsepower. Thanks to TNGA and Toyota’s even more flexible approach to manufacturing, giving the NX extra power should be both easy to do and easier justify.

Just to play devil’s advocate, here’s another option: The NX 350h could come with the same 219 horsepower hybrid system as the RAV4 Hybrid, but with the first implementation of Direct4 all-wheel drive, which would increase power in a different way compared to just using the larger battery from the Highlander Hybrid.

What do you think is most likely to happen? Join the discussion in the Lexus Enthusiast forum.

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