Sedans are dead. So-called normal people buy crossover utility vehicles now. Those wanting nicer cars, buy nicer CUVs and not nicer sedans. That market segment, that of midsize two-row luxury CUVs, is red hot. Lexus was a pioneer in this class with the original RX 300. Over the years, the RX has grown though, with this year even being available with a third row. This is why the Lexus NX now exists – it’s basically the size of the original RX, if slightly bigger.
The Lexus NX has been around for a few years. For 2018, NX 300 is a new model name, formerly known as the NX 200t. Along with the name change comes other minor changes. These mostly include the Lexus Safety System+ as standard equipment, a Wi-Fi hot-spot, and a power hatch with kick sensor. Additional options include: Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and an updated Comfort Package with driver and passenger heated and ventilated seats.
On the outside, the NX 300 gets more subtle changes that are impossible to notice from the 200t it replaces. The base model receives an updated front grille with two additional grille lines (yo, dawg, I heard you like grille lines…) integrated with the lower bumper, a larger fog light opening below the front headlights, the addition of chrome accents on the lower rear bumper, and updated tail lamps. The front-end is kind of cool, and that’s in part due to the fact that the bottom of it sharply angles up as if to increase the approach angle.
Inside this is a typical Lexus. There are nice quality materials, comfortable seats, a good amount of space, and features expected in a vehicle of this class. There’s a cute sunglass holder in the middle console, kind of which serves as a vanity mirror. Notably absent is an Apple CarPlay interface. The audio system sounds great but the touch-pad infotainment access isn’t great. It works best if the driver spends 20 minutes learning how to work it and programing their favorite stations, destinations, and other things before driving. The system does have its own apps but I doubt that anyone who has a smartphone will actually use them.
Likewise, handling and driving is also typical for a Lexus. It’s not what anyone would call sporty but it is drama-free. The suspension is clearly designed for ride comfort and does a great job of isolating the cabin from bad roads. But when pushed harder the NX 300 does remain composed. There are three driving modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport. I didn’t try Eco, Normal is perfectly fine, and the Sport adds a little zest but not too much. Thankfully Lexus didn’t bother with a start/stop system.
The turbocharged two-liter four-banger makes 235 horsepower between 4,800 – 5,600rpm and a healthy 258 lb.-ft. between 1,650 – 4,000rpm. It’s actually livelier than I expected, with a good amount of power throughout the range. Both off-line and highway acceleration are more than adequate for what the NX is to most people but the Acura RDX is more punchy.
Power is delivered to the wheels via a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard but this vehicle, like most north of the Mason-Dixon Line, was equipped with all-wheel-drive. The estimated fuel economy is 22/28/24mpg city/highway/combined, which seems surprisingly accurate.
The NX 300 faithfully continues in the space left by the original RX. With the starting price of $36,185, two different drive choices, a hybrid, and an F-Sport option, the NX has also surpassed the RX in terms of broad appeal. It’s a genuinely nice vehicle to live with as it there are very few things about which I can complain. It’s a Lexus if there ever was one.
[Disclaimer: Lexus provided the vehicle for this review. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Redusernab 2018.]