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The Lexus NX is getting on a bit, having launched in October 2014. When compared to its three main rivals, it is the oldest and therefore can feel a step or two behind on paper.
That said, the current-generation RAV4 was a revelation on debut in 2019, so the next-generation NX already has a lot going for it, even well before its expected reveal in 2021.
But we’re here to talk about the current-generation NX and whether or not it is still a viable alternative to the big three. So, we tested the entry-level NX300 Luxury FWD to find out.
|Lexus NX300 2020: LUXURY (FWD)|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Lexus exterior design certainly is polarising, but we quite like the NX’s edginess.
Up front, the signature ‘spindle’ grille is large and in charge, with the NX300 Luxury FWD’s version getting chrome trim and a simple multi-louvre insert.
That said, it’s the boomerang-style LED daytime running lights, positioned below the wedge-like bi-LED headlights, that really draw the eye in. This combination certainly makes for a striking – and distinctive – look.
From the side, the NX’s intricate bodywork comes to the fore alongside its carefully raked roofline, while the NX300 Luxury FWD rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels, which have a nice twin-five-spoke design.
At the rear, the NX looks its best thanks to its arrow-style LED tail-lights and classy grey bumper insert, which is capped off by dual trapezoidal exhaust tail pipes.
Inside, the NX starts to show its age due to its button-heavy centre stack, which awkwardly juts out into the cabin. And it doesn’t help that the 10.3-inch display positioned atop it has an average multimedia system that is truly frustrating to use. Lexus’s insistence on a touchpad controller instead of a tried-and-true rotary dial or a touchscreen is almost unforgivable. It just doesn’t work well.
The 4.2-inch multifunction display that bisects the traditional tachometer and speedometer is better-executed, though, but it makes you dream of the digital instrument clusters that the NX’s newer rivals get to spruik.
That said, the NX300 Luxury FWD is a genuinely nice place to sit in, thanks to the use of top-notch materials.
Artificial leather covers the upper dashboard and door shoulders, while NuLux upholstery is used for the seats, armrests, middle dashboard and front knee and palm rests. You even get genuine cow hide on the steering wheel and gear selector to cap it all off.
However, the NX isn’t immune to hard plastics, with the cheaper stuff used for the lower dashboard, door bins and centre console.
The NX300 Luxury FWD’s interior is given a bit of life by way of silver trim and champagne accents. Yes, there’s no gloss black to be found here. Fingerprint magnets be damned.
Measuring 4640mm long, 1845mm wide and 1645mm tall, the NX300 Luxury FWD is a true mid-size SUV and that’s a good thing.
While cargo capacity is competitive, at 500L, it can be increased to 1545L with the 60/40 split-fold rear bench stowed, although you’re not able to perform this action from the boot itself.
Speaking of which, there are six tie-down points to help secure your load, which is easy to put in the back thanks to the lack of an obstructive lip.
There’s plenty of genuine in-cabin storage options, too. The glovebox and central storage bin are large and the latter has a removable tray for coins, cards and other knick-knacks.
However, the most surprising space is found underneath the front palm rest, half of which is removable and gives way to a small compartment that you can hide your keys in. The best part? There’s actually a hand mirror on the other side of the removeable half.
Up front, a pair of cupholders are located next to the palm rest, while the door bins can accommodate two regular bottles each – at a pinch.
In the back, the fold-down armrest contains two more cupholders, while the door bins can only take one regular bottle apiece. And there’s also map pockets on the front-seat backrests.
The second row is particularly roomy, with a ridiculous four inches of legroom available behind my 184cm driving position, while headroom is also solid, at two inches. That said, toe-room is non-existent, so hopefully you enjoy a tight fit.
Comfort is improved by the manually reclining rear bench and the short transmission tunnel, which means there’s just enough footwell space with three adults abreast, which is doable on shorter journeys.
There are top-tether and ISOFIX anchorage points for child seats on the second row's outboard seats.
Connectivity-wise, there’s an auxiliary input, a 12V power outlet and two USB-A ports in the central storage bin … and that’s it. Yep, rear occupants won’t be in a position to recharge their devices.
Priced from $55,700 plus on-road costs, the NX300 Luxury FWD significantly undercuts the entry-level BMW X3 sDrive20i ($65,900), Audi Q5 45 TFSI Design ($66,900) and Mercedes-Benz GLC200 ($67,400). It’s no surprise, then, that it also offers the best value for money.
