2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury
A Surprisingly Large Compact SUV
Mr. Levinson sounds good, Nori looks just as good as it tastes, and special door handles keep my family from escaping the 2023 Lexus NX350h (no, they didn’t want to).
By J-F Wright
Wed, Mar 22, 2023 11:00 AM PST
Not everyone likes green cars. Actually, that’s an understatement - most people do not like green cars… There seems to be one exception though: Nori Green Pearl. This seems to be one of the few greens that some of us will rest our eyes on without turning green ourselves.
Nori Green Pearl
What’s in a name? Well, let’s chop this name up and dissect it (pun* intended) one word at a time:
Nori - A dried edible seaweed used in Japanese cuisine, often used to wrap rolls of sushi or onigiri. Yeah, I had to look that up. If you want to do a deep-dive on the use of nori - other than when it’s used to describe the green color of a Lexus - check Wikipedia’s page on the subject. For the sake of brevity, and in an attempt to curb what will probably anyway turn out to be an unnaturally long rant about a vehicle’s color, here’s what you need to know abut nori:
Green - Yeah, you got it, that’s just the color green. However, when prefaced with “Nori” it takes on a bit of a different hue.
Pearl - Often used to refer to a hard, lustrous spherical mass formed within a shell - not exactly what we are talking about here. However, when “pearl” is used to describe a car’s exterior paint, it is indeed referencing that shiny spherical mass.
Pearlescent paint mixtures contain ceramic crystals known as mica crystals. These crystals are what give the exterior coat its namesake pearl-like effect. Just like pearls, cars with pearlescent paint seem to 'glow' and even shift colors when viewed in different lights or from different angles.
So, to finally sum this up: The seaweed holding your lunch together is actually a great color for a car. Especially if used as a pearlescent paint.
Also, #kudos to the Color Naming Department at Lexus - I would pay real money to have lunch with that group. Can you imagine the vocabulary they need to possess? I’d start the conversation off with “what colors am I wearing?” and see where that takes us.
*Do you see the pun now, knowing what nori is?
Sensory No-Touch Buttons
By now pretty much all of us are accustomed to using buttons on the steering wheel, so I guess the classic buttons were ripe for an upgrade. The one pain-point we still have with these easy-access buttons is remembering which button does what, especially when it comes to the ones we don’t use as often.
In the 2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury, fitted with a head-up display (HUD), the steering wheel mounted buttons are a bit different. To the naked eye they look the same as they always have, but move your finger on top of one (without actually pushing it) and the head-up display will show you an image of that side of the steering wheel, including text and icons to help you figure out what each button does. No more looking down at the buttons, just bring your finger over to the general area and you’ll be reminded where you should be pushing. Yay! Also, this allows for personalization of what functions you can access through the steering wheel, a true upgrade.
The special buttons on the steering wheel are just the beginning, there are more no-touch features hiding in plain sight. The interior lights, for example. Act as if you’re going to push the light (as if it’s a button), but then stopping just short of touching it - it’ll surprise you by turning on. Interestingly, it doesn’t take long until you expect lots of things to repsond to a slight wave or gesture. Note to self: family members, especially kids, are horrible at interpreting slight waves and gestures - instructions will often get lost in translation.
What About These Door Handles?
Door handles, did they really need upgrading or is it just Tesla that needs to rethink everything in a car? Either way, the exterior door handles on the 2023 Lexus NX350h Luxury will confuse you at least once. They look like normal exterior handles, but they don’t move like normal handles. In fact, they don’t move at all - instead, there’s a button on the inner side of the handle that you squeeze to open the door. Yeah, it takes a couple of times to get used to, but once it comes naturally it does make for a more fluid and less jerky opening of a car door.
Opening the door from the inside is equally as new of a procedure. There are door handles on the inside that in some ways might remind you of a “normal” handle, but they aren’t quite what you’d expect. Instead of pulling it inwards, you just give the handle a light push and the door will open slightly and you can push it fully ajar. There’s a little sign on the handle to nudge you towards the correct behavior, in case you forget. If your passengers are the type to refuse to read signs and/or a little slow to adapt to new procedures (me and you are obviously not that type!) you’ll have fun watching them trying to figure out how to get out of your car. If you are the type, it’ll be fun for everyone else.
