Pulling away in a car on a wave of silence still doesn’t make sense in my brain. I’ve driven plenty of electric and hybrid cars, but every time I gently move off from a standstill on a peacefully eerie surge of current-fed calm, it still gets me.
I’m experiencing this soothing yet unsettling sensation because I’m driving Lexus’ new upmarket, mid-size hybrid crossover, the NX 300h – the car that intends to give the Range Rover Evoque a bloody nose. It certainly has the weaponry in its arsenal to go toe-to-toe with the fashion-forward Rangie.
Ignore Lexus’ marketing for a moment – which features the “Cutting meets edge” slogan alongside rapper Will.i.Am – because driving the NX is actually a relaxing, even therapeutic, experience.
The “h” stands for hybrid, which sees a 2.5-litre petrol engine combining with a big battery pack and two electric motors to give a friendly blend of performance and economy. More than that, it means when you’re not using petrol power, it’s quiet. Really quiet.
As I cruised around Vienna on the car’s launch, I discovered that it’s a bastion of refinement – quite the opposite of what you’d expect from looking at the NX.
The gaping front grille and creased, angular body conjure up the image of a calculated, hard-riding German SUV, but even on 18-inch alloys it’s soft and supple for the most part.
It’s not a car you race around in, the NX. It’s more rewarding to waft along serenely instead, envisioning the polar bears you’ve saved with your vehicle choice basking on their glaciers. Besides, the 0-62mph time is immaterial on the school run or the weekly supermarket shop, but 54.3mpg combined with 121g/km CO2 isn’t.
That’s for the four-wheel drive version that’ll easily cope with dragging a horsebox across a muddy field at The Pony Club. Opt for front-wheel drive and you’ll lose a bit of grip, but the Lexus’ CO2 emissions are cut even further to just 116g/km, combining premium comfort and parsimonious consumption.
With 195hp on tap from the petrol and electric engines, you won’t be left in the NX’s rivals’ wake inhaling a cloud of dirty diesel fumes. Performance is adequate, even if the engine does sound strained sometimes.
As I crossed the border into Hungary on the test route, driving standards immediately slipped and the regimented ranks of immaculate Austrian taxis gliding around morphed into ancient, buzzing hatchbacks.
The hushed cabin completed the car’s glossy veneer and blocked out this racket, allowing the beautiful, thumping clarity from the Mark Levinson stereo to hit my ears unadulterated – and this is just scratching the surface of the Lexus’ kit.
Opt for the bells and whistles £42,995 Premier model and you’ll get, among other items, that stereo, sat nav, adaptive cruise control, electrically adjustable heated seats and tonnes of safety equipment – including eight airbags, full LED headlights, Lexus’ 360-degree monitor, lane keep and blind spot assist, rear cross traffic alert and a head-up display.
There’s enough equipment to make an Evoque or an Audi Q5 blush with embarrassment. Across the range it offers better value for money, with more gadgets to show off at the golf club.
There’s plenty of tech going on out of sight, too. The battery pack has been split up so it doesn’t eat into boot space and clever chassis and suspension features add to its imperious refinement.
I half wish I had driven back to Farnborough rather than have flown, the NX 300h was that cosseting. Head-turning looks, finessed luxury and ice cap-saving efficiency make this Lexus a new hybrid hero.