Many years ago I owned what I felt was the most comfortable car in the world. It was a 1974 Volvo 164 with incredibly plush (butt-worn) leather upholstery and a shiny walnut dashboard. It sat effortlessly on the road, waiting for the slightly gutless CNG (compressed natural gas) power source to fire up, then would cough politely and sail quietly into the parting stream of traffic, like a cruise liner leaving harbour.
I’ve never driven a Rolls-Royce but I can imagine that this was what it might have been like in the 1960s. The seats kept you so upright it would have been downright rude to slouch. It was like driving a Chesterfield sofa.
Cars nowadays want to envelop your hips in bucket seats, and lean you back so you’re nice and relaxed and your feet are in the perfect position to plant your foot on the accelerator pedal. And they strap you in (I know this is actually the law as well as good sense) so tightly that you genuinely feel that you might need this safety harness or risk being flung into a paddock by g‑forces.
The 164 had none of that. It was a Volvo, so seatbelts were an irrelevance — nothing that crashed into you was going to have any effect on the passenger compartment — and the angle and support of the seats implied that Volvo cared as much for your posture as it did for your safety.
And I’ve never experienced anything like it since then. Until now.
The new Lexus NX 300H (‘H’ is for hybrid, which we’ll come to later) made me feel very much at home again. It’s not a monstrously large SUV — it has quite a low profile as far as these things go — but the interior is very proper. You sit up straight, which means you get the full viewing benefit of what height there is.
The interior detailing is very tasteful and extremely well put together — there are no rattles or misaligned joins — and cabin noise from outside is quieter than any other car I’ve been in. Not silent, but not bad.
Performance-wise, this NX isn’t startling — but then startling doesn’t appear to have been in the brief. It’s propelled by a 2.5‑litre petrol hybrid engine that, unless you remember to engage the manual override, provides polite acceleration rather anything for the adrenalin junkie.
The transition between petrol and battery power is so imperceptible that until I re-read the spec sheet I had forgotten that we had been running on battery most of the time. The engineers at Toyota who weave this magic have really got their act together.
Who is it for? This model doesn’t appear to be for sporty or off-road drivers — the model I tested didn’t even have four-wheel drive. Instead, it is perfect for those parents who still choose to drive their kids to school or to Saturday sports. Indeed, it was when we discovered that one of the leather elbow rests turned out to contain a fully detachable makeup mirror that we realised which gender of parent the NX 300 is aimed at.