by Gabe Beita Kiser
The crossover luxury SUV segment is particularly popular and competitive, and the Lexus NX 300 is a competent contender within this class. The NX 300 sources 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine via a six-speed electronically controlled transmission, available with either a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drivetrain. Receiving class-leading reliability and safety scores, and high estimates for fuel economy, the NX 300 promises to be a worthy adversary to class rivals such as the 2019 Acura RDX and BMW X1. Nevertheless, the NX 300 does present some shortcomings in terms of limited cargo capacity and lackluster infotainment usability, both of which are key segment areas that could set it behind many of its class rivals. But, with one of the lowest starting prices in this segment, a hybrid-powered variant as optional, and plenty of onboard value to boot, the NX 300 is certainly an SUV to consider taking on your next road-bound adventure.
With the NX 300 having undergone a steady overhaul in 2018, not many significant innovations have been contrived for the model coming into 2019. There are a handful of tech feature upgrades, including Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa functionality which has been added to the Lexus multimedia system, and the Lexus Enform Remote App now features smartwatch, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant integration. The 2019 model NX 300 is otherwise considered a carry-over vehicle, identical to the 2018 model in almost every other regard.
The base NX 300 models are set on 17-inch aluminum wheels and fitted with LED headlights, fog lamps, daytime running lights, and automatic high beams. All trim levels feature power-folding exterior mirrors and roof rails as standard. The F-Sport models have 18-inch aluminum wheels and receive enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn indicators, black exterior mirrors, F-Sport front fascia, mesh grille insert, front-fender, and rear-door badges. The overall profile of the NX 300 is reminiscent of an edged diamond, with slick, angular styling and dramatic front and rear fascias. With an assertive, bold stance, the NX 300 is a contemporary, and beautiful, SUV.
Running 6.9 inches from the ground on a wheelbase of 104.7 inches, the NX 300 is slightly behind what rivals offers in terms of ground clearance. Heavier than immediate rivals Acura RDX and BMW X1, front-wheel-drive models have a curb weight of 3,940 pounds while the all-wheel-drive models weigh in at 4,050 lbs. The chassis of the NX 300 holds a body 182.7 inches in length, 73.6 inches in width, and 64.8 inches in height, dimensions which are greater than its BMW counterpart, but smaller than the Acura. Base NX 300 models have an approach angle of 28.7 degrees and a departure angle of 24 degrees. As a result of the restyled front fascia on the F-Sport models, the approach angle is decreased to 16.8 degrees. Relatively speaking, the Lexus NX 300 is an adequately sized SUV, comparing well to others.
There are eight exterior color options available for the base model, including Eminent White Pearl, Nebula Gray Pearl, Silver Lining Metallic, Caviar, Atomic Silver, Matador Red Mica, Autumn Shimmer, and Blue Vortex Metallic. The F-Sport models can be equipped with any one of seven colors as well as three additional, exclusive colors: Obsidian, Ultra White, and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 - the last of which carries an extra cost of $595. The Molten Pearl option has been removed from the color palette for 2019. The aristocratic Caviar option looks great on the base NX 300 and is aptly named. As for the F-Sport, we recommend splashing out on the unique, racy Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0, which looks stunning.
All NX 300 models are equipped with the same engine and deliver identical power and torque outputs. The all-wheel-drive variant is the fastest in the range, clocking a 0-60 mph time of seven seconds, which is 0.2 seconds faster than the FWD. The BMW X1 xDrive28i is faster still, reaching the 60 mph mark in only 6.5 seconds. The Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec matches the NX 300 off the line, and although SUVs are not necessarily expected to produce race-car-like acceleration numbers, power is a requirement for Utes such as this. In the case of the NX 300, only the all-wheel-drive configurations have towing capability, with a maximum capacity of 2,000 pounds; this is also only effected once the optional tow hitch receiver is added on. The BMW X1 is not sold as a tow-rated vehicle in the USA, and the neither the FWD nor the AWD models are offered with towing related optional packages. The Acura RDX offers a maximum towing capacity of 1,500 pounds on both the FWD and AWD models, leaving the Lexus the better option for trailer-owning buyers.
Across the range, the NX 300 is equipped with identical engine configurations, comprised of a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine pitched to deliver 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This is paired to a six-speed electronically controlled transmission, forwarded to either the front-wheel or all-wheel drivetrain. The powerplant itself features advanced twin-scroll technology, which alternates between conventional and Atkinson cycles for rapid acceleration with greater efficiency. Overall throttle response from the stock powertrain is average for the class; the turbo engine is quick and smooth and delivers sufficient low-end power for peppy acceleration from standstill, and for easy overtaking at lower speeds. Unmitigated power is subpar, however, taking the NX 300 slightly longer than most rivals to reach higher speeds on the highways. Although the transmission's gear shifts are polished, its responses are occasionally slow. On the whole, in town or at lower speeds is where the NX 300's powertrain performs ideally, prioritizing cruising comfort and efficiency over performance and driver engagement.
