Snow Review & AWD Slip Test: Is the 2023 Lexus NX 350h a BIG Improvement?

This new NX brings refinement in spades, but will it get you where you need to go this winter?

(Images: TFL Studios, unless otherwise noted)

Older Lexus SUVs struggled in our AWD tests…but how does the 2023 Lexus NX 350h stack up?

Buying into one of Lexus’ all-wheel drive hybrid crossovers promises much better fuel economy than your standard gas-powered models, but in our experience, they haven’t always done the greatest job in slippery conditions. Take the entry-level UX as an example: it struggled taking on the TFL slip test, meant to challenge AWD systems in various loss-of-traction scenarios. While its front wheels were on the rollers, the larger RX 450h also had its issues. Now, we put the redesigned, compact NX through its paces, both with the diagonal roller test and in wintry conditions, where folks will actually drive these crossovers.

For the full results, check out Tommy’s video below. As a quick primer, though, the 2023 Lexus NX 350h hybrid uses the same 2.5-liter system as the RX 350h, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and several of the automaker’s other series hybrid models. Tuning will vary depending on the car, but the NX 350h puts out a combined 239 horsepower and promises up to 41 mpg (37 mpg combined).

Unlike the standard gas models that use a mechanical all-wheel drive system, the NX 350h uses its gas engine and an electric motor to drive the front wheels. The rear wheels are only driven by an electric motor. So, although Lexus bills it as a full-time AWD system, it’s heavily biased towards the front end’s power generating ability, as evidenced on the slip test and in snow driving.

2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury

Actually, it’s notably good in snowy conditions – and one trick helps.

While the inherent front bias in the Lexus NX 350h’s setup does provoke understeer in some conditions, the rear electric motor does help bring the car into line on slippery corners. Driving through Colorado’s temperamental winter weather, the traction control did its part to keep the NX perfectly calm and controlled, even in an open lot where I tried to provoke it to slide or spin out.

In addition to the remarkably aggressive traction control, the 2023 Lexus NX lineup actually has a new trick up its sleeve to help curb wheelspin in low-grip situations. In addition to the standard Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes, there’s also a new Trail Mode, which primes the AWD system to send power to non-spinning wheels on loose surfaces to aid traction.

At least in my experience, the NX 350h didn’t put a wheel wrong with the Trail Mode engaged on snow and ice-covered roads, and the car easily pulled away from my fellow front-wheel drive motorists and even the occasional all-wheel drive crossover. Mind you, the car Lexus sent us came on Bridgestone all-season tires. Put it on some dedicated winter rubber, and this car will certainly get you where you need to go. That said, the system may struggle in deep snow (more on that in the slip test below) and Lexus still doesn’t advise serious off-roading, despite the Trail Mode and an extra inch of ground clearance over the old NX.

Nevertheless, this $56,175 crossover (as tested) proves a capable winter car that both Tommy and I have no issue recommending to a friend or family member, should they shop a car in this price bracket.