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If Elon Musk could somehow harness the speed at which the new-car market moves, intergalactic space travel would no longer be an issue. Forget hyper-sleep pods and one-way trips that take decades, he could instead be tanning on Mars in the time it takes you to pick up milk.
And that's because new models come and go with a pace that makes the speed of light feel like dial-up internet (or worse, the NBN), and that throws up all sorts of challenges for manufacturers.
Case in point? The good folk at Lexus, who have just launched their updated NX into the premium mid-size SUV segment. And with new suspension, a touched-up grille, some cool new safety stuff and better in-car technology, it all sounds like pretty good news.
Except that, while Lexus has been nipping and tucking, key competitors like Audi and BMW, have been working on all-new models. So the question now is, has this mid-life freshening made the NX cutting-edge enough in the face of all this new competition?
|Lexus NX 2018: NX300H Luxury Hybrid (awd)|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
If no news is good news, then things are looking great for the NX. Fortunately, then, Lexus' little SUV always cut a fine-looking figure on the road, and the small changes keep it looking sharp.
So, new stuff; the pinched-in-the-middle spindle grille of other new-look Lexus product makes an appearance, and does give the front end a cool and vaguely menacing appearance. The grille is the big news, but there are also new headlamp clusters, new alloy wheel designs and new chrome-tipped exhaust tips on the F Sport models.
Inside, the changes are significantly smaller. There's a larger keypad for Lexus' infuriating infotainment system, new interior colours and a bigger, easier-to-read clock. Put it this way, when part of the headline news inside is new, more ergonomically designed air-con buttons, you're not talking huge changes.
But the cabin still feels a bit of a mixed bag, if we're honest. The screen has grown, which is good, but Lexus persists with this weird mouse-pad style system to control it, which, despite being made easier to use this time around, is still plenty fiddly, and feels out of date compared to some of its competitors.
The 4640mm long and 1870mm wide NX is actually pretty spacious wherever you sit. Up front, there are two cupholders separating the driver and passenger, along with a strange box-shaped storage space with a (somewhat suspicious) mirrored lid. There's also a central storage bin, which, in the upper-tier models, is also home to a wireless-charging pad, along with a power source and USB connection.
Step into the back seat, and head-, leg- and toe-room (behind my 172cm driving position) is generous enough for longer trips, and the pull-down divider that separates the rear seat is home to two more cupholders, with room in each of the four doors for bottles.
There are vents (but no temperature controls) for backseat riders, and an ISOFIX attachment point in each window seat, but there are no power or USB ports on offer.
Boot space is an easy-to-load 500 litres, and that number swells to 1545 litres with the 60/40 rear seats folded flat.
The NX still arrives in three trim levels; the entry-level Luxury, the performance-styled F Sport and the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury, and there are two unchanged engine options; a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit (which is fitted to 300-badged cars) or a 2.5-litre hybrid setup (in the 300h-badged vehicles). The NX is still available in two- or all-wheel drive.
Sadly, though, the extra kit has come at a cost, with price increases across most of the range.
The entry-level (although it sure doesn't sound like it) Luxury cars will set you back $54,800 for the NX 300 and $57,300 NX 300h in two-wheel drive, climbing to $59,300 and $61,800 respectively if you spring for the AWD models.
New stuff includes auto-dipping wing mirrors, a bigger 10.3-inch multimedia screen controlled through a larger and allegedly easier to use remote-touch controller, a shark-fin antenna and new interior colour and material choices. That all joins the existing 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-speaker stereo and leather-trimmed seats.
The big news, though, is the standard inclusion of the Lexus Safety System + package across the range, but we will drill down on those details under the Safety sub-heading.
Step up to the F Sport trim and the cost of entry climbs to $60,800 for the NX 300 and $63,300 for the NX 300h in two-wheel drive (the first time that's been offered), and $65,300 and $67,800 for the AWD cars.
And for that money you'll add a new variable-suspension set-up (a system borrowed from the Lexus LC500), along with four driving modes and performance dampers at the rear. Inside, expect a vaguely sporty focus, with new paddle shifters, metal pedals and new scuff plates. A wireless phone charger arrives here, too, along with a head-up display, heated and cooled front seats and better multi-LED headlamps.
