Lexus NX VS BMW X2
- Great to drive
- Looks good
- Bargain in its segment
- Silly C-pillar BMW logos
- CarPlay is subscription-based
- Rear middle seat not very comfortable
It’s only taken nearly 15 years, but Lexus has become a fully accepted prestige brand in Australia – it outsells Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Mini, Porsche and Peugeot. And the NX mid-sized SUV is far and away the most popular Lexus model.
Read on to find out what I found out.
Read More: Lexus NX 2018 review
Read More: Lexus NX Sports Luxury 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Lexus NX F Sport 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Lexus NX Luxury 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Lexus NX 300 F Sport AWD 2018 review
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
As is often the case, BMW has come late to a really good party. One imagines there was some chatter about making a quick X1 but that would have been an answer to a question few people thought to ask. It's not a racy-looking machine and perhaps its more prosaic aims as a compact SUV ruled it out. Or the hangover from the weird first generation.
The X2's Paris Motor Show debut a couple of years ago signalled BMW's second entrant in the compact SUV segment, but this one looked fast standing still. Most of it made it to production - including the C-pillar BMW badges, sadly - but there was no promise of a fast one.
Weirdly, the Australian market hasn't really taken to the X2 as enthusiastically as I thought it might and I wondered if it was because there was no headline act - Mercedes has the guilty pleasure of mine, the AMG GLA45, and Audi the completely bonkers RS Q3. But the headline act has arrived in the form the of the X2 M35i - perhaps this will suddenly get us a bit more interested.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The standard of the SUVs in the mid-sized premium segment is so high – high in terms of features and tech, high for practicality and comfort, but also high for the way they drive, and this is an area in which the Lexus NX300h F Sport falls short. At the same time, apart from the much pricier Volvo XC60 T8, it’s the only hybrid among its rivals and the fuel saving is not to be dismissed. Still this is a premium good-looking package at a great price.
Would you choose a Lexus NX300 over, say, a BMW X3, Mercedes Benz GLC or Volvo XC60? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
If the X2 M35i doesn't wake Australia up to the charms of the X2, then perhaps we're dead inside. This car is brilliant fun, reasonably practical and goes about the business of going fast with a childish glee.
Unusually for BMW it's extraordinarily competitively priced and by competitive I mean cheaper than its obvious rivals by quite some margin. One of its rivals is faster but it's also harder to live with and the other one is old and about to depart this Earth.
What this car also tells us is that despite BMW's smallest cars going to four-cylinders and front- or all-wheel drive, the fast stuff is in no danger of being boring.
Does the BMW X2 light your fire? Or does Audi or Mercedes have your heart? Let us know in the comments.
You’d be fibbing if you thought there wasn’t anything interesting about the design of the NX300h F Sport. Whether you think it’s good looking is another thing altogether, but I happen to reckon it is. I do like that Darth Vader grille, those LED headlights, the side profile and even the back with its egg-splat style tail-lights (very Toyota though).
The F Sport grade brings that expensive cheese-grater-made-of-Onyx-look to the grille, angry looking bumpers, LED indicators that light up in the direction you’re turning, and 18-inch alloys with a smokey-looking finish.
The only outward indication this is a hybrid is the badging.
The NX300h F Sport’s insides go beyond interesting into the realm of intriguing, with that enormous centre console that will make any front seat hankypanky impossible, to the dash puckered with switches and buttons, then there’s that layered trim: a combo of leather and a fish-scale looking material, there’s the F Sport steering wheel, F Sport pedals and scuff plates and F Sport seats.
There are things that confuse me like the tiny padded pull out mirror near the centre console, things that seem out of place like an analogue clock in a high-tech cabin, and things that annoy me like the seat position memory buttons that hide under the armrest in the door and can’t been seen or reached properly unless the door is open.
The NX300h F-Sport’s dimensions show it to be 4640mm long, 1645mm tall and 1845mm wide (not including the mirrors).
The X2 is by far the prettiest of the even-numbered Xes. While it shares a lot of heritage with the X1, the shorter X2 is way cooler. Designed by Sebastian Simm, it's a bit more at the lifestyle end of things. The headlights are sleeker than the X1, it has its own distinctive rendition of the BMW kidney grille (it looks like it's upside down) and on the M35i, it's satin grey rather than chrome. Like other BMW SUVs - sorry, SACs - the wheel-arches are squared off a little, for more "stance" according to Simm. I'm a big fan of the shapely rear lights, too.
The nose is quite high and bluff, but the efforts to stop it from being too square-rigged has worked wonders - only from some angles does it look a bit like it kissed a wall.
The M35i features a huge set of 20-inch alloys that look the business, deeper front and rear bumpers and those dud silver caps on the mirrors.
Inside, it's pretty familiar and the tail-end of BMW's long-standing design philosophy. Lots of grey plastic, a small, hooded instrument pack and a decent-sized screen perched on the dash. I liked the Alcantara trim on the seats but wasn't a fan of the 90s-looking blue pattern on the seats.
