Small crossover SUVs are the hot ticket these days, and Lexus has a very popular one with the NX. In 2017, it became the second best-selling car in the Lexus lineup (after the slightly larger RX) with nearly 60,000 sales. Last year it was called the NX 200t, now it’s called the NX 300.
The NX displays the boldest styling in its class. The huge spindle-shaped grille jumps right out at you. Sharply contoured headlamps and running lights enhance what is certainly a fearsome face. Heavy gray cladding around the wheel wells and lower body delivers the obligatory SUV look. This aggressive styling is polarizing, but still appeals to a lot of people.
Inside, the NX greets you with handsome leather-like trim and contrasting stitching on the dash seats and armrests. A large display (10.2 inches wide in my test car) highlights a compact center control panel. An optional touch pad activates a curser to select audio and other features. This device might appeal to techies, but it can be distracting to operate when you are on the road. Thankfully, radio tuning can also be accomplished with conventional knobs.
The NX offers seating for five. The sport buckets up front on my test car delivered excellent support, but may be too confining for some people. The seats in the rear provided decent headroom and enough foot space to wiggle your toes. The backseats can be power operated to fold out of the way by pressing buttons on the dash, or in the cargo area. The cargo area itself is rather skimpy at just 17.7 cubic feet.
The NX comes equipped with standard features like keyless entry and start, automatic air conditioning, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning, but no Apple Carplay or Android Auto. Notable options, such as heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are available too. That last option may be the one you value the most, especially if you frequent crowded parking lots.
Lexus offers its compact crossover in three versions, NX 300, NX 300 F-Sport and NX 300h. (The NX 300h is a hybrid, and will be reviewed separately.) Both the 300 and the F-Sport use a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, inline-4 engine that generates 235 horsepower, hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and AWD is optional. My F-Sport test car with AWD had all the power I wanted. The EPA has rated the NX gas mileage at 24 mpg. I averaged of 23.6 mpg.
The F-Sport differs from the standard NX 300 with a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, a more robust exhaust note and slightly different trim. Drivers can select Eco, Sport S and Sport S+ drive modes in addition to the Normal default setting. The Eco setting relaxes the throttle response, whereas the Sport S and S+ not only quickens the response, they change the transmission shift points, tightens steering and firm up the suspension to provide more zest to the driving experience. However, the ride quality deteriorates, and might be uncomfortable for some.
The F-Sport is fun to drive in the Sport or Sport+ modes. The body lean while cornering is noticeable, but under control, thanks to the firmer suspension. Eighteen-inch tires do their part by delivering good grip. Moreover, the steering wheel keeps you tuned to what the wheels are doing. Power is ample in the NX, and paddle shifters on the steering wheel help the driver keep the engine in its sweet spot in the rev range.
The NX faces steep competition from Acura, Audi, BMW and Mercedes, but is priced competitively. The base NX 300 starts at $36,260, and the F Sport begins at $38,260.
Advanced Safety Options