Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

We test drive the first plug-in hybrid vehicle from premium Japanese brand, Lexus. Has it been worth the wait?

The Lexus NX 450h is not to be confused with the NX 350h – the former is a plug-in-hybrid, while the latter is a self-charging hybrid, which means there are no leads or plugs.

Both share a 2.5-litre petrol engine working in tandem with an 18.1kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor (or motors).

The 350h can manage a very respectable 47.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 129g/km.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

However, the 450h is – in theory – capable of travelling in pure electric mode for 40 miles at speeds of up to 83mph and can return up to 313.9mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 21g/km.

Low emissions means a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate, making the PHEV an appealing choice for company car drivers looking to cut running costs.

Whether you are a business user or private owner, if you keep the battery charged up (0-100% takes less than three hours using a 7kW chargepoint) your trips to the petrol station could be few and far between (especially if you’re a low mileage driver), because most of your journeys will be completed in near-silent EV mode.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

The second generation NX luxury SUV was launched in 2021 and boasts serious road presence and badge appeal.

Bigger and more aggressive looking than the best-selling Mk 1, the new NX sports a massive version of the trademark Lexus “spindle grille”, flanked by slim new LEDs and daylight running lights.

A sculpted profile, short overhangs and distinctive rear haunches result in an SUV that stands out from the crowd, and its competitors, which include PHEV versions of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Evoque.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

It’s a class act inside too. Attractive and driver-focused up front, there’s a wrap-around dashboard and centre console with a huge 14-inch touchscreen.

Thankfully, Lexus hasn’t gone full-on minimalist so there are still some buttons. And naturally, there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

The whole cabin feels super spacious. It’s also plush and beautifully put together, while the driving position is commanding.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

Meanwhile, the boot can handle a useful 545 litres of luggage, extending to 1,436 litres with the rear seats flipped down.

On the road the Lexus NX 450h is smooth and relaxed. The combined 305hp from the big petrol engine, paired of electric motors and battery gives the car plenty of torque.

Acceleration is brisk when needed, and the 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds makes it one of the fastest crossovers of its kind.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

We’re no great fans of CVT gearboxes because they can create a din during sharp acceleration, but the sound insulation works wonders in the NX, so it’s rarely an issue and the power is delivered smoothly. Anyway, this is a car that’s best enjoyed cruising along in luxury.

Additionally, the transition from electric to petrol (and vice-versa) is superbly smooth.

Soaking up the lumps and bumps of the roads with ease, it offers a refined and relaxing ride, too.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

It feels substantial, yet corners surprisingly well with controlled body lean, while the NX’s steering is precise, giving you the confidence to push on in more challenging corners.

Grip and traction are great, partly down to the all-wheel drive system (there’s a second electric motor on the rear axle).

You can choose from three driving modes (Eco, Sport and Normal) which are accessed via a knob in front of the gear lever. Eco is fine for long motorway runs, but Normal will do just fine.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

There are three other basic choices too – EV for zero-emissions driving, Auto EV/HV (where the car chooses the perfect mode for the conditions) and HV (which maintains the battery’s state of charge).

Real-world fuel economy will depend on whether you keep the battery charged up and the length of your journeys, but even when it’s running in regular hybrid mode (ie when the battery is depleted) you’re looking at close on 50mpg.

The only disappointment was the EV range which seemed closer to 30 than 40 miles on my test car.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

Priced from £50,950 to £59,700, the NX is offered in three trim levels (Premium Pack, F-Sport and Takumi) and like all Lexus cars, it benefits from ‘Lexus Relax’, which extends your car’s manufacturer warranty for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Add Lexus’ reputation for reliability and superb customer service and the NX PHEV can hold its own against the best on offer from Europe’s top premium brands.

The NX was awarded a maximum five stars for safety by Euro NCAP – and it’s bursting with kit to help you avoid an accident, including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition, plus driver assistance aids such as blind spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.

Verdict: The Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid is a practical, premium-quality SUV that’s comfortable, relaxing to drive, economical and beautifully finished. Choose the plug-in version of the NX and you won’t just stand out from the crowd, you’re buying into Lexus’s reputation for reliability and award-winning customer service. And yes, it has been worth the wait – the NX is one of the best PHEV crossovers on the market.