Well, it’s snug inside the NX300h F-Sport. That beefy centre console means room is tight in the footwell for the driver, especially with the foot-operated park brake. Meanwhile in the back seat my legs touch the seat-back when I sit behind my driving position (I am tall at 191cm, though), but headroom even with the optional sunroof (or moonroof, as Lexus calls it) is good.
Two cupholders up front, two in the back and bottle holders in all the doors, storage space inside is excellent – particularly the centre console storage bin which is deep and wide, has two USB ports and the Qi charging pad. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and that media controller is challenging to use.
The X2 is smaller than the X1 and if you step out of the latter, you'll notice. The roof is lower and its shorter overall, meaning some compromise. But only a little. The rear seats have plenty of room for people up to 180cm, with the roof lining thinning for that extra bit of headroom and just enough legroom, as Richard Berry discovered when he first drove the car.
The boot starts at 470 litres with all seats in place and then 1355 with the 40/20/40 split-fold rear seats down.
Front seat passengers have two cupholders under the centre stack and a couple of slots for odds ends. All are covered by a sliding two piece cover. The armrest contains the wireless charging cradle and, as I've already said, won't hold an iPhone XS in its sliding plastic jaw - it won't open wide enough.
Rear seat passengers score a further two cupholders and each door has a bottle holder and pocket.
Price and features
Guess what? You’ve saved a few thousand already by not buying this car this time last year. That’s because NX300h F Sport was previously only offered in all-wheel drive, but the added two-wheel drive version gives you a lower entry point into the F Sport grade, at $63,300.
So, while the all-wheel drive version still exists - and costs $67,800 - this front-wheeler gets all the same features for less moolah.
Coming standard is a 10.3-inch display with sat nav and 360-degree camera, 10-speaker stereo with digital radio and CD player. There’s also a wireless phone charger, 10-way power adjustable seats (heated and cooled), paddle shifters, power tailgate and proximity unlocking.
The mouse pad-style controller for the screen is so hard to use I avoided it whenever possible, it’s something Lexus must change… please.
But please don't change the little valet kit which is stored in the boot - see the images.
Our test car was fitted with the Enhancement Pack 2 which costs $6000 and adds a moonroof, 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio, and head-up display. The premium paint (Sonic Quartz) costs $1500.
As for how the features and price compares with its rivals, well there aren’t any other hybrid mid-sized luxury SUV competitors to list, only combustion-engine ones such as the $70,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d, the BMW X3 xDrive 20d for $68,900, an Audi Q5 2.0TDI for $65,900 or the Volvo XC60 D4 Momentum for $59,990. Notice how I chose diesels - there are petrol equivalents of those, too. But if you've got 50 per cent more budget, you could look at the pricey Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid.
At the time of writing Lexus was offering a driveaway price of $64,673 on the NX300h 2WD.
I often find that those late to a party bring the cheapest bottle of wine, having been caught short by their own tardiness. BMW has done something similar here - the X2 M35i is $16,000 cheaper than the RSQ3. It's a whopping $23,200 cheaper than the GLA45. Context: you could get a top-spec X2 and a Suzuki Swift Sport for similar money to the flagship GLA.
Obviously it's not cheap, and it isn't as powerful as the AMG, but it's a lot of money saved and little, if any, performance lost.
Standard on the Australian-delivered X2 M35i are 20-inch alloys, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, electric tailgate, keyless entry and start, power everything, electric and heated front seats, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, Alcantara on the seats, auto parking, head-up display and run-flat tyres.
The 8.8-inch screen on the dash runs BMW's iDrive 6.0 software with its impressive sat nav and easy-to-use rotary dial interface. Apple CarPlay is standard as a three-year subscription (ie you have to renew it), which is a start, at least.
If you get the $2900 Enhance Package you get a big panoramic sunroof, metallic paint and wireless charging for your phone. That last thing is extra useful as CarPlay is wireless in BMWs (hurrah!) but bigger phones don't fit in the charging unit (boo!). Luckily there's a USB port to keep you going... but only one up front. In the rear there are two fast-charging USB-C ports.
My test car didn't have the package but had the sunroof ($2457 on its own), wireless charging ($200) and Driving Assistant Plus ($910, includes lane keep assist).
Engine & trans
The NX300h F-Sport is a petrol-electric hybrid, but not the plug-in kind – there’s no charging port, just batteries which are recharging through regenerative braking.
The engine is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol which makes 114kW and 147Nm. The electric motor is a 105kW/270Nm unit.
Let’s not forget we are reviewing the front-wheel drive version of the NX300h F-Sport. There’s an AWD version, too.
The transmission is an automatic - a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and I’m not a fan of them - but the Toyota/Lexus versions seem to be the better ones.
BMW's B48 modular 2.0-litre four-cylinder can be found across front, rear and all-wheel drive cars in both BMWs and Minis. The X2's Mini origins means its engine is slung across the engine bay - sDrive X2s are front-wheel drive.
