Lexus NX VS Toyota Fortuner
- Sturdy, unusual looking 4x4 wagon
- Price cuts make it better value
- Quiet and comfy on-road
- No driver aids anywhere in lineup
- Engine works hard up the rev range
- Third row seating compromises practicality
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|
If you remember the Toyota 4Runner from the 1980s, then you’ll totally get the Fortuner.
For those of you born before the advent of the mobile phone, the Fortuner wagon is based on the same platform as the HiLux ute, save for its coil-spring rear suspension.
The cost of a Toyota Fortuner has taken a huge cut for the 2018 model year, and it’s gained a couple of tweaks along the way. Let’s do a model comparison of the range in more detail.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7.4/10
Dropping the price of the Fortuner range will improve its fortunes – but it will no doubt upset customers who bought them at first blush.
The Fortuner is an interesting device; it’s civil enough around town but its skillset really lies in the bush or the snow. While the entry grade GX is the pick if you’re intending to use it in the dirt a lot, we’d probably favour the mid-grade GXL if we were staying on the tarmac for the most part. The Crusade is nice, but its spec level over and above the GXL isn’t that compelling – although the LED headlights are brilliant.
Is Toyota's Fortuner on your seven seat 4WD SUV short-list? Tell us 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).
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The exterior design of modern 4x4 wagons runs the gamut from the straight-bat Isuzu MU-X all the way through to the radical and unorthodox Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
The Fortuner sits somewhere between those two extremes. It's certainly not something that you'd miss in a car park, but it's not quite as… erm, challenging as something like the Pajero Sport.
The LED headlight array and extra chrome on the Crusade may not appeal to some, but as a package, the Fortuner looks futuristic and quite resolved, without the need for a bodykit (except side steps).
Inside, it manages to hide its commercial origins quite well across all three grades. However, there are still some hard plastics within view, including on top of the door cards and centre console bin, which can be irritating should you rest your elbow there on longer trips.
Thankfully, we can report, that the centre console bin lid is padded in the Crusade. Cheaper versions of the Fortuner have seen us actually tape pieces of foam mat on top of the lid in the search for extra comfort.
It's a bit early to talk second hand price, but the Fortuner will take a hit in resale thanks to the cut.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
In terms of dimensions and size, the 4795mm-long Fortuner is a centimetre longer and 30mm wider than the Pajero Sport, but it’s almost 100mm shorter than the big Everest.
It’s sold as a seven-seater, with two fold-down seats in the rear (folding up and into the sides of the cargo area).
It’s not a very practical way to carry them when stowed, though, as the folded seats intrude into the rear interior dimensions significantly. A flimsy hook arrangement secures them in the locked position, and you even need to fold down the inside seat rail before locking them into place.
Boot space drops to 200 litres when the third-row seats are in use, as well, but boot dimensions grow to 1080 litres with the seats stowed. Still, they are a luggage capacity killer. No cargo barrier is fitted.
Once locked in place, the third row can be accessed by tumbling second-row seats forward, but given how low they’re mounted, are only suitable for smaller people.
The second row gets roof vents and a fan control, but there’s no such joy for third rowers. All three rows are covered with the curtain airbag, though.
Row two gets a 12-volt power socket (as well as a proper 220-volt socket in the Crusade) while a pair of fold-up hooks in the front seat backs can handle up to four kilos of shopping bags each.
Legroom is adequate, though the seat base is mounted quite high which intrudes on headroom for taller passengers.
There’s a pair of ISOFIX mounts for a baby car seat and three top-tether points, as well as two cupholders in the centre armrest and bottle holders in each rear door.
Up front, meanwhile, reside a pair of manually operated seats in GX and GXL, and a powered driver’s seat in the Crusade, while an oddly half-wrapped steering wheel on GXL and Fortuner wasn’t a favourite with testers; the shiny veneer finish at the top of the wheel rim was decidedly slippery if grabbed during a parking manoeuvre.
Bottles can be stashed in all doors, while a pair of cupholders graces our auto-equipped tester’s centre console. However, manual-equipped cars miss out on front cupholders all together.
A USB and 12-volt socket are covered by rubber flaps, which along with the heavy duty rubberised floor mats are a hint to the car’s rugged aspirations.
