The NX has undergone a mild mid-cycle update for 2018, bringing a slew of tech improvements, active safety enhancements, and revised styling – so, as you might remember, we took one for a test drive to get a first-hand experience of Lexus’ premium compact SUV.
Along with the update, Lexus also changed its naming policy. Thus, the NX 200t became the NX 300, although it’s basically the same model, powered by a 235-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. In that, at least, it falls in line with the Germans’ somewhat confusing nomenclature in which the badge has no connection whatsoever to the engine’s capacity.
Go-Fast Looks, Not-So-Fast Performance
The name might have changed, but the 2018 NX 300 still hits 60 mph (96 km/h) in roughly 7.2 seconds. That’s fairly slow for something with “Sport” in its name, never mind the competition: the Lexus trails the BMW X3 xDrive30i by a whole second, while the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, which we have bought for a long-term test, is in a different league with its 5.4-second time.
The F-Sport package is optional and adds even more aggressive exterior styling and upgraded suspension bits designed for better on-road handling. The NX boasts a drive mode dial that allows the driver to switvh from Eco to Normal to Sport, but the latter doesn’t offer the massively drastic change seen in other drive mode systems. Eco mode neuters the NX into behaving like a Prius, with throttle control feeling rather numb. It might be good for lowering fuel consumption, but not much else, really.
“The F-Sport package is optional and adds even more aggressive exterior styling and upgraded suspension bits designed for better on-road handling”
In contrast to performance, the NX 300 F-Sport gets major bonus points for its handling. The option package justifies its $2,390 price with its adaptive variable suspension designed for a more lively driving experience. The suspension and steering are also tied into the drive modes, giving a slightly more athletic feel in Sport mode.
When it comes to highway cruising, the NX doesn’t disappoint. The six-speed automatic transmission (not the best choice when rivals already have eight-speeders) slips into overdrive as the 2.0-liter nestles into a comfortable rev. The sporty suspension doesn’t punish its passengers. Rather, the Lexus rides smoothly yet keeps body roll in check. Engage the All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (both of which are now standard for 2018 as part of the Lexus Safety System+) and the NX will happily eat Interstate miles all day long.
New Tech For 2018
The active safety equipment isn’t the only update to the 2018 NX. Lexus’ Enform infotainment system is improved, with a larger trackpad for controlling the on-screen cursor. Ordering the navigation package boosts the screen size from 8.0 to 10.3 inches, while modern features like SiriusXM, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, Pandora, iHeartRadio, real-time traffic and weather information, and Wi-Fi hotspot included. Apple and Android users can remotely lock and unlock the NX’s doors and control several in-car features through Lexus’ app. However, Lexus still hasn’t adopted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
“Lexus still hasn’t adopted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto”
The absence of a wireless phone charger with the 2018 update is also noticeable. The NX 300 does have a small storage tray just above the CD player, but it’s too shallow for a large smartphone like an iPhone 8+ and too short to truly accommodate a wireless charging pad.
Behind the wheel, the driver sees a 4.2-inch TFT color display in the gauge cluster with features like a digital speedometer, a turbo boost gauge, and even a G-meter. Other niceties include readouts for individual tire pressures and phone connectivity info. Steering wheel controls make toggling through the menus and adjusting the radio a snap. The leather-wrapped, heavily contoured wheel also feels pretty nice, too. It comes with the F-Sport package and certainly fits the theme.
While not a new feature, the NX’s radio will cache up to 15 minutes of live radio for pausing and playback. The system also records songs on the preset stations and plays them from the beginning. No more catching the last verse of your favorite song.
Power and Economy
The NX 300’s 2.0-liter turbo-four makes 235 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque between 1,650 and 4,000 rpm. Despite the peak torque’s early arrival, the engine doesn’t come on song until the turbo kicks in above 3,000 rpm. The six-speed automatic is plenty willing to downshift by itself, or manually via the paddle shifters. Sport mode also keeps the revs a bit higher, too.
“Despite the peak torque’s early arrival, the engine doesn’t come on song until the turbo kicks in above 3,000 rpm”
Premium unleaded is required and a light foot is a must to achieve the EPA’s fuel economy estimates. The NX 300 F-Sport in AWD guise is rated at 22 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Our combined average over 206 miles of mixed driving was only 21.0 mpg, falling short of the official figures.
Top Safety And Warranty
The 2018 Lexus NX 300 boasts a five-star overall crash rating from the IIHS. Its side impact crash scores are also five-star, while both the driver and front passenger scores for a frontal crash are four stars.
As for the warranty, the 2018 NX comes with a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty. Its powertrain is covered for six years and 70,000 miles, while the body is covered from corrosion perforation for five year and unlimited miles.
Pricing And Verdict
The base 2018 Lexus NX 300 in front-wheel drive starts at $35,985. Opting for the F-Sport package increased the MSRP to $38,375 and adding AWD atop that brings the bill to $39,775. Naturally, Lexus didn’t loan us a stripped-down model. In fact, our tester came with nearly $9,000 in options. Add in the $995 destination fee, and the grand total comes to $49,564.
The NX works well as a two-row luxury crossover and as a youthful daily driver. Add in the AWD’s all-weather capability, and the NX ticks most of the right boxes. With a newer, eight-speed auto, we guess that performance would be at least comparable to its rivals, rather than mediocre, but Lexus didn’t include it in the revamp for the 2018MY. Who knows, maybe next time…