Developing 225kW and 450Nm, this engine might fall short of the AMG's hand-built 2.0-litre and Audi's 2.5 five cylinder, but it's more than enough for to send the M35i to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. You can activate the launch control if you want, but the all-wheel drive system and eight-speed ZF automatic are perfectly capable of doing the job.
Lexus will tell you the NX300h F Sport will only use 5.6L/100km after a combination of urban and open roads, but my mileage according to the trip computer was 8.7L/100km which considering most of that was city driving is very impressive. Also pleasing is that despite this being a prestige car it’ll run on 91 RON, an X3, Q5 or GLC will turn it’s nose up at that stuff. Snobs.
This is the biggest drawcard for buying the hybrid. The fuel saving isn’t huge in the way a plug-in hybrid can be, but you’ll save money if you drive conservatively.
The usual government-approved lab testing produced a combined cycle fuel efficiency figure of 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, aided by stop-start and braking energy recovery.
Pops and bangs cost fuel, though, and they're fun and who doesn't like a poppy-bangy performance car? I certainly like it, which means I burnt through fuel at a rate of 9.7L/100km. On reflection, that's not terrible for the kind of performance on offer.
Lexus has made improvements to the suspension set up of the NX300h, but it seems the changes haven’t gone far enough, and the ride comfort and handling is lacking compared to other mid-sized premium SUVs.
A CVT transmission is awesomely fuel-efficient but even with six steps ‘built’ into it, it doesn’t forcefully engage drive to the wheels the way a torque converter transmission, manual gearbox or dual-clutch auto does. The result is disappointing acceleration and an engine which sounds like its revving too hard.
Heavier-than-it-should-be steering, a steering wheel which I find flat and uncomfortable to hold, poor visibility through the rear window and a not the best pedal feel under my feet topped off a unimpressive driving experience.
There are some saving graces though – the well-insulated cabin is tranquil, the brake response is excellent, and there’s something special about travelling in bumper to bumper traffic just on silent electricity alone.
Down to business. The X2 M35i is terrific fun.
The engine is a good place to start. Fitted with a silly farting and popping exhaust that appeals to my inner eight-year-old, it's a BMW with plenty of character from the get-go.
Flooring it from a standing start means a brief interlude while the twin-scroll turbo starts spooling up and then wham, you're in second and passing 100km/h. Once you're underway, the transmission keeps the M35i on the boil, giving you that lovely big slab of torque when you need it for overtaking or hauling out of the corners.
Speaking of which, the fitment of a proper mechanical limited-slip differential up front is inspired. You can pile into corners indecently quickly and then get back on the power very early, the front wheels sorting themselves out and drawing the car tightly to where you point it. It's a familiar feeling to the GLA45 but without the underpadded seats and hard-riding nonsense that goes with it. Both are on a different planet to the hilarious RSQ3.
The ride is a point worth dwelling on - it's really good and it all happens without adaptive damping like on the other two. It won't be winning any straight spine awards, no, but the combination of grippy seats and good compliance over lumps and bumps means the M35i is surprisingly comfortable. It rides no lower than an M Sport pack equipped X2 but the M magic has wrought a much more responsive front end, a sticky rear end and a good time lesser X2s don't have.
And of course, you want the brakes to back-up the power. The M Performance brakes are very strong and filled me with confidence. Some people complain about BMW brakes but that absolute hammering they need before these complaints arise seems churlish.
The October 2017 update of the NX300h also saw an upgrade in its safety equipment and that meant it achieved the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. The F Sport grade never used to have AEB, but the update added it across the range, plus it was improved to include pedestrian detection.
All grades now come with blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and the F Sport has been given adaptive high beams with 11 independent LEDs.
For child seats you’ll find three top tethers across the rear row (two in the outboard seat-backs and one mounted on the roof), along with two ISOFIX points.
You’ll find a space saver spare under the boot floor.
The X2 has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, forward AEB (only at low speeds - it works at up to 50km/h, and can reduce the speed of the car to 15km/h, but won't stop it completely), with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, auto high beam, speed sign recognition and reminder. There is no adaptive cruise and no high-speed AEB, and no rear AEB, blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert.
There are three top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX points.
The X2 scored five ANCAP stars in February 2018.
The NX300h F Sport is covered by Lexus’ four-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. There’s no capped-price servicing program but Lexus says you can expect to pay nothing for the first service, $720.85 for the second, $592.37 for the third and $718 for the fourth.
BMWs leave the dealership with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist tossed into bargain. Three years is a bit ho-hum for lesser machinery but appears fine up here in the German layer of the atmosphere.
You can prepay your servicing for five years. BMW has long called their service intervals "condition-based servicing." Basically, the car tells you when to come in for a service. You can buy the basic service package for $1550 upfront, which is the same as the lower models, so that's not bad.
By contrast, the GLA45 will cost you $2880 over just three years (second and third services are $1152 each) and the RSQ3 will shake you down for $2320 over three years or $3380 over five.