In an ideal world, the NX’s talent for inching down a high street would be accompanied by an isolated and pillowy ride quality. Unfortunately, the crossover’s general competence is marred by a recurrent choppiness over poor surfacing.
On 18-inch wheels, it jiggles stiff-leggedly at low speeds and then picks up the seams between the concrete on a motorway as if it were reading braille. Somewhere between the two – usually on a smooth A-road – the crossover’s restrained primary ride and effective resistance to body roll mean that it settles into the smart, muffled stride that its makers doubtless intended for it. But the secondary ride is a raised piece of street furniture away from disrupting the calm.
Coming to a stop in the hybrid is also a problem. The process of recuperating energy is typically a fine way of pilfering a progressive response from the brake pedal, and the NX300h is no exception. Subtle modulation is all but impossible. The slightest hint of a big toe instigates a noticeable drag effect – one largely unrelated to your intentions.
Push a mite harder and the stoppers are well on their way to bringing you to a complete halt, whether you want to or not. The obvious lack of subtlety only serves to increase the perception that your instructions are being endlessly filtered through a gauze of software code.
It’s possible that the NX’s dynamic remoteness is another trait that does not trouble Lexus buyers, and, again, driven with down-tempo disinterest, its effect is largely mitigated. But that’s not the way we prefer to interact with a car – and probably not the way you do, either.
Vexing hybrid braking aside, the NX need not approach corners with fear. In fact, thanks to the limiting effect of a particularly vigorous stability control system, the crossover is virtually uncrashable.
Enter a bend with what the car considers to be a precarious mix of speed and steering lock and the omnipresent overseer (unswitchable above walking pace) will immediately fire the brakes and reduce power in conspicuous, nose-dipping jolts. This will continue until the wheels are returned to the straight-ahead or you give up entirely.
The level of intrusiveness is astonishing, yet it doesn’t seem entirely incongruous in a car more obviously indebted to its sensors and CPUs than its chassis or tyres. It’s a shame, though, because through the murk of assistance, the car that it might have been is dimly apparent.