The NX is Lexus' entry into the crowded compact luxury crossover market. It's a 4-door wagon that seats five and is available with front- or all-wheel drive. It was first introduced in 2015 and competes with vehicles like the Acura RDX, Audi A3, Cadillac XT4, Infiniti QX50, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Lincoln Corsair nee MKC, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Volvo XC40. Changes for 2019 are minimal and include the addition of Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa support.
The NX is available with a gas engine or a gas/electric hybrid powertrain. The gas models are dubbed 300 and the hybrid models carry the 300h moniker. NX 300s are powered by turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine mates to a 6-speed automatic. NX 300h models get a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that pairs with electric motors for a total horsepower output of 194. Gas-only models are available with front- or all-wheel drive. Hybrids are only all-wheel drive. Towing capacity is 1,500 pounds on the hybrid and 2,000 pounds on the gas model.
The model lineup includes the NX 300, NX 300 F Sport, and NX 300h. Prices start at $36,485 for the front-drive NX300 and climb to $40,125 on the NX 300 F Sport. The NX 300h lists for $38,835. Standard features include 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning and intervention, keyless ignition and entry, rearview camera, dual-zone climate control and in-car Wi-Fi. The NX 300 F Sport adds 18-inch wheels, interior and exterior styling elements, sport-tuned suspension, special, sport gauges, and sport steering wheel.
On paper the NX' gas engine matches up favorably to most competitors. However, in the real-world acceleration is just ho-hum. The engine will push the NX from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.3 seconds, marginally slower than most rivals. In addition, the engine feels sleepy around town and lacks passing punch unless you floor the throttle. On the plus side, the engine is smooth and quiet and the transmission shifts imperceptibly.
EPA ratings for the non-hybrid all-wheel-drive NX are an impressive 22 MPG city and 28 MPG highway. Those numbers compare very favorably to competitors. One caveat though, the NX requires premium-grade fuel while some competitors do not. In routine suburban commuting expect to average better than the 22 MPG city rating, perhaps as high as 24 MPG. Throw in some gentle highway driving and you can push that number close to 30 MPG.
The NX' all-wheel drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. In full-acceleration starts when the front wheels start spinning, it doesn't seem to transfer power to the rear as quickly as some competitors. There is a manually operated center differential lock that can provide better traction on slippery surfaces.
Though the NX looks sporty and nimble, Lexus has tuned the suspension to provide a comfortable and controlled ride. Things definitely perk up on the F Sport, but still, this is not a Euro-tuned sport crossover. That said, most will find that Lexus has done a great job with the overall driving experience, providing a comfortable-riding small crossover that doesn't beat you up on rough roads.
Regardless of trim, the NX 300's suspension smooths over road imperfections. Where rivals feel busy or nervous, the Lexus seems to glide unaffected over ruts and bumps. True, the NX 300 will lean quite a bit when you round corners, but overall stability is respectable. Steering effort is precise, but there's little feedback. Thankfully as speeds go up, the weight also increases, providing more confidence on the highway. Brakes have adequate stopping power, but there's noticeable nosedive and an unsettled feeling in the rear in hard stops.
Among luxury crossover SUVs, the Lexus NX 300 is impressively quiet. Wind, road and engine noise are well silenced. When in Sport or Sport Plus mode, the F Sport's engine note can grow tiresome.
With clean lines and a mostly functional design, the Lexus NX' interior sports price-appropriate materials and solid build quality. Drivers face a conventional twin-dial instrument panel. Gauges are easy to read, although the speedometer markings are very tightly grouped. There's an information screen between the gauges that has dated display graphics. The center stack is topped by a large information screen and followed by climate and audio controls below. The infotainment system is controlled by a touchpad on the center console. There are buttons scattered to the left of the steering wheel that are hard to see and reach.
The infotainment system finally adds Apple CarPlay support for 2019. In 2020, Lexus claims it will add Android Auto support as well. On its own merits, the system is fairly well designed and responds quickly to inputs. However, the design of the touchpad makes it hard to operate without taking your eyes off the road.
The front seats offer plenty of head and leg room and but are somewhat confining and provide only adequate support. The available front-seat ventilation is a nice touch in the class. Rear-seat comfort is surprisingly good and augmented by ample head and leg room. Door openings are wide and the step-in is low, making it easy to get in our out. Outward visibility is restricted to the rear, forcing a double glance when changing lanes.
Cargo capacity with the rear seats up is a scant 17.7 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity is 54.6 cubic feet, tight for the class as well. To be honest though, the NX' sloping rear roofline is what limits cargo space, so if you don't typically pack to the roof, you won't notice. Interior storage is scant, there are just a few open and covered bins and the door map pockets are small.
Bottom Line -- True to the Lexus mission, the NX 300 provides a comfortable ride and refined driving experience. High points include ample passenger space for the class, reasonable fuel efficiency and a very quiet ride. Buyers give up a bit of cargo capacity and any sporting pretentions -- even in F Sport guise, it's not very athletic. Prices can be reasonable and Lexus has a tremendous reputation for customer service and reliability. If you are looking for a quiet and comfortable compact crossover, perhaps the NX is what you seek.