Standard equipment not already mentioned in the NX300 Luxury FWD includes LED foglights, dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, a space-saver spare wheel, power-folding side mirrors with heating, roof rails, rear privacy glass, a power-operated tailgate and a rear spoiler.
Inside, there is satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 10-speaker sound system, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, a power-adjustable steering column and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The optional Enhancement Pack bundles in a power-operated sunroof alone for $2500, while eight paintwork options are available, including the no-cost Onyx colour our test vehicle was finished in.
While F Sport FWD/AWD and Sports Luxury AWD versions of the NX300 are available for $6000/$10,452 and $18,271 extra respectively, they’re simply not worth the extra spend as their value for money isn’t as great.
The NX300 Luxury FWD is motivated by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine that produces 175kW of power at 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1650-4000rpm.
This combination helps the NX300 Luxury FWD sprint from zero to 100km/h in a warm-hatch-like 7.3 seconds. Opt for the AWD version that costs $4500 more and this time is lowered by 0.2s.
Alternatively, buyers can opt for one of the NX300h hybrids, which combine a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine with one ($58,200 FWD) or two ($62,700 AWD) electric motors for a combined maximum power output of 147kW.
Both versions are paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and hit triple digits in 9.2s.
Partly thanks to its well-integrated idle-stop system, the NX300 Luxury FWD’s combined fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres, while its claimed carbon-dioxide emissions are 178 grams per kilometre.
Comparatively, its NX300h siblings manage 5.6-5.7L/100km and 131-133g/km.
During our week with the NX300 Luxury FWD, we averaged 10.7L/100km over 180km of driving heavily skewed towards highways over city traffic. Needless to say, it is less frugal than advertised in the real world.
For reference, its 60L fuel tank takes 95RON petrol at minimum.
ANCAP awarded the entire NX range a five-star safety rating in 2017.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the NX300 Luxury FWD impressively extend to autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian (all day) and cyclist (daytime) detection, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, road sign recognition, high-beam assist, hill-start assist, tyre-pressure monitoring, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
Of note, the adaptive cruise control struggles with steep declines, often disengaging altogether when it can’t manage the brake pedal well enough. And it also defaults to the maximum following distance every time you engage it.
Other standard safety equipment includes eight airbags, electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and brake assist (BA).
4 years / 100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Like all Lexus models, the NX300 Luxury FWD comes with a four-year/100,000km warranty, which is behind the standard set by Mercedes-Benz and Genesis, while four years of roadside assistance are also bundled in.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. At the time of writing, a three-year/45,000 capped-price servicing plan is available for $1485, which is average.
The NX300 Luxury FWD is a good drive if not a class-leading one.
It never feels overwhelmed and deals with road imperfections with aplomb for the most part (the rear axle can get a little jittery on uneven surfaces). And as solid as it is at low speed, it is even better at high speed.
Meanwhile, the electric power-steering system on hand is speed-sensitive, which means the NX300 Luxury FWD is easier to manoeuvre at low speed, while stability is greater at high speed.
In reality, there’s a little too much resistance when you draw closer to full lock, but this set-up’s weighting is otherwise pretty even.
The steering isn’t super direct, but that’s unsurprising given this is not a sports car. And it also isn’t the first word in feel.
That said, the NX300 Luxury FWD performs admirably through the corners, but lacks the dynamism of some of its rivals.
With a solid 1700kg kerb weight to manage, body roll is noticeable in the bends but not to an overwhelming degree.
Performance-wise, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine is a sweet little unit and offers plenty of bang for the buck.
Maximum torque kicks in just above idle (1650rpm) and holds throughout the mid-range (until 4000rpm), at which point the curve returns and power draws closer to its 175kW maximum at 5600rpm.
Needless to say, it’s best to take advantage of the fat torque band around town, while the engine’s upper reaches are best left for an appropriate stretch of road.
The six-speed torque-converter automatic the engine is mated to is just as sweet, serving up smooth and timely gear shifts, no matter which of the three drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport) it’s in.
The transmission is not quick by any means, but is a big reason why the NX300 Luxury FWD is so relaxing to drive. It just gets the job done.
As an overall package, the Lexus NX300 Luxury FWD is very good. After all, it is unmatched on price and specification, so it well and truly stands out in its segment.
Is it a class-leading drive, though? No, but how many buyers would expect it to be? That said, it is more than serviceable in a straight line and around corners.
So, those buyers looking for a value-packed premium mid-size SUV needn’t look any further. But if they’re looking for something a little more smile-inducing, there are better options.
|Price and features||9|
|Engine & trans||7|
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