Lexus UK

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

Jeep Compass 4xe review

Jeep Compass 4xe review

We drive the impressive new plug-in hybrid version of Jeep’s mid-sized SUV…

When I first drove the Jeep Compass soon after its launch in 2018, I really wanted to like it. It was practical and looked good, but for me it was let down by an unsophisticated diesel engine, disappointing fuel economy and an underwhelming interior.

Fast forward to 2022 and Jeep has added a new plug-in hybrid version to the revamped Compass range, which will battle it out with other PHEV SUVs including the Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, Vauxhall Grandland and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Using much the same plug-in hybrid system as the smaller Renegade 4xe (which is no bad thing), the new Compass 4xe has also been facelifted inside and out, and gets a technology update.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

Like all PHEVs, the Compass 4xe offers the best of both worlds, delivering some of the experience of an EV without any of the associated range anxiety.

My test car was fitted with the most powerful version of the hybrid system used in the Renegade, producing a combined total of 237bhp from the 1.3-litre turbo petrol unit. There are two electric motors and there’s assistance from a 11.4kWh battery.

On the road, the Compass works out when it’s best to operate on electric, petrol, or a combination of both, to give the ideal performance in any given situation.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

The EV mode lasts for up to 30 miles at speeds of up to 80mph, which means visits to the garage will become rare occasions for low mileage users. As with all PHEVs, it works most efficiently if you can charge the battery overnight or at work (less than two hours using a 7.4kW chargeppoint).

There are potentially huge fuel savings to be made, but even on long journeys where most of the time is spent on motorways using the petrol engine with hybrid assistance, it can return around 40mpg.

First impressions are good. The mild makeover, which includes new full LED headlights and a revamped seven-slot grille, gives the Compass a fresh new look and more road presence.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

The biggest changes are reserved for the cabin which seems to have been given a complete overhaul, with better build quality, more of an upmarket feel and bang up to date technology.

Standard features include a 10.25-inch driver’s digital instrument cluster and the latest 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 centre console infotainment system which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

There’s also a “Hey Jeep” voice assistant for hands-free adjustment of the air conditioning and media, or setting the TomTom sat nav. Slick and crisp, the new infotainment set-up is a huge improvement.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

The new Compass is a surprisingly refined cruiser, and you’d never know the engine is so dinky, given the overall amount torque on tap.

Obviously the engine becomes more vocal if you floor it and it’s no hot hatch on kickdown, but for the record, the petrol hybrid combo can deliver a 0-60mph time of just 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 124mph.

More importantly for many, CO2 emissions are as low as 45g/km, meaning business users can access significant tax benefits.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

There’s the occasional hesitancy when switching between electric and hybrid – and vice versa – but the system works well generally. And compared to some PHEVs fitted with CVT gearboxes, the traditional six-speed automatic transmission is a breath of fresh air.

Basic drive modes available include Hybrid, Electric and E-save, which stores up the battery energy for use at a later stage while maintaining range or can convert the engine into a generator to charge up battery.

There are also Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand, and Mud modes. And as you’d expect from a serious off-roader, there’s also 4WD low ratio, 4WD lock and hill descent.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

I tried a little green-laning and it coped admirably on road tyres. Compared to the opposition, it’s one of the most capable 4×4 off-roaders with plenty of traction and healthy ground clearance.

Even if you only use a tiny percentage of that ability, it’s good to know that it can in theory cope with rough terrain or extreme weather conditions, such a flooding.

A commanding driving position, compact exterior proportions, supportive leather seats and driving assistance tech (including a reversing camera as standard and an optional 360-degree camera), mean that progress in the Compass 4xe is comfortable and classy.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

The Compass handles well, feels composed and is easy to manoeuvre in town. For a relatively heavy car, it’s even quite entertaining to drive, especially in Sport mode, with body lean under control and decent grip.

Overall cabin space is not class leading, but there’s room for two adult-sized passengers in the rear, while luggage capacity is slightly down on a regular Compass, offering a modest 420 litres (1,239 litres with the rear seats flipped down).

The update means the Compass 4xe is now packed with the latest safety kit too, ranging from autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and Traffic Sign Recognition to Drowsy Driver Alert and LaneSense Departure Warning.

