If you have a younger sibling, you might remember this. One day, everything is fine – you’re the new baby, star of the show, everything is going well. And then boom! A new baby comes along, and the spotlight has shifted.
Well in the case of the Lexus NX, it was the birth of the all-new, cute and cuddly Lexus UX. Suddenly, the NX is another member of the growing Lexus SUV family. Of course, not being in the spotlight has some advantages. Where the NX used to need to be the price leader SUV of the line, the UX takes that pressure off, and it means that the NX can spread its wings, price and feature wise, and lose the “Baby Lexus” moniker.
Actually, the NX hasn’t changed in the looks department, it’s more of a matter of context. The smaller UX with similar lines, is notably smaller and stubbier. The larger RX in comparison, now looks larger and more refined. This now places the NX in the middle – but it’s a good middle – our tester still retained the edgy lines it always had, but now carries its size well, looking like a perfect blend of sporty and luxury.
Well in our tester’s case, make that a little more edgy, since it is an F SPORT model. The dynamic looks start with a unique front fascia with sporty mesh grille insert. Enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn indicators add some menace, along with black outside mirrors. Making our tester stand out even more than other F SPORT’s, we had the Black Line Special Edition Package, which includes gorgeous 19” forged, split-six spoke wheels. (other F SPORT’s ride on 18’s) And the finishing touch for a little added bling – F SPORT front-fender and rear-door badges.
Our tester’s Atomic Silver has a bit of bronze tint to it, and it’s an exceptionally nice color, especially at lower light conditions where it warms up, looking elegant and sporty at the same time.
Elegant and Sporty
Which is also the perfect way to describe the interior. It’s interesting, Lexus took the efforts to give the interior a coupe-like vibe, with controls and switchgear wrapping around you, rather than a tall, SUV-like greenhouse. You won’t feel the pinch up front – the sport seats are ultra-supportive and comfortable – an F SPORT tradition – but the sweeping styling robs the rear seats of some headroom.
We wouldn’t want to be anywhere up but up front, anyway. While the bones of the NX interior hasn’t changed much, a new package makes it best in class.
The interior is beautifully trimmed out, and it feels worth every penny of your premium dollar as you step in. Part of those premium dollars go for the Black Line Special Edition package we mentioned. At $6,400 it is not cheap, but is rich in features, including two firsts for the NX, an exclusive Mark Levinson 14-speaker, 835-watt Premium Surround Sound Audio System, and unique F SPORT Arctic White and Black seats. Very stylish.
While you might expect leather, Lexus goes for the more durable – but nice – quilted NuLuxe sport seat surfaces (exclusive to the F SPORT). The 2-tone seats have some visual pop, and work nicely with Black Line’s black headliner, unique floor mats, cargo mat, and key gloves. Yes, key gloves.
The Black Line continues to spoil you with an exclusive 10.3” Navigation System multimedia display, which is good. It’s accessed with Lexus’ remote touchpad which remains kind of fiddly. You won’t mind it too much, the – Black Line also includes the Comfort Package with Blind Spot Monitor and Heated/Ventilated Front Seats, Power Tilt/Telescoping Steering Column, Intuitive Parking Assist, Power Rear Door with Kick Sensor, Moon roof and Auto-dimming inside rear-view mirror.
Did you say F SPORT?
Yes, we did, and this is where the NX300 gets interesting.
First of all, if you’re confused by the moniker, the NX300 was formally known as the NX200T – which stood for a 2.0-liter turbo, 4-cylinder. That engine remains, and we really don’t know why they changed the name – any brand worthy of a premium badge is running a 2-liter turbo these days.
And it’s a sweet motor. The specs are strong, with 235 hp, and 258 lb-ft of torque at just 1,650 rpm. It has a nice rumble on start up, and sings as it pulls to the redline. If you like it’s singing voice you can turn it up – the Black Line brings the sound of the revving engine inside with Active Sound Control which brings some of the engine note through the speakers and enhances it, with volume adjustable by the driver.
The six-speed automatic is an excellent partner. In regular driving, it’s smooth and unobtrusive. In Sport Mode, it punches through shifts with attitude. Our favorite thing to do was to hand shift the auto through the shift lever (you can do it with paddle shifters, but the feel is better through the stick). It feels lively and responsive, downshifting in the blink of an eye. Sport sedan goodness in an SUV. We’ll take that.
The chassis is up to it, too. While the NX sits a little taller than some of its competitors, the F SPORT’s more athletic suspension gives a solid ride that just avoids being harsh. Impressive – those 19’s are big meats. The steering is also excellent, good weight, nice precision. The brakes likewise have great feel. BMW, Audi, lookout – Lexus is doing an excellent job here – you no longer own exclusive rights to European Feel!
European Feel at the Checkout Counter?
A Lexus is a premium product, no doubt. But it’s still good value. The NX300 starts at $36,485, ($37,885 for all wheel drive) and features goodies like pushbutton ignition, Dual zone A/C, NuLuxe interior trim, Wi-Fi, standard Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and Lexus Enform Remote app, that gives you access through your smartwatch, Alexa and Google Assistant. You also get the Lexus Safety System+, which includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Intelligent High-Beams.
Jumping up to the F SPORT gets you the aforementioned exterior, interior and performance goods. Starting at $38,725 we think it’s a no-brainer, and would be our default choice. If you’re looking for fuel economy, the NX 300h hybrid features standard all-wheel drive, gets a class-leading 31 mpg combined and costs, $38,835.
Our NX300 F SPORT Black Line was pretty much a fully loaded example (except no AWD). We had the Comfort F SPORT Package, which includes Heated/Ventilated front seats and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Absolutely recommended and a reasonable $1,400. The delightful Black Line Special Edition Package added $6,400, Moonroof, $1,100, Illuminated door sills, $459, Power rear door with Kick Sensor $ $550, and Intuitive Park Assist with Auto Brake, $535.
A couple small accessories, $1,025 for Destination, and our tester rang the bell at $50,264. If that seems too steep, drop the Black Line – it’s a limited edition of 1,000 units – and you’re at a veddy reasonable $44k.
Competition-wise, a similarly-equipped BMW X3 comes in at $56,420. And the Audi Q5 comes in at $53,590 – but you do get standard all-wheel drive. The Volvo XC60 is an excellent choice, and comes in at $54,740, comparably equipped. We’ll call the standard NX300 F SPORT an excellent value. And the Black Line is still considerably below the BMW, Volvo, and Audi.
While the new Lexus UX may be getting a bigger share of the spotlight, the 2019 NX300 F SPORT is a great package, with style, performance, quality and impressive value. Move over little brother!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.