There’s no mistaking a Lexus vehicle with its distinctive, edgy and sculpted styling lines. And their NX 300 is no exception.
As the carmakers smallest crossover SUV, the NX 300 is based on Toyota’s Rav4 platform, but the similarity ends there. It’s offered in standard NX 300 and NX 300 F Sport (tested) and in FWD and AWD. The F Sport differs in that is comes with paddle shifters, 18-inch wheels, brushed aluminum pedals, special styling queues and trim, a sport-tuned suspension, NuLuxe paint schemes, extra bolstered front seats, sport heated steering wheel, paddle shifters, Active Sound Control and more.
There’s also an AWD hybrid version that uses a 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder engine producing 154-hp and 152 lb/ft of torque. To this is added a Motor Generator 1 serving the generator, engine starter, and hybrid battery; a Motor Generator 2 that drives the front wheels and uses regenerative braking; and lastly, a Motor Generator Rear that drives the rear wheels and also uses regenerative braking for a total system output of 194-hp. Along with a CVT transmission, the hybrid gets EPA mileage ratings of 33/30 mpg.
In comparison, the NX 300 and F Sport come standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder with 235-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque for EPA estimates of 22/28 mpg. The F Sport tested, was rated at 22 city, 27-highway mpg, and both use a 6-speed automatic transmission. On the dash is a 4WD Lock button that adds extra traction in the event of getting stuck in deep snow or mud.
Performance wise, the 2-liter produces a linear application of power until the turbo kicks in. It’s been independently 0-60 tested at 7.0 seconds, which is spirited enough for most drivers. A rotary dial on the console offers Eco, Normal and Sport settings for whatever suits your driving fancy.
Handling with the F Sport package and adaptive damper option, gives the crossover a sporty and poised ride on Yokohama 18-inch tires. There’s negligible body lean in sharp turns, it’s nimble and the vehicle parks easily with its compact size and light steering feel. NX 300 glides over road imperfections and pock marks, and does so ever so quietly.
As for the interior, it’s a work of abstract art. Or, similar to what you may find in a Learjet cockpit. The vertical stack protrudes outward and houses a voice recognition 10.3-inch display that serves the audio, rearview camera and several apps and includes Lexus’ Enform infotainment system whose service is free for the first 10 years of ownership. However, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered. There is a novel pull-out mirror within the console and a First Aid kit in the cargo area.
The display is not a touchscreen but is operated by a Remote Touch Interface which is a pad on the console that is essentially like that found on most laptop computers. It requires a sensitive touch to operate. A touchscreen would be better and easier to use.
Back seat space is comfy for two adults or three tweens. Ingress/egress is a low 18 inches and tall doors make it even easier. Legroom is ample and headroom is marginal primarily because of the sharply sloping roofline that begins at about the rear of the back door.
Back in the cargo area, which has a hatch that can be opened by merely waving a foot underneath the bumper, measures 35 inches deep, 40.5 wide and 27 high for 17.7 cubic feet of space. Flip them and cargo length extends to 68 inches for 54.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Beneath the cargo floor is a foam underfloor that offers space for small item storage.
As a luxury crossover, it naturally comes at a premium price. The F Sport began life at a reasonable $39,775, but escalated after adding a cold weather package ($110); auto dimming rearview mirror/Homelink garage door opener ($125); lane departure, LED headlamps w/auto high beam ($1,515 – yes they’re expensive); nav system/remote touch interface ($1,800); power rear door w/kick sensor ($550); premium paint ($595); F Sport package that includes a multitude of safety features and functions such as blind spot monitoring/rear cross traffic alert, moonroof, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and more; key gloves ($10); cargo mat ($254); 3M paint protection film ($429) and delivery ($995), took the bottom line to $49,023.
This puts the NX 300 inline with other luxury utes in this class. However, the NX maintains a good resale value over most of the competitors. And the NX 300, comes with excellent government 5-star safety ratings of five for an overall score; four for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front/rear seat side crash; and four stars for rollover.
As my wife owns and loves her Lexus RX350, but if she’d ever consider downsizing, the NX 300 would definitely be considered – with my blessing.