2018 Lexus NX 300 F-Sport 2.0 Turbo Review: Is It As Edgy As It Looks?

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…

more photos...

Images Carscoops.com / Mark McNabb

  • ProtectOurHeritage

    “Lexus still hasn’t adopted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto”

    Not everyone wants to be spied upon by the globalist technology firms. Why do these corporations openly boast that they collect data on speed, throttle position, engine revs, and more, in exchange for some “easier to use” in-car entertainment systems?

    • Alter Ego

      | complains about the scary globalists
      | while using a web service

      Please don’t tell me you have a smartphone

      • ProtectOurHeritage

        No, I don’t have a smartphone and don’t have one of their lame internet browsers either. I’m happy to sell them my data at a price I dictate, why should they have it for free?

        Porsche don’t offer Android Auto because of the amount of data harvesting that comes with using it. If you want a Porsche with Apple CarPlay its an optional extra. If you’re so triggered by it, go throw your teddy out of the pram at them.

        • Alter Ego

          Lmao I’m the triggered one says the paranoid idiot writing multiple paragraphs crying about data collection on Disqus which collects and shares your data. Can you at least try to not look so pathetic?

          • ProtectOurHeritage

            Disqus thinks I’m in Kazakhstan because of my VPN. How does that benefit their collection of my “data”?

          • Alter Ego

            I never even said I disagree with you (I mostly do but for other reasons and there’s a >=90% chance that your VPN isn’t protecting you but whatever) you’re just an ass ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • ProtectOurHeritage

            I’m happy being called an ass. Thanks buddy!

  • Six_Tymes

    well, at least the softened the wheel arches a bit, so there’s that.

  • G82FS

    No, it is still too big for the tiny engine…

  • Finkployd

    « The absence of a wireless phone charger with the 2018 update is also noticeable »

    I don’t understand; there is a wireless phone charger in the previous version of the NX, right under the central armrest.
    I can’t believe they would remove it now that everybody’s using it??

  • WalthamDan

    21 MPG? We averages 28.5 over two years of ownership. Never saw anything as low as 21. Engine was plenty powerful too, in fact that turbo is something I miss daily. However at every start up you had to manually move the knob from Eco to Sport otherwise it felt like you were driving an old Tercel. No software update to change the default. A pain.

    • SteersUright

      I too drove it for about 5 days and averaged about 22mpg with mixed use. So depends how lead-footed you are I guess. Also, although I found the engine sufficient I certainly would not use the word “powerful” to describe it. Then again, we each have our own preferences and expectations…

  • ProtectOurHeritage

    Nice trolling scumbag. No, not every new car records harvests data as Porsche (and many, many others) prove! They at least offer you the option of having nothing.

  • ProtectOurHeritage

    You are funny that your comments should come with a warning!

  • SteersUright

    I drove it for a few days. Its definitely soft, luxurious, and quiet. Its also underpowered for a luxury car, somewhat claustrophobic and handles rather poorly. Despite reliability (which is undoubtably important) I cant imagine why any enthusiast would pick this up over an X3, Q5, MB GLC, and even Lexus’ own RX base model thats offers far better value if sporty isnt your thing.

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