Exterior - Sporty & Fun?
After learning all about nori and pearlescent paint you’ll be pleased to know that the Lexus NX 350h carries the color well. Being a small SUV, the NX doesn’t have the bulky look that many of the large full-size SUVs are burdened by. I shouldn’t say “burdened” - I’m part of the group that finds that bulkiness aesthetically pleasing.
Anyhow, the Lexus NX has the signature Lexus grille covering pretty much its entire face, giving it the sporty-yet-luxurious look we’ve grown accustomed to with Lexus. Adding to the sporty looks are the harsh lines found throughout the exterior and the sharply designed corners in the rear.
The Feel Of The Drive
The 2023 Lexus NX350h Luxury isn’t meant to be extra sporty - at least not more than the inherit sportiness to be found in any Lexus. Maybe it’s the sporty exterior skewing my senses - sporty looks often go hand in hand with a sporty and fun drive - but I have to say: this is a fun car!
It’s small enough to zip in and out of small spaces and around tight corners, and the electric motor gives you instant torque. A great combo!
The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) takes some getting used to. At first it’s weird not hearing, or feeling, the gears shift as you accelerate. Once you’ve gotten over that, though, you’ll enjoy the great coupling of a smaller car with an electric motor and a CVT.
Interior - Surprisingly Large
This is a compact SUV, there’s only one smaller in the current Lexus SUV lineup - the Lexus UX. Being on the smaller side of the spectrum - which spreads all the way up to the massive Lexus LX - I’d accept a few space-constraints in the 2023 Lexus NX. That wouldn’t be weird.
What is weird - in a good way - is that the Lexus NX doesn’t feel small. Definitely not up front, where the driver and passenger are treated to comfortable heated power-adjustable leather seats. Not really in the back seat either - I had three kids back there, no problems. Sure, there isn’t as much legroom in the back seat as you’d see in a larger SUV, but then again, we’re not in a full-size SUV.
Other Notable Tech and Features
Mark Levinson Sound System
Have you ever heard the wonderful sounds high-end speakers produce? It’ll alter how you listen to music. You’ll hear things you didn’t know were included in the piece. But, more importantly, you’ll feel it. You’ll feel the difference.
Now, there are higher-ups in the hierarchy of in-car audio systems, but the optional Mark Levinson 17-speaker Premium Audio system is definitely an option-square I would tick. An extra $1,200 will barely impact the payments on a fifty thousand dollar car.
Huge Screen - Few Buttons
The 7-inch full-color multi-information display found in many (all?) of the current Lexus vehicles is large without being obnoxiously big. It’s super intuitive - it’s pretty much a tablet - and gives you access to pretty much all features, settings, tools, and toys available. There are a few buttons surrounding the screen, their physical presence most probably correlated with how much the interior design engineers think a driver is going to want to engage a particular feature.
Thankfully they got my habits right and included the buttons that I want access to right now, without having to go through a menu: The mirror heaters and front windshield defroster. A little further down is the button to turn on the surround view display, another button I want easy access to.
The induction battery charger is fitted to the top of the sliding cover of a storage compartment just a bit below the infotainment screen and adjoining buttons. For those that have a tendency to drive with one hand on the steering wheel and the other grasping a smartphone, stick your phone here and slide it away. It’ll keep your phone from sliding around, and it’ll keep you from running someone over. Win-win!
What is there not to like? Futuristic features make mundane tasks such as entering and exiting your car an experience for your friends. A small-ish vehicle with a 2.5L hybrid engine coupled with a Continuously Variable Transmission makes for a fun drive. The interior is as appealing as ever, and surprisingly large. Your passengers will enjoy the ride - if they’re able to open the door - and you’ll enjoy driving around in a vehicle abound with convenience and technology features. Also, trust me, you’ll at least have to consider the Nori Green Pearl.
About The Author
John-Fredrik Wright was born in Sweden, but raised on both sides of the Atlantic. His experience in the automotive industry starts with a summer-job as a host at Volkswagen’s premier showroom in Stockholm. Later, he worked as an instructor at Swedish Active Driving, teaching safe driving (among other things the renowned "elk-avoidance maneuver") and advanced driving techniques.