LEXUS NX 300
Lexus introduced the NX just three years ago, but the luxury compact SUV has proven so popular for the brand, that it now represents a smidge under 25% of all Lexus vehicles sold in South Africa. BERNIE HELLBERG recently sampled the upgraded range-topping NX 300 F Sport.
Three years is almost a lifetime in car years, so for 2018, Lexus has gifted its mid-size NX crossover a mild refresh, as well as a somewhat new moniker, at least for the petrol only version.
In essence, an upscale Toyota with RAV underpinnings, the NX is Lexus’ second best-selling vehicle here, trailing the significantly larger LX, and leading the RX off the dealer floor.
CHANGE HAS COME
Although not significantly so.
The car formerly known as the NX 200t will now be called the NX 300, while the hybrid version remains the NX 300h.
When it went on sale in 2015, the NX 200t was the first Lexus to feature the brand’s new direct-injected, 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four engine – and the same 175 kW powerplant continues to power three of the four models in the NX 300 range now. The NX 300h hybrid returns with the 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine, which combines with two electric motors to produce 145 kilowatts.
For the 2018 model year, the entry NX 300 E swaps its all-wheel-drive system in favour of a front-wheel-drive layout. EX and F Sport models have kept their AWD abilities, as has the 300h, which uses the engine to power the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission, while the electric motors drive the rear wheels.
Styling changes are minimal but are especially noticeable from the front. Be warned: if you did not like the razor sharp styling of the previous NX, you’ll likely not enjoy this one either. On the NX 300 and NX 300h, the vast, gaping grille now extends lower than before, making the Lexus spindle grille even more prominent. The grille on the stylised F Sport model gets a more complex mesh pattern.
Both new grille designs are now flanked by air intakes that enhance engine and brake cooling, and all models get redesigned LED headlights.
At the rear are slightly wider taillights, and creases in the tailgate now mimic the spindle shape of the grille. A redesigned bumper has larger tailpipe openings on the F Sport, and there’s a more prominent rear diffuser on the other models.
IN THE CABIN
Inside, you’ll find the same, inviting wraparound cockpit but with a few new features. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are now standard, as is an 8” infotainment screen. Also par for the interior course – from the EX trim equipped with satellite navigation and higher – is a segmentlargest 10.3” infotainment screen. All trim levels get a new, larger console-mounted touchpad and wireless smartphone charger, while heated seats are standard on all but the base model NX. The F Sport adds ventilation to its leather-upholstered seats.
Despite the Lexus’ class-leading progressive looks and appreciably high level of standard specification, the absence of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is conspicuous. Instead, Lexus has incorporated its own Enform operating system, which was last year introduced on the LC 500.
RIDE AND HANDLING
In general, the suspension has been upgraded across all the trim levels, including revised shocks and suspension component bushings on models with conventional suspension, and an updated version of the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), now available on the F Sport.
The revised suspension combines with sharp, well-weighted steering to provide a composed and well-controlled ride, while the drive mode selector now comprises five possible selections – Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport+, and now, Custom. With the latter, the driver can now