On the negative side, the middle belt on the second row is mounted in the roof, and is a pain to access. It’s a long way up into the cabin from the ground for shorter folks, too, while the folded-up third row seats completely obscure the rear three-quarter windows when stashed.
The centre console bin, too, isn’t padded in the GX and GXL, and as mentioned, gets VERY annoying under your elbow after a couple of hours.
The bonnet, too, is ridiculously heavy. In fact, many people may struggle to lift it high enough to lock the support stay into place.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
The Fortuner comes in three grades, all with the same engine and four-wheel drive (4WD) set-up. How many seats, you ask? Seven, all told.
At the bottom of the price range, the GX costs $42,590 in six-speed manual guise or $44,590 with a six-speed auto. That’s a hefty $5400 cut in price, and it’s been slightly improved for 2018, with 17-inch alloy rims instead of steel wheels, and a set of rear parking sensors to complement the reversing camera.
LED taillights, air con, a cloth interior, cruise control, a chilled bin, a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system and seven seats are all standard. A polyurethane steering wheel, basic multimedia system with Bluetooth (but no nav or Apple Carplay/Android Auto) and rubber mats round out the spec. The old-school radio CD player is a thing of the past, and there's no DVD player.
The $47,490 Fortuner GXL is the beneficiary of a $5500 price cut; it’s now as cheap as the GX was at launch.
Toyota has added a new multimedia touchscreen system, incorporating satellite navigation, to the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel powered GXL, which comes stock with a six-speed manual gearbox. Also on the standard equipment list are, LED tail-lights, air conditioning, cloth interior, a chilled centre console bin, the aforementioned 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with a GPS-based navigation system and Bluetooth, as well as seven seats.
It also has push-button start with automatic door lock and keyless entry, roof racks, a colour TFT display for the dash, hill descent control, roof rails and fog lights over the GX. A half-leather wrapped steering wheel and old-fashioned rubber mats round out the spec.
A six-speed auto is $2000, while an all-leather interior with powered front seats is available for an additional $2500, if you're looking to know how much.
The list price of the Crusade is $5000 cheaper at $56,990, and only comes in auto. It offers a few extras on top of the GXL, including leather seats with heated fronts, padded centre console bin lid and a powered driver’s pew, a JBL-branded multimedia system with 11 speakers, daytime running lights, smart key and more satin-touch interior finishes including around the gearshift.
As with all the Fortuners, it comes with a locking rear diff and high-low range 4WD. Other niceties in the Crusade include a powered tailgate, but no sunroof is offered from the factory.
When it comes to picking one of the three, we’d lean towards the auto-equipped GXL. It has all the essentials with a few nice touches, and really only misses out on a padded centre console bin lid in terms of comfort.
When it comes to colours, the Fortuner comes in black, white, blue, brown, red, grey and silver.
Toyota offers a factory-approved accessories, including a bullbar, snorkel and nudge bar for the Fortuner. Floor mats are rubber, and rims are alloy. You'll need to source your own dual battery system if you want one.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The (1GD-FTV) 2.8-litre turbo four-cylinder diesel, sourced from the HiLux, offers the same engine specifications, with maximum power of 130kW at 3400rpm and peak torque of 420Nm between 1400 and 2600rpm in manual guise. The automatic version loses 30Nm of that torque value.
If you're wondering if the engine uses a timing belt or chain, it uses the latter. Oil capacity is 7.5 litres. Toyota doesn't offer a 0-100km/h acceleration speed figure for the car.
Linked to an Aisin-built six-speed manual with a well-weighted clutch, it’s a relatively quiet and pleasingly smooth, tractable engine. The six-speed (conventional, torque converter) auto, too, is well matched to the engine's horsepower, and the steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles were rarely, if ever, employed.
If it came to a question of manual vs automatic, we'd plump for the self-shifter every time.
The Fortuner range comes with a high range 2WD/4WD and low-range 4WD system activated by a dial on the centre console, while a locking rear diff is also standard. As mentioned, suspension is steel springs and dampers, with MacPherson struts up front and a beam set-up at the rear. There is no rear air suspension.
The manual variant also offers a slightly higher braked towing capacity of 3000kg, versus the auto’s 2800kg.
