Lexus NX VS Mercedes-Benz GLB
- Butch exterior design
- Unrivalled practicality
- Comfortable ride
- Optional safety features
- Penetrating wind noise
- Prominent body roll
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|
We all know by now Mercedes-Benz loves to fill a niche, and if it can't find a niche to fill, it will create one. So, please welcome its latest niche-filler, the GLB.
So, does the GLB operate in the 'Goldilocks Zone', or is it an answer to a question no-one asked? We put its mid-range GLB 250 variant to test to find out.
|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.
Well, Mercedes-Benz has done it again, finding (or creating, depending on your position) a niche and filling it. But unlike some others that preceded it, this example is a good one.
Despite its safety and handling shortcomings, the GLB 250 looks the part, is undeniably practical and serves up surprising performance, which means it's a winner in our books.
Is the Mercedes-Benz GLB a jack of all trades but master of none? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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).
That said, prepare yourself for a bit of a throwback, because the GLB 250 is about as faithful to the classic two-box design as it gets in 2020, which we absolutely love.
Up front, it's undoubtedly a Mercedes-Benz SUV, albeit with a much squarer appearance. Simply put, the GLB 250 looks butch.
We particularly love its simple LED headlights, classic grille and strong bumper, which make it look smart but capable.
Around the side, the GLB 250 is a typical small SUV with black plastic cladding covering its wheelarch extensions and connecting skirts.
The otherwise plain design is spiced up by a sporty set of alloy wheels (our test vehicle was fitted with 18-inch items with 235/55 runflat tyres) and an unusual kink in the glasshouse, around the C-pillar.
The GLB 250 is at its best at the rear, where it exudes presence, with the tough look punctuated by the droopy LED tail-lights and a prominent bumper, which houses a diffuser element flanked by dual exhaust tailpipes.
Inside, the GLB 250 quickly reveals itself to be a technological tour de force. And yes, if its cabin looks familiar, it's because its mechanical relatives (A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA) more or less have the same cockpit.
As expected, a pair of 10.25-inch high-resolution displays sit side by side proudly atop the dashboard, with one the central touchscreen and the other the digital instrument cluster.
Both are items powered by Mercedes-Benz's new-generation 'MBUX' multimedia system, which is arguably the best there is today thanks its speed and breadth of functionality and input methods.
The GLB 250 is properly premium where it counts. Sure, trainspotters will notice the black 'Artico leather' upholstery covering the steering wheel, seats, armrests and door shoulders is of the artificial variety, but it's inoffensive, unlike in some of its SUV siblings.
Soft-touch materials are used for the upper dashboard, leaving hard plastics for the lower sections, which is exactly what you'd hope for at this price.
While a black headliner lends itself to a dark cabin, brighter highlights come by way of the metallic trim used throughout, notably on the steering wheel, dashboard, doors and centre console. And let's not forget the sensational ambient lighting. It's very, very cool.
And mercifully, gloss-black accents are limited to the surrounds of the steering wheel, turbine-style front air vents, dual-zone climate controls and centre console. The less scratches and fingerprints the better, we say.
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.
Measuring 4638mm long (with a 2829mm wheelbase), 1834mm wide and 1659mm tall, the GLB250 is closer in size to the GLC than the GLA, making it a small SUV on paper only. And that only means good things when it comes to practicality.
For example, cargo capacity with the 50/50 split-fold third row stowed is strong, at 565L, but it can be increased to a massive 1780L with the 40/20/40 split-fold middle bench also out of action. If six or seven seats are in use, though, there's limited space to play with.
That said, the boot is still very well thought out, as evidenced by its massive aperture, lack of a load lip, and flat floor, which make loading bulkier items a lot easier. And yes, its load cover can actually be stored underfloor when not in use!
There are also four tie-down points, two bag hooks, a side storage net and a 12V power outlet to make things that little bit easier, while the rear seats can be operated from behind.
Speaking of which, let's cut straight to the point: Mercedes-Benz claims the third row can accommodate occupants that are up to 168cm tall thanks to the middle bench's ability to slide fore and aft by up to 140mm.
Therefore, my 184cm (6.0ft) frame is a little too tall, but I was still able to sit in the back, albeit not in complete comfort, with about a centimetre of legroom and negligible headroom and toe-room on offer.
The biggest challenge for any occupant is getting in and out in the first place, as the middle bench doesn't tumble forward for easy access. Needless to say, you're not going to look graceful here. Children can learn to deal with it, but adults won't be excited by the prospect.
So, the middle bench is where it's at, even when slid all the way forward. Behind my driving position, it provides about a centimetre of legroom, but this can be increased to a generous 8.0cm by sliding it all the way back.
Either way, plenty of toe-room is available alongside more than an 2.0cm of headroom – and that's with a dual-pane panoramic sunroof fitted.
The second row can accommodate three adults at a pinch, partly thanks to the short transmission tunnel that ensure there's just enough space for three pairs of fully grown feet across the two footwells. Children will be fine.
While we're on the topic, four ISOFIX and five top-tether anchorage points are on hand for fitting up to four child seats across the second and third rows, making the GLB250 a genuine option for families.
In-cabin storage options are numerous, with the central storage bin on the larger side despite housing a pair of USB-C ports, and the glove box is also pretty handy, even if it does have an odd shape. There's also a sunglasses holder in front of the rearview mirror.
