Many who want something “different” will be attracted to the Lexus NX. It has a rather handsome futuristic design both outside and inside. It’s a very well-rounded SUV, though it’s not without its faults. Its aggressive appearance creates unrealistic expectations about the SUV’s performance, especially in the F Sport trim. The acceleration lags behind the pack and the handling strikes an awkward compromise between comfort and firmness that results in neither. However, it’s a pleasant and safe daily driver that will never let you down, a compelling package for many.
With the NX, you get a striking compact luxury SUV with top safety and reliability ratings, which remain the strongest selling points of the Lexus. It costs thousands less than the German competitors and packs more standard features, including a host of advanced driver assistance technology. Though it’s marketed as an athletic SUV, performance isn’t overwhelming and falls behind the rest of the segment. Though we gripe a bit about the interior later in this review, it’s still better than much of segment, who also have cabins that fall short of those found in more expensive models. However, the Acura RDX also offers similar refinement, reliability, and safety while delivering a more dynamic driving experience and a stronger powertrain for about the same price.
This is the first Lexus to feature a turbocharged engine though many rivals have been using them for years. It’s a potent 2 Liter inline 4 cylinder that delivers ample torque at 258 lb-ft at just 1,650 rpm and 235 peak horsepower. That’s more than many of the direct competitors but those SUVs are lighter and a little smaller. This powerplant will deliver enough power for most drivers but falls short of Lexus’ “sporty” aspirations. We’re not sure why they didn’t install their amazing, silky smooth V6 instead. Fuel economy would probably be near the turbo’s 24 miles per gallon combined and it’d offer a far more dynamic driving experience and potentially challenge the Germans. It’s about a second slower to sixty than offerings from BMW and Mercedes-Benz at 7.1 seconds. It’s based on the RAV4 and like that SUV, it handles nimbly. It won’t inspire confidence in corners like the GLA but it’s easy to live with. The F Sport-tuned suspension somewhat improves control of body motion but rides noticeably firmer. Good if you’re into that sort of thing but if you are, you’re better off with the X1 or X3. Still, the NX strikes a pleasant balance between performance and comfort that may not be ideal for the enthusiast but should suit the average driver just fine. Add to the equation the first-rate dependability and reliability, the NX makes sense as an everyday errand runner that stands out from the pack.
If you’ve driven almost any other Lexus in the last decade, the interior of the Lexus NX probably won’t impress you. Sure, there are nice stitching details and some soft touch panels but there are still a lot of hard plastic pieces, including cheap feeling buttons and controls. Speaking of controls, the infotainment system’s remote touch interface confuses and infuriates. It uses a touchpad like the one you might find on your laptop and recognizes gestures you use with your smartphone. The problem is that performing basic tasks become difficult while driving and the only other way to use the system is the voice command, the display isn’t touchscreen. The Navigation Package upgrades the display to 10.3 inches and allows split screen functionality to do things like navigate while using OpenTable to make a reservation or listen to Pandora while backing up. An app-based navigation is included standard but requires your smartphone to run. The benefit of the integrated navigation available with the purchase of the package is Lexus Enform Destination Assist, which allows you to speak to a live person 24-7, which takes far less time to find your desired destination than trying to enter an address using the touchpad. A rearview camera is standard and a 360-degree camera is available. Perhaps the strongest selling point of the NX is the standard inclusion of the stellar Lexus Safety System+ that provides forward collision warning, brake assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The front seats are lauded for firm bolsters and generous thigh support but they don’t offer enough adjustment for drivers over six feet, who will feel cramped in this cabin. As will rear passengers, especially with three adults. The F sport trim furnishes narrower, back squeezing sport seats that may be the best in the segment, though they may not placate larger drivers. It also adds superior trim pieces with different color options and an LFA-inspired instrument cluster with a g-force meter and some other gimmicky features. No one will be impressed by the gs pulled by the NX. Perhaps most perplexing of all is the NX’s ride quality. It’s just not Lexus-like. Road and wind noise aren’t very well isolated and you’ll feel road imperfections. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats is minimal for the class, thanks to the sloping roofline it’s just 17.7 cubic feet. Hardly enough for a few large suitcases. Fold the seats down and there are a respectable but lower than average 54.6 cubic feet. The inside of the NX looks good, it just doesn’t deliver the plush relaxation we’ve come to expect from the brand.
