DriveLife

2018 Lexus NX 300 F Sport – Car Review – The luxury small SUV?

The original Lexus NX was the first car I drove with DriveLife, and now, four years later there’s a new model. Now with new engines, new features and a new look.

Lexus lent us one for a week to see what we thought.

The Range

 

There are four models of NX to choose from, starting with the NX300 2WD at $82,400, followed by the AWD at $85,400, then the F Sport (tested here) at $94,800, and finally the Limited, also priced at $94,800. For an extra couple of grand, each trim level (except 2WD) also has a hybrid edition.

All NX300s have the same 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder which produces 175kW and 350Nm, and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include AEB, lane departure alert with assistance, 8 airbags, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, ABS, Brake Assist, EBD, hill start assist, trailer sway control, TCS and VSC, radar cruise, park assist, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, dual-zone climate, Smart Start, power boot lid, 10.3” main display, satnav, 10 speaker audio with subwoofer, synthetic leather seats with front power adjustment, leather wheel with paddle shifters, 4.2” colour driver info display, bi-LED headlights, auto lights and high beam, and auto wipers.

The F-Sport adds a heads-up display, wireless phone charger, 14-speaker audio with subwoofer, F-Sport smooth leather seats with heating and ventilation, aluminium interior trims, dimpled leather steering wheel, F-Sport bumper with mesh grille, 3 LED headlights.

The Limited is similar to the F-Sport, but with some changes such as non-sport seats, wood trim, tilt and slide moonroof, standard grille and bumpers.

There are 9 colours available; white, black, 3 silver/greys, and some surprisingly bold colours including a deep metallic burgundy, Lava orange, Cobalt blue (as seen here on our test car), and Sparling Meteor blue. Well done Lexus for stepping outside the usual dull colour palette!

First Impressions

Our review car was in Cobalt, which is a gorgeous metallic blue which really pops, especially in sunlight. Combined with the shadow-chrome coloured wheels it looks fantastic and really highlights the angular design elements well.

I think the side view looks great with the slash-crease angling up to the rear, and those angular front and rear lights. The rear looks good too, even though Lexus have gone with the current fashion of nicely designed but fake exhaust tips.

But the front? I struggle with that huge grille. I love the frowny headlights and angled DRLS, but the grille really dominates the front and is a bit too much for my liking.

The Inside

Opening the driver’s door revealed red perforated leather seats with black highlights. This made me smile, I love a bit of red leather. Some people who rode in the car hated the combination of red with the blue exterior, but I thought it was great. The rest of the dash and doors are wrapped in black leather with red stitching, with aluminium trims. Lexus always do interiors well, and the NX is no exception. The leather is soft and good quality, and is nicely padded on the doors, centre console knee pads and other touch points.

The F-Sport seats have a bit more side support than the standard ones but are more like a deep armchair than a racing seat, and that’s definitely a good thing. You can sink into them in great comfort, but still get some side support when cornering. The front seats are 8-way electrically adjustable, with two-way lumbar adjustment on both front seats.

The wheel also adjusts electrically in four directions. One curious feature of the first NX is retained here – a padded leather piece behind the wrist rest which can be lifted out to reveal a mirror underneath. For doing your make-up when driving maybe?

There’s a large and very clear 10.3” screen sticking up from the centre of the dash. The 360-degree camera view is excellent and the car in the centre was blue like the exterior, a nice little bit of attention to detail. The screen is controlled via a trackpad in the centre console, which has a nicely padded wrist rest behind it. It’s intuitive enough to use, but it can be a bit fiddly to select items on the screen sometimes, especially when driving.

The sound system is very good indeed. The F Sport comes with a 14-speaker Mark Levinson system with a subwoofer mounted in the boot door.

There’s an analogue clock in the centre of the aircon controls, which I really like. It just adds a bit of class somehow. Plus it has a black background which magically becomes pure white at night. Talking of the aircon controls – they’re really nice knurled metal knobs, and feel really nice to use. Some of the other buttons are a bit small and if you’re new to the car the one you want  can take some finding.

The F-Sport steering wheel is great to hold and nicely shaped, though the top section is a bit shiny and slippery when you happen to grab it during parking manoeuvres. There are a fair number of buttons on the wheel, but they’re well laid out and easy to use, with controls for the trip computer on one side and audio/phone on the other.

Something I’m not a fan of is the third stalk at about 4 o’clock on the wheel, for the cruise control. This is the way Toyota and Lexus have done it for some time but I find it fiddly to use. It also feels like they’ve adapted an older part for the radar cruise on this car because the button for following distance is on the wheel rather than being part of the stalk.

The driver’s display consists of two large, clear and easily readable dials, with the 4.2” information display in the centre. This can be set as to read various information, all easily changed using thumb buttons on the steering wheel. There’s also a heads-up display, a feature I’m very fond of. This is colour, and has multiple settings. The main section shows speed as well as cruise control set speed, navigation info etc. The bottom half can be either a rev counter or eco display.

