Taking the 2015 Lexus NX 300h on a Texas Road Trip
I recently drove from Dallas to beautiful Lake Travis, west of Austin, for a return visit to some of my favorite people and scenery. Spring rains in Texas brought the lake back up to where it should be, and it’s great to see sail boats, motor boats, and personal watercrafters out enjoying the bright, sunny weather.
Like most Texas “lakes,” Travis is a man-made reservoir. It stretches 65 miles, and was formed in 1942 with the construction of Mansfield Dam on the Colorado River. The only natural lake in Texas is Caddo Lake in East Texas, but that’s another story for another road trip.
I chose a Meteor Blue Mica Lexus NX 300h for the trip because it’s not only good looking but a great-performing five-door SUV; just the right size—smaller than the RX—to make it easy to park anywhere. It still provided plenty of room for all my gear (several bags, a cooler, birthday gifts for relatives, etc.), with the trunk easily accessed by power lift gate.
Because it is a hybrid, the Lexus 300h is really a city car, since it gets better mileage (35 mpg) in town than on the highway (31 mpg) for a combined total of 33 mpg and annual fuel cost estimated at $1,600 saving $3,000 over a five-year period. With a hybrid, every time you use the brakes it charges the car, so the more stops the better. The gauges make is easy to tell whether you’re in Eco mode or using power, and the 4.2-inch color information display and rear backup camera are also welcome additions.
Thanks to its 2.5-liter four-cylinder 18-valve DOHC with electronically controlled variable transmission, the Lexus NX 300h performs quietly and obediently on the highway, able to achieve speeds of 75-80 mph with ease and to brake smoothly when needed thanks to its anti-lock braking system and brake assist. The NX 300h is amazingly affordable for such a luxury vehicle, with a starting MSRP of $39,720.
Lexus added an optional luxury package featuring power moon roof, leather steering wheel, cooled/heated driver/front passenger seats, navigation package with blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and intuitive parking assist, 18-inch wheels, and linear black shadow wood interior trim plus Lexus Enform Safety Connect. These options plus destination charges brought the test model’s price to $50,523.
Like most Texans, I’ve always loved driving, and road trips are the most fun. While it’s only 187 miles from Dallas to Austin, it can sometimes take more than three hours to get there. With I-35 under what seems to be never-ending construction, driving to Austin and the hill country is more of a challenge than usual. Come fall, only the foolhardy or most fanatic football fans from North Texas dare take Highway 35 South toward Waco on weekends, where the Baylor Bears play at the huge new McAllen Stadium on the Brazos River, or to Longhorn Stadium in Austin where the University of Texas plays on Saturdays.
My drive down to Austin was delightfully uneventful. I enjoyed singing along with classic country music station “Willie’s Roadhouse” on satellite radio. Where else can you hear Patsy Cline, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Waylon Jennings, and so many other country artists who are no longer played on the trendier “new country” radio stations? It was really special to drive through the tiny town of Abbott, Texas, just as their famous native son, Willie Nelson, sang “On the Road Again” on the radio.
A few minutes later I left the road to grab lunch (homemade tuna salad on wheat bread and a Diet Dr Pepper) plus a fruit Kolache for dessert at another favorite place, the Czech Stop bakery in West. The lines at this popular establishment, which also has a convenience store and a Shell station on the grounds, are usually long. Impossibly long—around the block—on college football weekends.
My favorite hotel is Vintage Villas, perched high on a hill reached by narrow winding roads, and offering a breathtaking view of Lake Travis. It’s easy to see why this is a favorite wedding and event destination.
Beautifully landscaped with winding paths, a gazebo, pond, and water fountains, the rooms are decorated in early Texana and proudly bear the names of famous Texans like Houston, Bowie, Burnet, Travis, and Crocket. My third-floor balcony room offered an inviting view of the grounds and the lake.
Heading back to Dallas, I stopped at Bucee’s--home to the best restrooms in the country. These giant gas station/souvenir stand/food emporiums are cropping up all over Texas. One of the newest is located in Temple, north of Salado and south of Waco on I-35. Bucee’s is a phenomenon that must be seen to be believed, so I won’t try to explain it, except to say there is never, ever a line at the women’s restroom. Their homemade deli sandwiches are great too.
My lucky driving streak ran out when I reached Troy, a little further North on I-35, where the highway turned into a parking lot. After waiting about 15 minutes on an access road behind a line of cars trying to get on the highway, I took a leap of faith to follow some pickup trucks detouring off the main roads to the east. After about five miles, we were on unpaved roads with the dust so thick it was hard to see what was ahead. The elegant Lexus NX proved it could off-road with the rest of them if necessary. With enough layers of dust to turn my blue Lexus steel grey, I merged back onto the highway where almost no traffic had made it past the wreck and/or construction outside Troy.
As Willie said, we were finally on the road again! As I headed west on I-20 on the outskirts of town, he was singing “Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over,” -- the perfect tune for the drive home.
Jo Ann Holt is a longtime journalist based in Dallas, Texas, who started her career as a reporter for her high school newspaper, continuing as editor of her college newspaper and magazine. Since then she has been a women’s editor, a lifestyle editor, and an entertainment columnist for various publications while also operating a boutique PR agency specializing in arts and entertainment. As a freelance writer, Holt loves the freedom of the road as she covers the automotive and travel industries for several outlets. She is the VP of Communications for Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), a group of journalists who hold two major events: TAWA Truck Rodeo to choose the Truck of Texas in October, and the spring Auto Roundup to choose the Car of Texas. She can be reached at email@example.com.