2018 Lexus NX300

January 16, 2018 7 min read

No one knows who invented the shoe, but not surprisingly, it caught on.

The crossover is another such idea — and we know whose that was.

Back in '98, Lexus took a car — the ES 300 sedan — gave it a lift kit and all-wheel drive and hey! Presto! The RX 300.

It's obvious now. It was radical and brilliant back then.

It gave people who wanted SUV-ish attributes — commanding driving position, decent snow-day capability — but not necessarily the SUV to go with them just what they were looking for.

Lexus made book. Now comes the NX. It's a crossover, like the RX, but slung lower and personal-sized rather than family-sized. It's also about $8K less to start, just the ticket for people who want some RX-ish attributes but not necessarily the whole RX enchilada to go with them.

What It Is

The NX 300 is a compact-sized luxury/sport crossover — in the same general class as the Audi Q3 and Q5, the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and the Acura RDX, among others.

The base FWD trim starts at $35,985. With AWD, the price is $37,385.

What's New

For 2018 the NX gets a new front clip with standard LED lights, sound-muting acoustic exterior glass (all trims), some suspension retuning and an updated suite of apps for the standard 8-inch and optional 10.3-inch Lexus Display Audio touch screens; the latter also includes complimentary Lexus Enform 4GB Wi-Fi service for one year.

What's Good

It's more sporty-looking (and driving) than the larger-on-the-outside RX.

It's much roomier — and so much more practical — than the price-comparable Q3.

It's more affordable than the size/room-equivalent Q5.

It tows more than the V6-powered RDX.

What's Not So Good

The Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5 are quicker.

The Acura RDX is roomier and costs about the same.

The racy-looking F Sport package does not include a horsepower upgrade.

Under the Hood

The NX's turbo four-cylinder has 235 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque at 1,650 RPM and is paired with a six-speed automatic and your choice of FWD or AWD.

The FWD version gets from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds flat; the slightly heavier AWD version clocks in at 7.2 seconds.

These are good numbers for the class, especially compared with price-equivalent rivals like the Audi Q3 — which has a much less powerful 2.0-liter engine (200 horsepower) and takes 7.8 seconds to get to 60 mph.

The V-6-powered Acura RDX (3.5 liters, 279 horsepower) is quicker (6.2 seconds to 60 mph) but not as much as you'd expect given its much larger, much stronger engine.

The Benz GLC300 is the ripper in this class. Although its standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder isn't that much stouter — Benz claims 241 horsepower — the GLC somehow manages to get to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Some of the acceleration differential may be due to the close-ratio nine-speed automatic transmission, but the rest is likely the result of some friendly fudging of the engine's actual horsepower production. Its mileage is about the same as the others: 21 mpg city and 28 highway.

On the Road

If there's a deficit to this deal it's that the NX engine is maybe a touch too quiet, so quiet that sometimes you wonder whether it's there or whether you bought a hybrid. Lexus tacitly concedes the point, too — by including an "active" sound-generation system that uses the stereo to make the engine's existence more noticeable.

If you buy the F Sport package, you'll get a slightly firmer ride (chiefly because of the 18-inch tires with a shorter sidewall that come with the deal) as well as sharper steering feel, but it's not a particularly aggressive package in terms of function. The aggression takes a more visual form — an angry samurai face.

Interestingly, the less visually aggressive RX is the more functionally aggressive — in terms of how quickly it can get to 60, at least.

The NX still feels sportier, though — which is both a function of its more compact size as well as its more intimate interior and the shape of the interior, which from the perspective of the driver (especially at night, when everything's lit up) conjures the vibe of being in the left seat of a speedy corporate jet.

At the Curb

It turns out the NX is a very practical personal jet with nearly as much room inside as the RX.

There's 42.8 inches of legroom up front and 38.1 inches in the second row. Cargo space behind the second row is 17.7 cubic feet, and if you fold the second row down, you'll have 54.6 cubic feet.

The much longer and taller RX (192.5 feet end to end and 67.7 inches high versus 182.3 inches long and only 64.8 inches high) has 44.1 inches of legroom up front and 38 inches in the second row — a difference without much distinction.

With regard to cargo room: The RX has 18.4 cubic feet behind its second row and 56.3 cubic feet with its second row folded flat. The NX has 17.7 cubic feet behind its second row and 54.6 cubic feet with its second row folded down.

The Rest

Both the standard 8-inch and the optional 10.3-inch touch screens are larger than what you get in competitor models, and though initially intimidating, the Remote Touch Interface mouse track pad input is user-friendly once you get used to it.

The Bottom Line

The NX probably isn't a game changer like the original RX was, but that doesn't mean it hasn't got game.

 View the Lexus NX300 this week.
View the Lexus NX300 this week.

Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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