Restyled for 2018, the Lexus NX receives even more aggressive bodywork, especially in F sport form. The front grille is even larger than before and the front fascia obtains standard LED fog lights. There are also all-new option triple beam LED headlamps that further enhance the modernity of the Lexus NX. It is one stylish crossover with dynamic lines that extend from front to rear, following a futuristic design language. At the rear, LED taillamps are standard fare, along with dual exhaust tips and a roof spoiler. F Sport models collect a faux rear diffuser that makes the NX even more masculine. Alloy 17 inch wheels are standard, with many packages adding 18 inch wheels. The C pillars are one of the more interesting designs we’ve seen, their shape creates a collection of perfect perpendicular angles. The effect is a sci-fi spaceship aesthetic quality that you’ll either love or hate. It’s not subtle. What do you think of this design? Do you prefer it to the more conservative Lexus designs from the past?
The Lexus NX is definitely one of the safest SUVs around. It receives a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, largely considered to perform more rigorous testing, the NX obtains exceptional scores as well. It collects “GOOD” crashworthiness ratings across all crash test categories. The standard headlamps pocket a “POOR” rating, while the optional headlamps receive “MARGINAL” and “ACCEPTABLE ratings. A majority of SUVs on the market receive “POOR” headlamp scores. The pre-collision system, standard for 2018 and optional on previous models, garners an “ADVANCED” rating, the second highest. The system avoided a collision in the low-speed auto brake test (12 mph) but only reduced the SUV’s speed by 9 mph in the high-speed auto brake test (25mph). However, these tests were performed with the 2015 model and the technology has since improved. Other Lexus models that have been tested more recently win higher accolades. Furthermore, Lexus Enform Safety Connect telematics is reassuring, as it provides automatic emergency services notification, stolen vehicle location, or any other emergency with 24/7 live support and real-time GPS location. The standard whiplash injury lessening seatbacks will decrease the likelihood of a neck injury in the event of an accident, it’s one of the few SUVs we know of that does so. Another unique unique feature to the Lexus NX is a Vehicle Proximity Notification System that uses a speaker to notify pedestrians that the vehicle is near via an audible tone from a sensor mounted on the front bumper. Given the comprehensive list of standard safety features and the top safety ratings, the Lexus NX is among the safest SUVs on the market today.
The Lexus brand is legendary for its reliability and the NX is no exception. It’s currently in its first generation and has been on the market since 2015. There are already over a 100,000 NXs on US roads today. JD Power gave the 2015 model a 5 out of 5 predicted reliability rating before dropping the score to 4 out of 5 for later models, still quite high for luxury compact SUV. Consumer Reports offers similar ratings, reporting some owners had issues with the infotainment system in earlier models. The system has been completely revamped for 2018 and there’s little information available on the new system’s reliability. There’s just one NHTSA recall for the 2015 NX200t. 3,013 units have ABS actuator than may have been damaged during the installation process that could cause the Anti-lock Braking System, Traction Control System, and Vehicle Stability Control system to malfunction, resulting in poor brake and grip performance. Additionally, there are very few complaints filed with the NHTSA for the gas-only NX, with less than thirty complaints for all model years. There are multiple complaints about the brakes not functioning properly in both models affected by the recall and others that aren’t. Additionally a few owners of vehicles subject to the recall reported unavailability of the necessary parts. The second most common complaint is for poor alignment that could be caused by any number of factors from suspension to tires to wheels and brakes. Lastly, there are multiple accounts of the airbags failing to deploy in minor collisions. Still, considering the amount of NX SUVs on the road, the overall number of issues is extremely low. There are no major issues that affect long-term reliability or that require costly repairs. The Lexus NX is one of the more reliable luxury compact SUVs on the market and should last longer than average.
The Acura RDX is priced within $200 dollars of the Lexus NX, making it the most direct competitor. It’s an inverse of the NX. The exterior design is simple, clean and a bit boring as it closely resembles the Honda CR-V, on which it’s based. However, it delivers superior performance with a strong V6 and suspension that balances responsiveness and comfort better than the NX. Its interior isn’t as appealing as the Lexus, either. The dual-screen infotainment system also receives criticism for being difficult to use, though it’s still probably better than the NX’s remote-operated interface. The Acura boasts more back row space and ten more cubes of cargo space behind the second row. The driver assistance features that come standard in the NX for 2018 will cost you over a thousand extra dollars in the RDX. At least a multi-view backup camera is standard. Acura SUVs hold their value better than any other luxury brand but the Lexus receives slightly higher reliability ratings. Both SUVs provide excellent value for the segment. We think either of these SUVs make practical choices in the luxury segment that usually isn’t synonymous with sensible decision making. If you prioritize performance, the RDX is a better bet. If you want an SUV that stands out, the NX delivers dazzling design.