Jeep Compass 4xe review

It’s also the first Jeep vehicle in Europe to offer level 2 autonomous driving. Highway Assist combines adaptive cruise control and lane centring, enabling the car to automatically adjust its speed and trajectory.

Priced from £39,895, there are two trim levels – the ‘S’ or the more off-road orientated ‘Trailhawk’.

Verdict: With the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology, the Jeep Compass is now the car it always should have been. Comfortable, refined, well built, economical, easy to drive and packed with the latest tech, the 4xe is one of the best and most capable 4×4 PHEVs on the market.

Jeep UK

Jeep Compass 4xe review

Vauxhall Grandland review

Vauxhall Grandland review

Launched in 2018, the Vauxhall Grandland X was never the most scintillating SUV on the market, but it sold well. More than 70,000 found homes in the UK, along with some 300,000 in Europe.

So-called C-SUVs are the biggest single sector in the UK, accounting for one-in-six of all new vehicles sold. Popular rivals include the Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 3008.

For 2022, Vauxhall has treated the Grandland X to a facelift. For starters, the “heavily revised” model loses it ‘X’ and is now just a “Grandland”.

More importantly, Vauxhall has managed to transform a plain crossover into something with genuine kerb appeal thanks to design cues taken from its smaller sibling, the Mokka.

Vauxhall Grandland review

Most notably, the introduction of the brand’s bold new face – the distinctive ‘Vizor’ front end, already seen in the Mokka and also an essential styling element of the upcoming all-new Astra.

Featuring a single smooth panel that runs between the smart new adaptive IntelliLux LED Pixel Light headlights, it houses the new Griffin logo, sensors and radar for the driver assistance technologies and gives the car a cleaner, more modern image.

The rear LED lights feature a ‘double wing’ design inside a smoke-coloured rear lamp cluster. Other changes include black door mirror caps and a roof spoiler, while some models get a black roof and high gloss roof rails.

The interior has also been extensively reworked too, with a dashboard built around Vauxhall’s twin-screen Pure Panel, which includes a driver’s digital instrument display and an infotainment screen. It’s not flash, but it’s attractive, while the cabin is generally well put together and boasts soft touch surfaces high up.

Vauxhall Grandland review

Depending on which of the three trims you choose (Design, GS Line and Ultimate), the digital instrument cluster is available with either 7.0-inch or 12-inch displays, while the central touchscreen comes in 7.0-inch or 10-inch sizes.

Elsewhere, there are comfortable new seats up front, and the extensive suite of safety and driver assistance features available include new ‘Night Vision’ technology, which uses infra-red cameras to highlight pedestrians and animals in the digital instrument display, and is available in a Vauxhall for the first time.

There’s also Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), cruise control, speed sign recognition, active lane keeping, driver drowsiness alert and Advanced Park Assist with a 360-degree panoramic camera.

Priced from £25,810 to £37,375, the new Grandland is available with conventional petrol and diesel engines, plus a plug-in hybrid (Hybrid-e) with an electric-only range of up to 39 miles, making it capable of tackling a typical day’s driving for most UK motorists.

Vauxhall Grandland review

The 1.2-litre petrol develops 128bhp with CO2 emissions as low as 139g/km. Emissions for the 1.5-litre diesel (also 128bhp) are 133g/km, while the PHEV (a 177bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and 109bhp electric motor combining to produce 223bhp) emits just 31 g/km of CO2.

In theory the Hybrid-e is capable of up to 192mpg (depending on whether it’s kept fully charged and the length of journey), while the diesel can manage up to 54.3mpg and the petrol 45.6mpg.

The PHEV is the fastest of the trio (0-60mph in 8.9 seconds), with the petrol at 10.3s and diesel, 12.3s.

We tested the petrol and plug-in hybrid versions of the new Grandland, the former powered by the efficient three-cylinder 1.2-litre unit also used widely across the Peugeot and Citroen ranges.

Interestingly, because Vauxhall is part of the same group as the French brands (Stellantis) , the Grandland shares the same underpinnings as the Peugeot 3008 and Citroen C5 Aircross SUVs.

Anyway, the petrol engine is punchy and smooth, delivering more power than its small capacity might suggest, and the official fuel economy is realistic in everyday driving.