The centre console's cubby doesn't lend itself to storage, though, as it's more or less taken up by two cupholders, another USB-C port and a wireless smartphone charger.
The front door bins can take one small and two regular bottles each, while their rear counterparts can carry one small and one regular apiece.
Second-row occupants are further treated to a fold-down armrest with another pair of cupholders, although they're of the retractable (flimsy) variety.
These passengers also have access to two USB-C ports, which fold out below a small cubby and a pair of air vents, which are located at the rear of the front centre console. There are also storage nets on the front seat backrests.
And don't make the mistake of thinking the third row misses out on the action, as two cupholders (one regular, the other small) divide the seats, which have their own USB-C ports and device straps to the sides.
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.
Priced from $73,900 plus on-road costs, the GLB 250 sits in the middle of the GLB range, above the $59,900 GLB 200 and below the $88,900 AMG GLB 35.
Standard equipment not already mentioned in the GLB 250 includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, aluminium roof rails and a power-operated tailgate.
Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 225W sound system with nine speakers, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable comfort seats with heating and memory functionality, auto-dimming mirrors and illuminated scuff plates feature.
As with most Mercedes-Benz models, the GLB 250 has a long and expensive options list, so the purchase price can blow out quickly if you're a little too keen.
That said, aside from some safety equipment we'll cover momentarily, there's really not that much missing to begin with, making the GLB 250 the sweet spot in the GLB range.
Either way, our tested vehicle was finished in $1490 'Mountain Grey' metallic paintwork, which is one of six extra-cost exterior colour options.
As mentioned, the GLB 250 is a unique proposition, so it's only comparable rival, the $67,852 Land Rover Discovery Sport P250 SE, is from the segment above, despite its similar size.
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.
The GLB 250 is motivated by a peppy 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine that produces 165kW of power from 5500-6100rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1800-4000rpm.
Thanks to this combination, the GLB250 can sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a brisk 6.9 seconds while on the way to its top speed of 236km/h. It also enables a maximum braked towing capacity of 2000kg.
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 GLB250's fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres, while its carbon dioxide emissions are 173 grams per kilometre. Both claims are pretty solid.
In our real-world testing, though, we averaged 8.9L/100km over 180km of driving skewed towards country roads over highways. As such, it's a strong result, especially when you consider my lead foot.
For reference, the GLB 250's 60L fuel tanks takes 95RON petrol at minimum.
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.
Families are sure to be pleased by the way the GLB 250 drives, because it can be summed up in one word - comfortable.
A lot of the credit has to go to the GLB 250's independent suspension set-up, which consists of MacPherson-strut front and trailing-link rear axles with adaptive dampers.
The ride is sensational, with the GLB just wafting along on the highway. Take it onto a coarse-chip road and this quality does suffer, but not much. That said, road noise does become more of a factor on lower-quality tarmac.
It's worth reiterating that our test vehicle was fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, which are an inch smaller than the GLB 250's standard set that come with lower-profile tyres (235/50), so the chances are our glowing review doesn't apply across the board.
There were also some noticeable underbody creaks when navigating speed bumps and the like, but hopefully they're just specific to our test vehicle.
What will be more consistent, though, is the wind noise generated by the side mirrors at highway speeds. It penetrates the cabin and disturbs its serenity more than any underbody creak ever could, so turn up the sound system.
Put the aforementioned adaptive dampers into their sportiest setting and body control improves somewhat, but you'll still be conscious of the GLB 250's 1721kg kerb weight.
Either way, grip is quite good due to the all-wheel drive system, which works hard to keep things on track. Its front bias is apparent, though, with the GLB 250 running wide of its line at times.
While it's not the sharpest handler, the GLB 250 is far from awful, partly thanks to the electric power steering's variable ratio set-up.
This system goes from lock-to-lock with ease at low speed, making parking manoeuvres much easier to perform, while it's far more stable at high speed.
However, it's not the first word in feel despite being well-weighted… until you make the mistake of engaging the GLB 250's Sport drive mode, which adds too much artificial weight.
Speaking of sporty, the GLB 250 is surprisingly fun in a straight line thanks to its strong engine and transmission combination.
I particularly enjoyed the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine's mid-range, headlined by a useful 350Nm of max torque from 1800-4000rpm.
Once it comes and goes, though, it's a 'long' wait until 165kW of peak power kicks in from 5500-6100rpm, so best to up-shift early.
Doing so is very easy due to the new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which serves up gear changes that are only smooth, but quick.
Engage Sport drive mode and the engine and transmission become that little bit sharper, with the former's throttle response improved, while the latter adopts more aggressive shift patterns.
That said, it's best to resist that temptation, as the GLB 250 is at its best when driven calmly, while it exudes family-friendly comfort.
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.
ANCAP awarded the GLB range its maximum five-star safety rating in 2019.
Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, high-beam assist, park assist, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
What's missing? Front cross-traffic alert, steering assist and adaptive cruise control all form part of the $1990 'Driving Assistance Package', which was fitted to our test vehicle but should be standard for the money.
Other standard safety equipment includes nine airbags (dual front, front-side, curtain and rear-side plus driver's knee), anti-skid brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.
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.
As with all Mercedes-Benz models, the GLB 250 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is the gold standard for the premium market. It also comes with five years of roadside assistance.
The GLB 250's service intervals are every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever comes first. It is available with a three-year capped-price servicing plan for $2650, but its pricing can be reduced by $500 if paid upfront alongside the vehicle.