Throttle responses are slightly sharpened in the NX 300 F-Sport models by virtue of the powertrain framework modifications through the Sport S and Sport S+ modes, which are added to the Drive Mode Selector.
By design, the Lexus NX 300 delivers a soft and comfortable ride, though it does exhibit a firmer than usual feel for a Lexus vehicle. The F-Sport model is equipped with a sport-tuned suspension, which is slightly stiffer than the base model, yet still inclined toward comfort. Around winding roads and sharp turns, the NX 300 remains respectably poised with inherent confidence in terms of stability, although both variants exhibit some cautious body roll at the limit. The NX 300's ride composure is a highlight that allows it to rise above rivals; the standard suspension makes easy work of road imperfections and has the NX 300 gliding effortlessly over ruts and bumps. Steering in the NX 300 is precise and weighted appropriately. Effort lightens up slightly at lower speeds for improved maneuverability and tightens up when the vehicle moves faster for better control and confidence at higher speeds. In terms of braking, the NX 300 feels tractable for the most part, but it does result in some nosedive and slight writhing from the back tires when pushed hard in emergency brake testing.
The suspension in the NX 300 features a lockable center differential which improves traction during off-road operation. That said, the NX 300's modest running ground clearance and tame traction control system are more suitable to urban conditions or mildly-irregular terrain - definitely not for off-roading.
The base NX 300 features a Drive Mode Selector with Normal mode, which operates the vehicle in its standard performance phase; ECO mode, which alters operation for optimized fuel efficiency; and Sport mode, which quickens throttle response time and delivers a little extra punch to the acceleration. The F-Sport trim receives the addition of Sport + mode which further increases throttle response time.
Gas mileage estimates from the NX 300 are good, mainly on par with many of the top rivals in the vehicle segment. All models feature the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed auto gearbox, with the front-wheel-drive models earning EPA estimates of 22/28/25 mpg in city/highway/combined driving cycles respectively. The combined driving cycle estimate for the all-wheel-drive models dropped incrementally to 24 mpg. Highway mileage for the AWD F-Sport NX 300 decreases to 27 mpg. Premium unleaded gas is required for use in the NX 300's 15.9-gallon gas tank, which - when full - can take the FWD model a total of 397 miles before needing to refuel. The range on the AWD model is 381.6 miles in mixed driving conditions, which is much the same as what the Acura RDX achieves, although the BMW X1 fares marginally better.
Lexus build quality is generally highly-regarded, and rightfully so; there's no exception in the NX 300. Both the NuLuxe and leather upholstery look and feel plush and comfortable. High-quality soft-touch materials abound, although there are some hard-touch plastics to be found here and there. Prominent touch-points are well-padded, and everything has been conscientiously fashioned for a genuine premium feel. Ergonomically, the cabin layout is pleasant - although the steering column may feel intrusive to taller drivers around the knees. Otherwise, the controls are all within easy reach, and the seats are all supportive and comfortably positioned. The interior is roomy throughout and there is ample spacing in the front and rear seats, which are all luxurious and remain comfortable on longer journeys. The front seats are power-adjustable and the rear seats are 60/40-split, with the option to fold away and recline for comfort. The F-Sport models receive enhanced bolsters in the front seats for additional support, making spirited driving and extended road-trips very pleasant.
A maximum of five occupants can comfortably be seated in the two-row NX 300. The front and rear seats offer ample room and impressive support for occupants of most heights. Head and legroom throughout the cabin are more than adequate, but the NX 300's sloped roofline and narrow rear windows do result in a claustrophobic impression from the back seat. The NX 300 is easy to live with; ingress and egress are made effortless thanks to the quintessential crossover SUV ride height and tall doors. Seat and steering wheel adjustability is decent, and the vehicle features positioning memory, although the steering column can be problematic for long-legged drivers. The driving position is otherwise ergonomic, and forward visibility is just adequate (due to the reclining roof and narrow rear windows); additionally, this exacerbates difficulties in blindspot viewing. The rearview backup camera covers the stern.
The base NX 300 models can be upholstered in Black, Creme, Glazed Caramel, or Rioja Red NuLuxe, all of which are paired with Dark Umber trim. The Black and Creme leather upholstered interiors are paired with Linear Black Shadow wood inlay and look suitably elegant. The F-Sport models can be upholstered in Black or Circuit Red NuLuxe, with metallic sport interior trim. If the Circuit Red NuLuxe interior is chosen for the F-Sport models, the Matador Red exterior color option falls away. All NX 300 models feature a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob as standard.