From initial orders, it looks like the PHEV variant will account for around 25% of Grandland sales.

The overall driving experience for both versions is comfortable and surprisingly refined. It feels substantial and composed on the road, and manages to stay admirably flat in faster, more challenging corners. If anything, the petrol version is slightly more nimble.

Vauxhall Grandland review

There’s a high driving position and visibility is good, while the light steering means its suited to city driving too. The PHEV is even better because it can run silently with zero emissions.

Obviously there’s more power on tap in the Hybrid-e, though it does feel slightly heavier thanks to the addition of its 13.2kWh lithium-ion battery and electric motor.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and there are three drive modes on offer: Hybrid, Sport and Electric.

Hybrid is the default mode and is the best of both worlds, optimising fuel efficiency and driving performance, and the switch between petrol and electric power is almost seamless. Sport delivers maximum power from the petrol and electric motors, while Electric switches to near-silent EV mode.

Vauxhall Grandland review

Naturally, there’s also brake regeneration – a system that recharges the battery by harvesting power otherwise wasted during deceleration, though the effect is subtle.

Like all PHEVs, it operates most efficiently if charged at home overnight. For the record, 0-100% charge times range from 5h 45m from a domestic 3-pin to 1hr 45m from a 7.4 kW home/public chargepoint.

The revised infotainment system is a definite improvement over the outgoing Grandland X. It’s functional and logically laid out, though the centre touchscreen could be bigger and the display is not the clearest or brighter on the market. On the plus side, it does feature short-cut buttons below the screen.

There’s plenty of space for adults front and back, while the luggage capacity ranges between 514 and 1,642 litres on the petrol and diesel versions, and 390 litres/1,528 litres for the plug-in.

Vauxhall Grandland review

So, the Grandland is much improved, and while it isn’t best-in-class, it offers great value for money, with prices starting lower than the outgoing Grandland X range.

The entry-level petrol and diesel powered cars deliver decent fuel economy, but it’s the plug-in hybrid that could offer the most savings, not just for low mileage private owners, but on the fleet side too.

The Grandland Hybrid-e falls into the 11% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band during the 2021-22 financial year (rising to 12% in 2022-23), representing a significant saving for business users.

Verdict: Vauxhall has worked wonders with the Grandland, transforming it from a worthy crossover into a distinctive, comfortable and practical no-nonsense family SUV that delivers great value for money.

Vauxhall Motors

Brits baffled by car jargon

Gareth Herincx

4 days ago
Auto Blog

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV badge

Terms such as PCH, range anxiety and supercharger leave seven in 10 people scratching their heads, according to a new survey.

In fact, almost a quarter (24 per cent) have even walked away from buying a new or used vehicle because they didn’t understand the salesperson’s terminology.

The study of 2,000 adults revealed 54 per cent don’t have a clue what a PHEV – plug-in hybrid electric vehicle – is, with 34 per cent feeling out of their depth when asked about anything other than petrol or diesel motors.

Only 24 per cent understand the term ‘brake horsepower’, while ‘fuel injection’ leaves 21 per cent of people bewildered.

It also emerged just under six in 10 adults said a lack of understanding of such phrases leaves them with less confidence when it comes to buying a used vehicle.

The research was carried out by CarStore, which has created an online car jargon buster to help equip buyers to make informed, unpressured decisions.

It also emerged that 74 per cent would take a friend who knows more about cars to a garage to look at vehicles they are considering buying.

Dad was the top choice for 25 per cent of those, followed by a brother (17 per cent) and mum (12 per cent).

Top 20 car terms Brits don’t understand

  1. PCH (personal contract hire)
  2. PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle)
  3. EPS (electric power steering)
  4. PCP (personal contract purchase)
  5. A-pillar
  6. ISOFIX
  7. Range anxiety
  8. Differential
  9. HPI check
  10. Torque
  11. VIN (vehicle identification number)
  12. EV (electric vehicle)
  13. Understeer
  14. Supercharger
  15. Odometer
  16. Traction control
  17. Alternator
  18. Brake horsepower
  19. Wheelbase
  20. Catalytic converter

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Volvo XC60 review

Volvo XC60 review

We drive the updated version of this Swedish premium mid-sized SUV

It’s been a while since I’ve driven an XC60. To be exact, it was 2017 when the current second-generation model was launched.