Outside, the sporty wand has been been waved over the F Sport's exterior, with more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a reshaped grille.
Finally, the NX range tops out with the Sports Luxury, which is only available with AWD and will set you back $73,800 for the NX 300 and $76,300 for the NX 300h.
That not-insignificant investment buys you the same variable suspension setup as the F Sport cars, but adds some genuine niceties like a leather-trimmed interior, a full-colour head-up display and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. You'll also find a moonroof (which is a sunroof, in case you're wondering).
Yes, the model name climbing from 200 to 300 suggests bigger engines and more power, but both under-the-bonnet options are unchanged for this facelift.
The 300-badged cars arrive with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, producing 175kW at 4800rpm and 350Nm at 1650rpm. It pairs with a six-speed automatic, and can drive either the front or all four wheels - the latter adding about 60kg to the kerb weight. Expect a 7.3 second sprint to 100km/h in FWD cars, and a 7.1 sec sprint in AWD models.
The 300h cars make use of a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine good for 114kW at 5700rpm, and that pairs with an electric motor that lifts total outputs to 147kW and 270Nm. And it's here where the benefits of all-wheel drive shine, with the all-paw cars fitted with a bonus motor at the rear, producing an extra 50kW and 139Nm - although that bonus power is only intended to help with initial traction, and doesn't impact overall outputs.
The hybrid engine pairs with a CVT auto and can be had in two- or all-wheel drive, but performance times aren't quoted.
You'll be utterly unsurprised to hear the hybrid version is the easiest on fuel, sipping 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres on the claimed combined cycle, and 5.7 litres should you opt for AWD. Emissions (C02) are a claimed 131g/km, 133g/km for the all-paw cars.
The turbocharged petrol will use 7.7 (2WD) or 7.9 (AWD) per hundred kilometres claimed/combined, and emissions are pegged at 178g/km (2WD) or 184g/km (AWD).
It's anything but an overhaul, but the little changes don't dent the NX's on-road appeal.
While genuine sportiness still feels elusive, we tested the NX over a huge variety of road surfaces, and it always felt connected and involved, if never quite sporty.
Yes, the tyres will moan and the front end will begin to push wide if you insist on asking too much of it, but drive it as 99.9 per cent of its owners will surely do and the suspension (re-tuned in the entry level model, or all new in the top-tier cars) does an absolutely fine job of sorting out bad road surfaces, while still offering enough dynamic poise to keep you confident on twisting roads.
Lexus tells us that a key focus for this update was ride and handling - hence the suspension adjustments and upgrades - and general NVH (in other words, how quiet and comfortable it is in the cabin), and while it's possibly not quite as cocooning as we were expecting, the cabin is still a nice and refined place to spend time.
In short, it remains an easy and trouble-free drive, only now with plenty of bonus safety stuff that will step in if required.
4 years / 100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The NX's safety credentials can't be questioned, with this mid-life update sharing the best of the safety kit right across the range.
Every NX now gets the Lexus Safety System+ package as standard, which includes AEB, active cruise and a lane-departure-warning system. All that stuff joins blind-spot motoring, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer-sway control and an upgraded reversing camera with a new widescreen mode.
The Lexus NX received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2015.
The NX is covered by Lexus' four-year, 100,000km warranty, and the Japanese brand will offer you a loan car during each service, or pick up and drop off your car from your home or work. Which is lovely.
Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 15,000km, with the first one free of charge.
Enough to keep the Lexus feeling fresh in a competitive market, this mid-life update also adds plenty of value to the NX equation. Whether improved standard safety, a longer warranty than its key competitors and a fresh new face will be enough to drag buyers out of other all-new models remains to be seen, but it certainly helps keep the NX from showing its age.
|NX300 F Sport (awd)||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$49,990 – 61,980||2018 Lexus NX 2018 NX300 F Sport (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|NX300 F Sport (fwd)||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$47,800 – 63,469||2018 Lexus NX 2018 NX300 F Sport (fwd) Pricing and Specs|
|NX300H F Sport Hybrid (awd)||2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$64,700 – 64,888||2018 Lexus NX 2018 NX300H F Sport Hybrid (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|NX300H F Sport Hybrid (fwd)||2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$54,990 – 55,644||2018 Lexus NX 2018 NX300H F Sport Hybrid (fwd) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||6|