With all its seats in place, the NX 300 presents a below-average trunk capacity of 17.7 cubic-feet, which is about enough room for a week's worth of grocery shopping bags, a medium-sized suitcase or a few duffel bags at a time. With the 60/40 split-folding and reclining back seat down, that space expands to a more respectable 54.6 cu-ft, which is enough room to load a new washing machine, should you need to.
In-cabin storage is similarly limited: all four door side pockets are confining, and the center console compartment is modest, housing a useful small-item tray. The glovebox is average in size too, but there is a small-item shelf featured above it on the dashboard which is a nice touch. With two cupholders up front in the center console, there is also a convenient, additional little cubby with a removable lid that features a mirror on its underside. Behind each front seat is a seatback pocket, and the center rear seatback folds down to features dual cupholders.
The base NX 300 features mostly comfort, convenience or luxury-oriented niceties, such as NuLuxe upholstery, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, and a 60/40 split-folding and reclining back seat. It also comes standard with a Drive Mode selector with Normal, ECO, and Sport mode.
On the F-Sport variant, the same basic features are present with additional and unique sport-oriented elements, such as bolstered front seats and a steering wheel with race-inspired paddle shifters. Furthermore, there is a G-force and turbo-boost display in the instrument cluster, and the pedals are aluminum. The interior upholstery on this model features metallic sport trim. The suspension for the F-Sport is performance-tuned, and subsequently, the drive mode selector receives an extra Sport+ drive mode.
The standard multimedia system is comprised of an eight-inch color display which is controlled via a Remote Touchpad, and tethered to Lexus' standard eight-speaker premium sound system. The Lexus' Enform App Suite 2.0 is installed and is compatible with ScoutGPS Link2 with MapStream and TurnStream modes which are complimentary for the first three years of ownership. It also offers Apple CarPlay services and Amazon Alexa Skill integration, but sadly does not recognize Android Auto functionality. The Enform Wi-Fi hotspot capability in the NX 300 is pre-loaded with a complimentary 4GB/one-year trial and features the Enform Remote app and Amazon Alexa with one-year subscription. Bluetooth, Voice Command and Siri Eyes free are available, and the center console holds a 12-volt outlet, dual USB ports and an audio jack for device connectivity and charging.
There have been no recalls commissioned by the NHTSA for any model of the Lexus NX 300, and no complaints have been lodged by any NX 300 drivers thus far. J.D. Power awarded the 2019 Lexus NX 300 with a top rating of five out of five for predicted reliability, one of the few crossover SUVs to earn full marks. Lexus covers the NX 300 with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. It is eligible for complimentary maintenance for up to one-year/10,000-miles and includes a four-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance package as well.
Crash test evaluations conducted by the NHTSA earned the 2019 Lexus NX 300 perfect overall results of five out of five, with four stars awarded for further frontal crash and rollover test scores. Independent crash test evaluations by the IIHS concurred with these results, also earning the 2019 Lexus NX 300 perfect ratings of Good for every sub-test. These results are well above average for the class and contribute to the excellent reputation of this vehicle, and the brand as a whole.
The Lexus Safety System + is an integrated suite of class-leading standard active safety equipment, which includes a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beams - all of which are standard across the range. Along with that, the NX 300 is also equipped with a vehicle dynamics integrated management system, eight airbags, and a rearview backup camera. The Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect are also equipped in the NX 300, with a complimentary subscription for the first ten years of ownership.
With near-flawless crash test ratings from both the NHTSA and IIHS, and a perfect predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power, the 2019 Lexus NX 300 is an excellent luxury SUV. Besides its class-leading safety and reliability, the NX 300 achieves budget-friendly gas mileage estimates and proves to be one of the more affordable vehicles in the class, which translates to great value for money. The luxury-oriented, high-quality cabin is kitted out with premium materials and attractive trim, is spacious and boasts sublime, comfortable seating. On top of that, the NX 300 is feature-rich, with access to a scope of worthy optional packages and standalone extras. It's not all sunshine-and-roses, however, as the NX 300 could do with an updated infotainment system and a replacement for its iffy Remote Touch Interface. The exclusion of Android Auto functionality is also a glaring oversight. Cargo capacity in the NX 300 doesn't quite match up to its chief rivals and proves rather limited overall, and with some rivals also offering a sportier driving experience, you may want to check out other options first if athletic driving and cavernous trunk space are your priorities in an SUV.
The base front-wheel-drive NX 300 is the most affordable model, starting out with an MSRP of $36,485. The all-wheel-drive version costs slightly more, at $37,885. There is a $2,240 price hike when moving up to the F-Sport models: the FWD variant of the F-Sport costs $38,725, whereas the AWD is priced at $40,125. All NX 300 model prices specified above are exclusive of Lexus' delivery, processing, and handling fee of $1,025, and exclude tax, registration, and licensing fees. Separate dealership incentives are also not accounted for in the specified prices.
