Tested: Three 2022 Hybrid Gas-Sippers From Lexus, Honda And Toyota, Back-To-Back

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Part of the fun of test-driving a hybrid car these days is passing a gas station where a gallon goes for $5.69 and thumbing your nose. It’s even more satisfying when you drive the car all over the city and out to the suburbs for 7 days and don’t have to gas up. Now, more than ever, mileage matters.

Thus, here are three 2022 hybrids from Lexus, Honda and Toyota, tested back to back, and our impressions.

2022 Lexus NX 350h

We found this one of the best-looking and best-driving Lexus in this year’s lineup. Its outside is angular and choppy in a pleasing, artsy way, and the tester’s color was the particularly fetching “Grecian Water,” another name for “Blue.” The elegance Lexus is known for is on full, smart display here.

You’re powered by a 2.5 litre Hybrid engine making a total of 239 total horsepower - 45 hp more than the outgoing model - mated to a butter-smooth continuously variable transmission, and you roll on 20-inch wheels. The steering, braking and acceleration was more enjoyable on short jaunts around town than at highway speed, where it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t particularly ferocious.

Base MSRP is $48,500, $55,645 with all options and delivery charge.

Inside, the interior appears a bit more design-conscious, integrated and upscale than the outgoing model. Steering wheel buttons are bigger which is not only good for fat fingers but it also makes them easier to avoid hitting by mistake. This year’s model also provides a tad more legroom, headroom and cargo space, yet the body seems tight and compact, making it a good choice for city drivers.

A standard 9.8 inch touchscreen can be upgraded to a 14 incher, with which you use a combination of manual and voice commands to get it to do what you want. We found some aspects of the system satisfactory, others not so much. For instance, our brand-new Samsung phone was ok connecting with the system’s blue tooth, but always took its time giving us sound through our playlist – as long as ten minutes at times. We thought it might be the phone at first, but with the following two vehicles, we had music within seconds.

One thing we did like was that your nav sys is now cloud-based, for more accuracy. When you're entering an area with iffy coverage, the system will download maps so there's no interruption. “Lexus Interface” also incorporates a new Voice Assistant available through voice activation or accessible via a button on the steering wheel. It allows for a much more natural and intuitive way for drivers to interact with the new multimedia system.

You’ve got dual microphones, enhanced noise-cancellation, seat detection and speaker location capabilities, and the available Intelligent Assistant expands upon the standard Assistant capabilities with a Drive Connect subscription which you’ll want to at least try out. Convenience features such as weather and location-based notifications are accessible, including address and POI search with navigation through Intelligent Assistant. With Wi-Fi Connect, the Intelligent Assistant offers interaction with integrated audio streaming functionality.

Conclusion: The 2022 Lexus NX 350h provides all the luxe you expect from the badge, and the hybrid benefits.

2022 Honda CR-V Hybrid AWD Touring

The CRV has always reminded me of a good diner – it delivers what’s promised, it’s reasonably priced, it’s popular, and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

The CR-V hybrid arrives unchanged for 2022 - here’s the 2023 model, if you’re interested - and competes against the RAV4 Hybrid, the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid. It’s offered in three trim levels: the base EX, EX-L and the flagship, our tester, the Touring.

It is a handsome vehicle, with none of the bloat you find in some vehicles of this type, and you’ll have no problem locating it in parking lots. Its blast-off abilities aren’t impressive, taking you from 0-60 in a pokey 8 or so seconds. But its smoothness around town – steering, braking, handling - is on a par with much more expensive vehicles and thus it provided a joyful week’s test.

Its switch from gas to electric as you drive is so quiet, you’ll never notice. The quiet, though, does not extend to the cabin at speed, during which time it’s fairly noisy. Visibility while driving is above average. Also, with two USB ports for front passengers and two in the back, everyone should be covered as far as charging.

Another positive is the CRV’s generous interior room, making this a good choice for the big and/or tall. While some reviewers have complained about a complicated sound/climate/nav system, we had no trouble with any of the three, though at loud levels, the sound system distorts.

Also, when you’re backing up, be extra careful as what you see in the camera appears much farther away than you actually are.

Honda offers a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties as standard. Your hybrid parts are warrantied for a eight years/100,000 miles, which is a very long time, so kudos.

Conclusion: The 2022 CRV Hybrid is not the fastest car in the world, and its fuel economy, at 38 average MPG combined, doesn’t approach, say, the Prius. But its smart looks, comfortable ride and all-wheel drive coming as standard make it a great choice, as does the badge’s reputation for reliability. It’s also got a decent suggested price of $38,625 with delivery charge and options.

2022 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE Nightshade

The Avalon is dead, long live the Avalon – it’s being discontinued after this year.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a slick, can-do sedan. It just means people aren’t buying it anymore and the company’s putting it out to pasture - the same fate as befell the Mazda 6. The Avalon was launched, after all, in 1995. That’s a nice long run.

And after a week’s test, we didn’t find a thing wrong with it and a whole lot right.

All Avalon Hybrids come available with a 2.5 L-liter hybrid engine, with output up to 215 hp, depending on which engine you go for. All are front wheel drive and feature continuously variable speed automatic transmission.

The only minor change for 2022 from 2021 is that the mid-level XSE trim is now the XSE Nightshade, delivering glossy black accents on your door handles, window trim, rear spoiler, grille, antenna and badging. It’s also a tad more expensive than other hybrids in its class, with the base XLE trim starting $37,250, the midlevel XSE Nightshade starts at $40,600, and the flagship Limited trim starting at $43,550.

On test drives around town one night where a lot of stops had to be made, I loved the zippiness of it, the craft and precision of the steering, and the instant stoppage rather than the infernal numbness of some hybrids. I had to remind myself from time to time that I was driving what’s now known as one of the squarest rides you can buy. But if I was a private eye, I wouldn’t mind dashing about in an Avalon. It’s smart-looking enough to lend authority, but not flashy enough to draw attention. Inside, it’s upscale and cushy, and the ride comfortable. It also gets a respectable 44-or-so-miles per highway/city gallon.

We found its tech on-point, with a standard 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an eight-speaker audio system. Buyers can upgrade to a crisp 14-speaker JBL system. Its climate system worked well and was happily understandable, as was the nav sys.

Another positive for the Avalon is its better-than-average crash tests, receiving four stars in front and rollover crash tests and five in the side crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In fact, the safety features are plentiful, including as standard: lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, automatic high beams, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and rear cross-traffic alert. This would be a good car for a first-time driver as it’s not a big lug, nor is it a peanut car. You don’t feel the need for speed necessarily.

Finally, the 2022 Toyota Avalon Hybrid comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 2 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

Conclusion: While the 2022 Avalon may be out, it’s not down.

2022 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE Nightshade

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