The latest review from Bespoke Autos–2018 Lexus NX300
By Isaac Bouchard
Decades ago, Lexus basically invented the luxury SUV category with the RX300. The RX has grown in size and power, and ironically the smaller NX series now comes in similar in footprint, power, and even name to that class-creating machine. Rechristened NX300 this year, the former NX200t is still powered by a turbocharged, 235hp four cylinder engine paired with an eight speed automatic and (as in our tester) optional AWD. Lots of honing over the past two years have polished the NX’s roughest edges off and it now stands as a competent contestant in this fiercely contested market segment.
The NX has always been a well-wrought example of Lexus’ current styling themes, and changes to bumper facias, lights and wheels for 2018 enhance this. Inside the already well constructed cockpit receives embellishments like bigger, higher resolution screens, easier to use climate controls and a newer version of their touch-pad interface, which, unfortunately, is still one of the least desirable things about current Lexi. The logic of the actual infotainment system and speed of its response have improved though, making it slightly less fraught to interact with while driving. The seats, driving position and overall ambience are still excellent. The optional Luxury trim package includes such niceties as a heated wheel with powered column tilt/telescope, which is tied into the memory for the power fold outside mirrors and heated and ventilated seats; this allows for perfectly tailoring of the ergonomics. Size-wise, the NX300 has an interior that is smaller than that of some like-priced competitors, such as the BMW X3 and Infiniti QX50.
Lexus has worked hard to make the NX300 ride and handle more competitively. While still not class leading in these disciplines, it is quieter, absorbs bumps better and is more responsive in its maneuverings. What it lacks is the interactivity of Lexus’ own IS sedans, which are more engaging than the outgoing BMW 3-series and Audi’s A4. The Lexus turbocharged engine seems more refined in the NX300 and its responsiveness is improved over the original, though it still lacks the potency of the newest players, such as the aforementioned BMW, Infiniti and new Acura RDX. But the NX300’s 258lb-ft of torque insure it can keep up with traffic at all elevations, and independent testing results of 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds mean it certainly isn’t slow. While those focused on fuel efficiency are better served by the hybrid version of the NX, even this model is class-competitive.
Lexus is to be commended for endowing the NX300 with most all the currently available active and passive safety and driver’s aid systems as standard—many competitors make some, or all, optional. They include adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and correction; the Lexus has typically done very well in crash testing, too. The NX300 is one of the last smaller luxury crossovers to be built in Japan, and this pays dividends in terms of solidity of construction, quality of materials and longer-term reliability and durability. Most of the competition comes from the United States or Mexico, and subpar interior materials, along with mechanical and electrical ailments, small and large, have tended to plague entrants from those locals.
While the NX300 benefits from a market that is crossover crazy right now, it has certainly earned its sales success. Its stand-out, contemporary looks, solid interior and the unmatched luxuriousness of the Lexus ownership experience see to that. While it will never dominate the sales chart like that original RX300 did back in the 90s, it is sure to satisfy those in the market for a crossover of compelling virtue.
EPA ratings: 22/28mpg; 24mpg combined
0-60mph: 7.1sec (independent test)
Price as tested: $49,068
Here is what Lexus has to say.
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