The 2018 Lexus NX 300 (name changed from NX 200t) starts at $35,985 for FWD and $37,385 for AWD. It’s still powered by the same turbocharged 2 Liter inline 4 cylinder that generates 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from just 1,650 rpm. It’s paired with a six-speed sequential-shift automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence. There’s a welded steel unibody supported by independent MacPherson struts with coils springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers at the front and independent double wishbone type suspension with coil springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers at the rear. There are front and rear stabilizer bars to mitigate body roll. An electronic power steering system directs the 17 inch by 7 inch 10-spoke alloy wheels with 225/65R17 all-season tires. Four-wheel power-assisted discs with four-sensor, four-channel Anti-lock Braking System control the SUVs speed, supported by Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. A SmartAccess key fob allows keyless entry and start without the need to remove the fob from your purse or pocket. The subscription-free SCOUT GPS LINK offers smartphone app-based navigation without the need to purchase integrated navigation and includes real-time traffic info with rerouting. Advanced Voice Command with Enhanced Bluetooth Technology allows you to use natural speech to control a variety of functions. Drive Mode Select allows you use several different modes via a dial to adjust engine power, throttle response, and efficiency. The standard infotainment display includes a backup camera and includes a fuel guide with real-time pricing, sports scores, stock prices, subscription free HD Radio traffic and weather, Siri Eyes Free, and Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0. The Lexus Enform Remote allows you to use your phone in lieu of a key and has many additional functions, like a fuel monitor and preset speed limit. A remote touchpad uses a laptop-like touchpad that uses smartphone operation to control the infotainment system. Lexus Enform Service Connect manages your vehicle maintenance needs. Lexus Enform Wi-Fi allows you to tether up to 5 devices and includes a 4GB one-year trial. A 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support and an 8-way power front passenger seat are standard, as are dual zone climate control, scratch-resistant clearcoat paint, roof rails, self-gripping cupholders, illuminated door handles, Lexus Enform Safety Connect telematics, an eight airbag system, LED taillamps, whiplash sensing front seatbacks, a direct tire pressure monitor system, LED fog lamps, and Smart Stop technology. The $1,800 Navigation Package adds a 10.3-inch split-screen multimedia display, Lexus Enform Destination Assist, a Lexus 10-speaker premium sound system, an additional USB port, and an electrochromic rearview mirror with HomeLink universal transceiver. The Comfort Package adds heated and ventilated front seats, outside mirrors with auto tilt-down reverse, and a Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross-traffic alert for $980. The Cold Weather Package costs $110 and only adds a windshield wiper de-icer. The $3,720 Premium Package installs outer-sliding moonroof, heated and ventilated front seats, Lexus Memory System, Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, electrochromic outside mirrors with auto-tilt down in reverse, 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and enhanced LED daytime running with integrated turn indicators. The Luxury Package provides Linear Black Shadow Wood interior trim, perforated leather-trimmed interior, rain-sensing wipers, 18 inch five-spoke alloy wheels, leather-trimmed heated steering wheel, leather-trimmed shift knob, outer-sliding moonroof, heated and ventilated front seats, Lexus Memory system, Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, electrochromic outside mirrors with auto tilt-down in reverse, power tilt and telescopic steering column, and enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn signals. Many of these features are also available a la carte.
The NX 300 F Sport FWD begins at $38,375 and $39,775 for AWD. The F Sport adds an LFA inspired digital instrument cluster with G-force and turbo-boost gauges and a whole host of performance data. This model receives F Sport-tuned suspension with Adaptive Variable Suspension with exclusive front and rear dampers that have 650 levels of damping that automatically adapt to road conditions, based on the chosen drive mode. A race-inspired interior is unique to this trim with hip-hugging sport seats, contrast stitching, aluminum racing pedals, a race-inspired steering wheel trimmed with perforated leather, a perforated leather-trimmed shift knob, a black headliner, and distinctive color options. The exterior, likewise, receives dynamic bodywork that sets the F Sport model apart, with enhanced spoilers, a black mesh grille, and different alloy wheels. The $1,800 Navigation Package installs a 10.3 inch split-screen multimedia display, Lexus Enform Destination Assist, a Lexus 10-speaker premium sound system, an additional USB port, and an electrochromic rearview mirror with HomeLink universal transceiver. The Comfort Package equips Lexus Memory System, power tilt and telescopic steering column, and outside mirrors with auto tilt-down in reverse for $1,140. The $2,865 Premium Package F Sport furnishes an outer-sliding moonroof, heated and ventilated seats, the Lexus Memory System, a Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, electrochromic outside mirrors with auto tilt-down reverse, 18 inch five-spoke alloy wheels, a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn indicators.