Moving to the back, the rear seats are comfortable, and have multiple reclining settings for the seat backs. Not a common feature but a very welcome one on long trips. Rear passengers also get their own aircon vent. The centre 3-point belt can be a bit awkward as it comes down from the roof and lays across the left seat when not in use. My daughter wasn’t impressed until we realised you can unclip the bottom and it reels up and clips neatly into a recess in the roof.

There’s a large boot, 475 litres to be exact, expanding to 1520 litres when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded. There are cargo hooks and small bag hooks on each side, and underneath is a space saver spare wheel. The rear door is electrically operated, which is always a useful feature on a tall car like this with a big, heavy rear door.


The Drive

There’s no doubt that to NX is a very comfortable and pleasant place to sit, but it does have quite a high waist line, and smaller windows that you might realise from the outside. Combined with the high centre console this gives a feeling of being cocooned in the car. The dark headliner also adds to this impression. It’s not a bad thing and it never felt small or cramped, but it’s a different feel to a lot of SUVs. It also means a letterbox-like view in the mirror.

As usual, my first drive of the NX was in rush-hour traffic. After some fiddling around working out the cruise stalk (as I said, not the most ergonomic in my opinion), I was happily cruising along, listening to that excellent Mark Levinson stereo. There’s engine stop/start, so when you come to a complete stop, the engine also stops to save fuel. It does have that annoying thing where if you’re stopped for a while and want to shift to park, it starts the engine again when you do.

The cruise control generally works very well, but it has a couple of niggles. Firstly I think the stalk works the wrong way, as a short press moves the speed by 1kph and a long press moves it by 5kph. I find it’s a lot more common that I want to change it by larger amounts when moving between speed zones, than by a couple of kph. Secondly, it’s not very good at keeping to the limit down steeper hills, and it gradually gains speed. Knocking it down by 1kph will “remind” it to slow down, but not smoothly.

The NX is very quiet, with road noise well damped, and it’s comfortable with a great ride. Bumps are soaked up well and in normal use I didn’t notice much body roll. But what about on a twisty road? Modern SUVs are getting better and better at this and I wondered how the NX would fare. Well despite the F Sport badging, it’s definitely not a sporty SUV. It goes well, with a quoted 0-100 time of 7.1 seconds, and the four-cylinder turbo has a decent growl higher in the rev range. But press on a bit and, well, just don’t. It actually made me feel a bit ill with its rolly, wallowy handling when pushed. This is not meant as a driver’s’ SUV, and I suspect most Lexus NX buyers would not care.

The overall package as a luxury small SUV is very good. It’s a great car for daily activities, and will also do well on longer trips, getting you there in comfort. It has some nice little extra touches too, like the thin white LED-lit line in the exterior door handles to pick them out at night, and the startup animation for the LED headlights as they align and level themselves. And those headlights are excellent.

Fuel consumption was quite close to the quoted figure of 7.9l/100km, averaging 9.1l/100km with  a combination of city and open road driving.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel, L/100kmSeatsBoot Space, LitresTowing Capacity, KgPrice Highest to Lowest
Infiniti QX703.0 litre 6 cylinder turbo175kW/550Nm7.854101588$107,990
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo148kW/330Nm5.955253000$99,990
Lexus NX 300 F Sport2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo175kW/350Nm7.954751500$94,800
Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic SE2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo220kW/400Nm6.455771800$89,900
BMW X1 25i2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo170kW/350Nm6.655052000$83,050
Mercedes-Benz GLA2502.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo155kW/350Nm7.054211500$80,600
Audi Q3 TFSI Sport2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo132kW/320Nm6.753562000$73,900
Xolvo XC40 T5 R-Design2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo182kW/350Nm7.154602100$72.900

The pros and cons

ProsCons
  • Looks good
  • Great ride
  • Quiet and comfortable
  • Great interior
  • Excellent stereo
  • That grille
  • F Sport badges do not equal a sporty drive
  • Controls for cruise

What we think

The NX is a luxury small SUV for people who want a great ride and some creature comforts. The interior quality is excellent, the stereo is great, there’s a good amount of equipment. Just don’t expect that F Sport badge to be more than a trim level.

 

Overall I enjoyed the NX. It has a few quirks, but it compares well to the competition. Looking at the comparison table it does seem a little on the expensive side.

Rating – Chevron rating (4 out of 5)

Lexus NX 300 F Sport

Vehicle TypeSmall SUV
Starting Price $94,800 plus on-road costs
Tested Price $94,800 plus on-road costs
Engine1998cc 4 cylinder DOHC, twin-scroll turbocharged and intercooler, VVT-i and VVT-iW
Power Kw / Torque Nm175kW/350Nm
Transmission6-speed automatic transmission
0 – 100 kph, seconds7.1
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1755-1860
Length x Width x Height, mm4640 x 2130 x 1645
Cargo Capacity, litres475 seats up

1520 seats folded

Fuel Tank, litres60
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined –  7.9L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined –  9.1L / 100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing750kg unbraked

1500kg braked

Turning circle11.4m

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

WarrantyFour-year unlimited kilometre warranty
ANCAP Rating5 stars

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.