Essentially there are two NX 300 models, namely the base NX 300, and the F-Sport variant, both of which are featured in either front or all-wheel-drive. All models are mounted with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine (producing 235 hp and 258 lb-ft) and a six-speed electronically controlled transmission. Both derivatives also feature power-folding exterior mirrors and roof rails as standard.
The base NX 300 model is equipped with 17-inch aluminum wheels and feature LED headlights, fog lamps, daytime running lights, as well as automatic high beams. Main standard features that change when moving up a trim level are the leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, the NuLuxe interior trim, and the drive mode selector which features a normal, ECO, and Sport drive mode.
F-Sport models are given 18-inch aluminum wheels, and receive enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn indicators, black exterior mirrors, F-Sport front fascia, a mesh grille insert, unique front-fender, and F-Sport rear-door badges. The F-Sport front seats are upgraded with enhanced bolsters, and the steering wheel features racing-inspired paddle shifters. Along with the gear-shifter, the steering wheel is upholstered in perforated leather-trim. The interior also features a G-force and turbo-boost display, aluminum pedals, and metallic sport interior trim. The suspension in the F-Sport is performance-tuned and the drive mode selector receives the Sport + drive mode additionally, for a more exciting drive experience.
A variety of additional packages are available, and all trim levels have access to this scope of options. The $1,860 Navigation Package adds an electrochromic rearview mirror with HomeLink, a Navigation System in the form of Lexus Enform Dynamic Navigation (and complimentary subscription for three years), upgrades to the infotainment system which include a 10.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display, Dynamic Voice Command, and Destination Assist. Additionally, the audio set up is upgraded to a ten-speaker Lexus Premium Sound System.
The Comfort Package, for $980, adds heated and ventilated front seats, a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and electrochromic heated outside mirrors with auto tilt-down function when in reverse.
The $3,270 Premium Package (which costs slightly less on the F-Sport, at $2,865) includes the features from the Comfort Package, and adds a Lexus Memory System to control the power driver's seat, outside mirrors, and steering column, and also equips a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, power moonroof, and enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn indicators for the base model.
Lastly, the $4,705 comprehensive Luxury Package includes the Premium Package features, plus Linear Black Shadow wood interior trim, perforated leather-trimmed interior, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a heated steering wheel.
Apart from a retuned-suspension, an additional drive mode and a slightly sportier ride in the F-Sport, the base NX 300 and F-Sport differ mainly cosmetically. Deciding between the two models comes down to the appeal of either owning a luxury family vehicle with the prestige of the Lexus reputation and style or alternatively wanting to own the same vehicle, augmented to be more eye-catching with its unique, sport-focused design and character. Those more inclined to the former will find the base NX 300 FWD more than adequate, as it is comfortable, well-specced and fuel-efficient. If towing capability is a must, then the AWD model is the answer. The sport-oriented driver will be satisfied with the pimped-up F-Sport, which offers a brilliant balance between classy luxury and racy performance.
The 2019 Acura RDX is equipped with a similar 2.0-liter engine, however, it has been tuned to produce more torque and horsepower; it also features a torque-vectoring Super Handling all-wheel drive system. This gives the Acura the low-end power and acceleration that the NX 300 exhibits, plus, handling poise and dynamics that are far above that of the NX 300. The NX 300, however, still delivers a more comfortable and composed ride. There is much more trunk space available in the Acura, with more versatility for cargo storage throughout the cabin. Additionally, passenger seating space is also marginally better in the Acura. Technology and connectivity convenience in the RDX is also superior to that of the NX 300, featuring two 2.5-amp ports in the front and rear cabin for smart device charging. Due to the well-balanced class aspects of the Acura and its refined powertrain configuration, we believe it is the superior choice over the NX 300, although the Lexus offers a higher maximum tow capacity by about 500 pounds.
The 2019 BMW X1 is marginally more affordable than the NX 300, but is not a tow-rated vehicle in the USA, whereas the AWD NX 300 at least has the option to add a tow receiver hitch, enabling it to tow up to 2,000-lbs. The BMW is faster off the starting line and on the open road and exhibits classic BMW handling dynamics, superior to most of the vehicles in this class. In this regard, it's quite impressive that the BMW is also more fuel-efficient - although only by a hair's breadth. Where the NX 300 tops the BMW is in ride quality, as the BMW's focus on sporting potential has stiffened its composure, offering a vastly contrasting feel to the comfort-oriented NX 300. Passengers in the Lexus will experience a much softer, more pleasant drive overall. At base level, the Lexus offers better quality on-board tech functionality overall, where the BMW can only compete with the inclusion of the optional packages. Though the BMW may offer superior driver engagement and an edgier driving experience, the NX 300 truly delivers in the key class-relevant aspects of luxury and utility, which makes it the better buy of the two.