Having had a few action-packed years on the market, Lexus decided its second-smallest crossover could use a little TLC, so the NX comes with a few upgrades for 2018.
Sure there are some new paint colors and wheels have some flashy new finishes, but the first real big difference that jumps out is the name change (or number change for that matter). Gone is the NX 200t, in its place, the NX 300. Don’t let the name fool you, it doesn’t have a V-6 under the hood, it’s the same 235-hp turbocharged I-4 with 258 lb-ft of torque. No, they just changed up the nomenclature.
Inside, the first thing you notice is the 10.3-inch infotainment screen (with navigation, 8.0-inch comes standard). It’s huge, it’s sharp and it’s placed very nicely in the dash. The touchpad controller remains and has increased in size, many complain about the thing, but I’ve actually grown to like it. I find it easy to use on the go and I never have to look at it to navigate the system. All of that comes loaded with the latest Lexus Enform apps and a new Wi-Fi hotspot.
Between the gauges, you’ll find a nice little 4.2-inch display that gives you the readout on everything from the Lexus Safety System+ which is now standard. The system brings with it automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic lane keeping, and automatic high-beams.
The 2018 Lexus NX 300 also gets a bunch of new suspension components aimed to improve ride quality and handling. The improvements to ride quality were obvious, the NX 300 lives up to its luxury name soaking up every little bump in the road. Less impressive, though, was the handling. It’ll give you little hints of spriteliness in the corners, but for the most part, you get a lot of body roll and a surprising amount of forward lean during heavy braking. Under hard acceleration, the car actually bucks back a bit as well.
As far as luxury vehicles go, the NX 300 is the real deal.
The NX 300 will reach 0-60 in about 7 seconds according to my tests at Denver altitude, which is on par with the departing NX 200t. That’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but competitors like the Audi Q5 will get there a full second quicker. Numbers aren’t the full story either, the NX 300 feels heavy for a compact SUV of its size. Stepping on the accelerator generates some noise and decent acceleration. It will merge and pass without whining, but it’s not particularly exciting. When it comes time to stop, slowing down requires more brake than you might expect.
The NX 300 feels solid. It’s as if the car was cut from a single piece of marble, unfortunately, it rides that way, too. It felt like I was driving a car with five passengers and an overflowing cargo hold when empty. But sometimes, that’s not such a bad thing. Sure it drives heavy, it also heavily smooths out bumps and road noise. Plus, the turbocharged engine is so smooth and linear it almost feels like there is a 2.5-liter V-6 under the hood.
Although it feels heavy, it drinks like a lightweight. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy is a competitive 22/28/25 mpg city/highway/combined. My average for the week was an impressive 29 mpg.
The NX 300 cabin is a wonderful place to be. It is incredibly quiet, and everything feels solid. It makes you feel insulated from whatever madness is happening outside. The imitation leather on the seats was quite nice and very convincing, but the seats themselves were mounted crazy high. Even in its lowest setting, I felt like I might need to open the moonroof to make room for my head.
Living with the car for a week left me conflicted. As far as luxury vehicles go, the NX 300 is the real deal. As it’s billed, though, as a sporty crossover? Not so much. At $36,980 to start, the NX 300 is very well equipped. You get fantastic standard safety equipment and some damn nice imitation leather seats. It’s not going to excite you on the road, but it might just lull you into not caring.