The Car Connection Lexus NX Overview
Though the Lexus NX compact luxury crossover utility vehicle uses some underpinnings from the mass-market Toyota RAV4, the NX looks nothing like its corporate sibling. The NX slots below the brand's best-selling RX mid-size crossover, but it's not necessarily intended for the families that buy the RX. Instead, it's more for couples and perhaps those with one young child who haven't quite made it to the suburbs yet.
When it debuted in 2015, the NX was the marque's first turbocharged model as well as its first utility vehicle in this smaller segment. The NX competes in an ever-growing crowded field of compact luxury crossovers that includes the BMW X3, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
For 2018, the NX gets mildly updated front and rear styling and revisions to its lights, a number of equipment changes, and a new name for its base model. The previous NX 200t is now simply the NX 300, with the NX 300h hybrid continuing as before. In addition, the NX's previous 1-year free trial period on Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect services has been extended to 10 years.
MORE: Read our 2018 Lexus NX review
Lexus has gone for a very distinct look with its small crossover. As a result, the NX in no way resembles the RAV4 on which it's based, with a pronounced version of the Lexus-family spindle grille on a long-overhanging and sharp front end. The headlights are mounted high and are very short, while slits in the lower fascia house running lights. The rest of the sheet metal is equally sharply defined, giving the NX an almost angry look, especially when viewed from the front. Flared wheel wells and a fast roofline lead to an ordinary-by-comparison rear view that maintains more of the staid Lexus look we're used to. It has helped usher in a more dramatic look for Lexus models that has also transferred to the new RX.
The NX carries its sporty theme to the interior. It's a much sleeker look than in Lexus SUVs past, with a cozier, more cockpit-like feel. There's a rich mix of materials—perhaps a few too many—with soft surfaces, leather, and metal-look trim mingling with big round gauges; the instruments look to have been pulled from one of Lexus's sporty sedans, simply positioned higher on the dash.
The NX models are sized right in the middle of what the U.S. would consider the compact luxury crossover segment (it might be considered mid-size in Europe), at around 183 inches long, with a wheelbase of more than 106 inches. The sport seats have a rather low hip point compared to those of other crossovers, Lexus notes, which should give it a connected feeling during spirited driving while also helping to increase head room. The decent rear seating space and long, low cargo area reveals its practical RAV4 roots.
The Lexus NX is offered in two models: the standard NX 300, with a 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a 194-hp NX 300h hybrid that the company expects to make up less than 10 percent of total sales in the U.S. Lexus said its F Sport package will be chosen by half of NX customers and it includes a more aggressive grille, unique interior trim, comfortable sport seats, and a tuned suspension. Both powertrains are offered in front- and all-wheel-drive versions, though the all-wheel-drive setup differs by model: The 300 gets a mechanical system that sends engine torque to all four wheels, while the hybrid, similar to Lexus's gas-electric RX, drives the front wheels with the hybrid powertrain and uses a separate, 50-kw (67-hp) electric motor on the rear axle for on-demand all-wheel drive.
The NX debuted a new generation of the Lexus Remote Touch interface, this one featuring a touchpad, haptic feedback, and scratchpad-like capabilities that lets users trace letters—it's similar to the controllers seen on some Audi and Mercedes-Benz models. Active-safety features include all-speed adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A head-up display is also offered.
Lexus retired the front-drive hybrid version of the NX in 2017 and added two new paint colors for the NX F Sport version.