Weights for the car vary between 2110kg and 2135kg, and the gross vehicle mass (car plus payload, including people) is 2750kg – with four average people on board, you’ve got about 400kg of payload to play with.
The gross combined mass (car, trailer, gear and people) for the two transmissions is 5745kg (manual) and 5545kg (auto), meaning the Fortuner can legally tow 2995kg or 2795kg of trailer respectively when it’s fully loaded.
Downball weight (the weight pushing down on the towbar ball hitch) is 250kg, and Toyota recommends the fitting of a weight distribution hitch if you’re hooking up something biggish. Watch this space for a tow test review.
There have been reported problems with the automatic transmission, with fixes in place to improve oil flow via changing a lock ball pin for fifth and sixth gears. As well, the tailshaft in some Fortuners has needed aligning to fix a gear selection problem.
There is no evidence of engine problems with the turbo powered Fortuner at this stage, though anecdotal evidence of fuel injectors lasting only 100,000km has been called out in various user groups.
There are no other common problems, complaints, defects or issues of note.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
Against a claim of 7.8 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle for all three grades and both transmissions, we used 66 litres of diesel to achieve a real-world figure of 8.9L/100km over 756km of testing in the GXL.
The dash-indicated fuel consumption figures of 8.6 and 8.9 in the GX and Crusade bear out this claim.
There is an 'Eco' mode button on the dash, but it only changes the throttle map and doesn't really do much for economy; we used it for about 200km on a highway stint and mileage didn't improve noticeably.
When it comes to petrol vs diesel or LPG... wait, it doesn't matter. You'll never get a petrol version.
Its 80-litre tank offers a theoretical range of around 1000km between fills. No long range tank is fitted.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
All three cars are essentially the same underneath, save for the 17-inch rims on the GX. The Crusade’s 18-inch wheels are fitted with more road-biased tyres, as well.
Instead of load-lugging leaf springs as in the HiLux, the Fortuner uses coil springs and a beam axle to improve ride quality.
We took the GXL for a an extended test, and it was a comfortable and competent alternative to a more car-based SUV.
It’s noisier inside thanks to its dual-purpose tyres, there’s no digital speedo (a strange omission, given there’s a multi-function digital centre screen between the dash gauges), the steering could be more precise at the speed limit, and modern safety aids like adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning would have been nice to have, but we emerged after each leg in good condition.
The long-travel suspension is firm at low speeds, but frees up the faster you go, providing a more comfortable ride over square-edged bumps and rougher roads.
Steering is reasonably direct, though not especially precise, and you need a steady hand to stop it wandering off centre – a trait of most 4WDs of this size, to be fair.
The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel feels strong at part-throttle, and the long travel accelerator pedal is easy to modulate. The engine sounds and feels laboured when it’s put under load, though, and runs out of steam as it nears 3000rpm. Blame the engine size - we're all used to bigger, leggier diesels.
Outside noise is well suppressed inside the cabin, and visibility is largely okay, save for the rear three-quarter view which is completely blocked by those stowed third-row seats.
To test its off-road ability, we ran the Fortuner up and down steep, rutted, gravel-strewn fire roads that would easily defeat a stock SUV. With its locking diff, on-demand low- and high-range 4WD, and a hill-descent switch, the Fortuner was far from troubled, walking down the slope with ease and climbing up again in H4 without drama.
Its ground clearance is 225mm (not 279mm as first stated by Toyota at launch), and has a wading depth of 700mm. Its turning radius is 11.2m.
Its 80-litre tank and approximately 1000km range may not be large enough for remote explorers, though.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
All grades of Fortuner miss out on AEB, park assist, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, but seven airbags, a reverse camera and sensors as well as stability and traction control means it still scores a top five-star ANCAP safety features rating.
It offers trailer sway control as standard across the range, as well as hill descent control on the GXL and Crusade grades.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
Toyota offers a fixed service cost program for the Fortuner, which costs $240 per service for the first six services over three years or 60,000km.
Service intervals of 12 months or 10,000km are recommended, and a warranty of three years/100,000km is provided as standard. Toyota doesn't offer extended warranty, but the brand is well regarded for reliability. Just make sure your owner's manual is stamped.
A mid-grade GXL auto bought new in 2016 has lost around 20 per cent if you're looking at resale value.