A lot has changed since then for Volvo, which has just enjoyed record sales in the first half of 2021, driven by demand for its electrified cars.

Every Volvo model currently on sale has some form of electrification, whether it’s mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric.

Volvo XC60 review

Globally the ‘Recharge’ range of fully electric and plug-in hybrids account for 24.6% of sales and by 2030 Volvo is aiming to have a 100% pure electric line-up.

And the XC60 is a popular as ever. In fact, in the first half of 2021, it was the 10th biggest-selling plug-in hybrid on sale in the UK.

Despite its success, Volvo has decided to treat the XC60 to a refresh. It would be an exaggeration to say it’s radical, but then ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Volvo XC60 review

Externally there’s a revamped front grille, sportier bumpers at the front and rear, hidden rear exhaust pipes, plus new colour choices and alloy wheel options.

Inside, there are improved graphics in the driver’s digital display, but the big change is that the large centre infotainment touchscreen is now powered by the brand’s Android-based software instead of the Sensus system of the past.

So now there’s access to Google Play apps and services like Google Assistant and Google Maps. It’s also capable of over-the-air updates, which means the car is constantly kept up to speed with the latest software. Volvo has also upped the XC60’s driver assistance and safety tech.

Volvo XC60 review

Starting from £42,485, the range consists of a mix of mild hybrids (petrol and diesel) badged B4, B5 or B6. There are also plug-in hybrids (T6 or T8). All versions have varying outputs and four-wheel drive, except the B5 petrol which is available with front or AWD.

In a nutshell, the mild-hybrid system utilises a small 48-volt battery to help reduce emissions and improve fuel consumption, while the PHEVs have a slightly larger 11.6kWh high-voltage battery, which also enables the car to travel up to 32 miles on electric power alone when fully charged.

I sampled the B6 (300hp) mild hybrid petrol, plus the T6 (340hp) and the T8 (390hp) plug-in hybrids which all have a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo engine in various stats of tune at their heart and a sweet-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Volvo XC60 review

All three can be recommended, though my choice would be the T6, because it offers the best balance between power and economy. However, to get maximum benefit it’s best to have a charger at home or work..

The B6 does the job, especially if you are unable to plug in at home, but the engine is a little harsher when it’s worked hard, while claimed fuel economy of 30-34mpg and CO2 emissions of 190-213g/km are not hugely impressive these days.

The T8 is effortlessly fast and sounds meaty in Power drive mode, but ultimately the cheaper T6 will do just fine.

Volvo XC60 review

Offering a potential 113mpg (if you keep your battery charged up and your journeys are modest) and CO2 emissions as low as 55g/km, like the T8, the T6 also delivers significant tax savings for business users.

If your commute is short or you just use your XC60 locally, your journeys to the petrol stations could be rare because a good deal of your motoring could be spent in 100% electric mode. On longer trips, we’d expect economy to be north of 50mpg.

In Hybrid mode the switch between electric and petrol propulsion is almost seamless, and there’s plenty of power (0-60mph in just 5.6 seconds).

Volvo XC60 review

Unless really pushed, the engine is refined and the ride comfortable, while grip is superb. The XC60 feels surprisingly agile for its size and weight, while more spirited drivers will find that body roll is well controlled on more challenging roads.

As before, there’s a real quality feel inside the cabin and plenty of Scandi chic if you choose the lighter wood trim options.

You sit high up, so visibility is excellent and there’s plenty of space in the back for passengers. Luggage capacity is a useful 468 litres, or 1,395 litres with the rear seats folded.

Volvo XC60 review

The battery can be recharged from home in as little as two and a half hours. There’s also regenerative braking which recovers kinetic energy otherwise lost during braking in order to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

You can also boost the process going down hills, for instance, by flicking the gearshift to B mode.

Finally, a special mention for the Google Assistant feature, first seen in the XC40 Recharge. Simply say “Hey Google” to get started and ask it to change radio channel, call a contact or set a new destination – all without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road. 

Verdict: Handsome, practical, classy, comfortable and sporting the latest safety and infotainment tech, the updated Volvo XC60 mid-sized SUV is better than ever.

Volvo Cars UK