The NX is the compact luxury SUV in the Lexus lineup, positioned above the UX and below the midsize RX. Loosely based on the previous Toyota RAV4 platform, the NX gets unique styling and interior design. In a competitive field with other SUVs from American, German and other Asian brands, the current NX is among the oldest models in the segment.
Lexus offers six NX models, of which three are hybrids. The base NX 300 starts at $37,610, followed by the NX 300 F Sport ($39,710) and NX 300 Luxury ($44,060); AWD is a $1400 option on non-hybrids. NX hybrids consist of the NX 300h AWD ($40,160), NX 300h Luxury AWD ($46,610), and the NX 300h F Sport AWD Black Line Special Edition ($46,910).
We tested a NX 300h F Sport AWD Black Line Special Edition with no options. Including the $1,075 delivery fee, the total added up to $47,985. Lexus has limited production to 1,000 vehicles, so this Special Edition will be relatively exclusive. Lexus fills the NX with an extensive standard equipment list: 18-in. alloy wheels, F Sport-tuned suspension, heated/ventilated F Sport front seats (10-way power adjustability), paddle shifters, heated steering wheel, aluminum pedals, moonroof, 8-in. infotainment display, navigation, 8-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, LED headlights, power rear door and Lexus-badged Zero Halliburton travel cases. Major safety technologies include pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert, blind spot monitor, and parking assist.
Non-hybrid NX models are powered by a 235-hp/258 lb.-ft. 2.0L inline-4 turbo. The NX300h hybrid powertrain is a 2.5L Atkinson-cycle inline-4, plus individual 650V AC electric motors driving the front wheels and rear wheels, respectively. Both drive motors become generators during braking to recharge the 244.8V Ni-MH battery pack. A third electric motor also functions as a generator, starter and charges battery pack. The all-aluminum DOHC inline-4 cranks out 154-hp @ 5,700 RPM. Lexus does not specify system torque output. Combined hybrid system power totals to 194-hp. A complex planetary gearset transmission functions as a CVT (continuously variable transmission), power splitter, and reduction gear for the electric motor. The CVT is programmed to simulate a conventional stepped-gear automatic. According to Lexus, the NX300h fuel consumption is 33/30 MPG (city/hwy.), a significant improvement over the 22/27 MPG (city/hwy.) rating of the NX300 AWD.
Lexus uses the typical front suspension design of MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar. At the rear is a double wishbone setup of trailing arms, coil springs, dampers and stabilizer bar. An electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering system is geared for 2.68 turns lock-to-lock. Mounted on 18-in. dia. alloy wheels are 225/60R18 all season tires. Brakes are all disc, but brake rotor diameter is not specified. Curb weights range from 3,940 lbs. (NX 300) to 4,180 lbs. (NX 300h). Towing capacity is limited to 1,500 lbs.
Inside the NX, the expected Lexus build quality is evident; materials and panel fits are exceptional. Gunmetal hued trim on the doors, dash and center console contrasts with the dark gray interior theme. Most surfaces are padded, reinforcing the intended luxury ambiance. Upholstered in NuLuxe simulated leather, the F Sport seats are exceptionally comfortable and provide excellent lateral support. Both driver and front passenger benefit from 10-way power seats.
The leather-wrapped F Sport steering wheel has integrated audio, phone, vehicle system and cruise control functions. Lexus designed a simple instrument cluster consisting of an analog speedometer and hybrid system status gauges, plus smaller fuel level and coolant temperature indicators. A configurable center display shows vehicle status. Instead of a touchscreen interface, Lexus still uses its center console touchpad to control the 8-in. infotainment display.
Lexus engineers prioritized body control over ride comfort, tuning the NX for a firm ride and flat cornering attitude. The electric power steering communicates road surface textures and has moderate steering effort. The NX is appropriately composed on the highway, requiring minimal steering correction. Wind and engine noise are muted at highway speeds, leaving tire hiss as the most significant noise source.
Lexus hybrid powertrains are among the best in the industry. Aside from the audible engine start, the transition between electric and internal combustion power is barely perceptible. At low speed the hybrid powertrain delivers decent throttle response, but on the highway the 2.5L inline-4 feels overtaxed. Lexus claims 0-60 MPH in 9.1 seconds and an electronically-limited top speed of 112 MPH, leaving no doubt that this hybrid's mission is about fuel efficiency, not performance.
Despite its age, the NX continues to be an appealing compact SUV, especially the sub-$40K NX 300. From a value perspective, the base 2021 NX 300h is more appealing than the Black Line, which is priced close to the larger RX 450h. Lexus is about to release the redesigned 2022 NX, so unless you must have the NX 300h Black Line, we would recommend waiting for the new NX before making a decision.