On It’s Way Out
The 2021 Lexus NX is being redesigned for 2022, but how does this outgoing model stack up to the competition?
The exterior of the 2021 NX 300h is sleek and modern and really doesn’t look like it’s in need of an update.
Up front, the signature Lexus spindle grill is massive and prominent. Projector LED headlights sit up high with Nike swoosh daytime running lights just below them. LED fog lights sit inside of aesthetic cooling ducts at the bottom of the bumper.
Moving down the side, the small proportions of the NX become more obvious. There is nary a flatspot anywhere on the sheet metal, but all the curves and creases work together for a smooth flowing design. Attractive split 5-spoke 18-inch wheels, with alternating black and chrome spokes, work well with the Nori Green Pearl paint. At the very back, just a hint of tail light can be seen running into the rear quarter panel.
From the rear it’s clear how high the roof crossmembers sit above the vehicle. These detract from the rest of the vehicle as they are so prominent. The tailights resemble angry eyes on a square shaped face. Very few exterior details show the NX 300h is a hybrid, but along with the hybrid badge on the side there is an NX 300h badge with blue inserts on the bottom of the rear hatch.
Inside the NX 300h Luxury
As expected with Lexus vehicles, the interior is very nicely appointed with soft leather on just about every touch point. Black Shadow wood trim is inset in the doors and matches nicely with the black weather. However, more wood trim could have been used around the interior for more accents.
Lexus’ 10.3-inch infotainment screen is used, and as with other Lexus vehicles it is not a touch screen. There is a touchpad in the lower center console used to control the screen. This makes sense for keeping the screen clean, but it can be frustrating for new users.
Tied to the infotainment screen is a 14 speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system. The sound is very clear at all levels and worth the additional cost.
For charging devices, there are two USB A charging ports, a 3.5mm aux jack, and a 12-volt outlet in the center armrest. Rear passengers are left without a place to charge their devices.
The front seats are heated and ventilated, along with a heated steering wheel for ultimate driver comfort. The rear outboard seats are comfortable, especially with the center armrest folded down. Adding a third person will make things a little tight, and won’t be comfortable for longer trips.
Access to the cargo area can’t be done through the rear glass which doesn’t open. However, there is a kick sensor that will open the hatch with a wave of your foot. The cargo area is fairly large for a vehicle of this size. As part of the all weather floor mat package there is a very durable cargo mat to protect the carpets and make carrying dirty items worry free.
Much like Buick, Lexus has been working over the past decade to make their vehicles more friendly to the younger market. To help with that endeavour the driving dynamics are more tuned for a sporty drive than previous Lexus vehicles.
Creating the best driving experience is always a difficult thing to do. Focusing too much on performance will make the ride too stiff for daily driving. Focusing too much on comfort will lower the performance. Lexus has chosen a middle ground with tight steering and suspension, but not overly so.
Acceleration from the 2.5-liter hybrid with 194 combined horsepower is not quick, but adequate for a fuel efficient vehicle. When driving around town, avoid jumping into fast moving traffic from a stop. The ride is smooth with all but the largest of potholes, which the front end often meets with a thud.
On the open road the CVT is quick to respond, which makes passing at highway speeds easy. Like city driving, the ride is very smooth and controlled on the highway. The NX 300h tracks straight over most road imperfections and remains stable in the wind.
Fuel mileage isn’t quite as good as we would expect from a hybrid this size. EPA estimates are 33mpg city, 30mpg highway, and 31mpg combined. We were in that range during our week of testing, but it’s not that much better than the non-hybrid version.
Taking the NX300h Off-road
Having an AWD, system we decided to test the NX 300h off pavement to see how well it can handle bad weather and rough roads.
On the small articulation hill the AWD system was very quick to respond. However, it struggled to get the needed torque to the wheels with traction without overwhelming the system.
In the high speed off-road section the ride and handling was very good, but the limited wheel travel forced us to keep our speeds well below the 20mph goal for average off-roaders. Hitting large bumps and holes was met with hard thuds as the suspension stretched to its limits.
The results of our testing lead us to believe it would be a great all weather vehicle, but for not something used for off-pavement activities.
The 2021 Lexus NX 300h Luxury starts at $46,510. Our tester had a variety of options totaling $5,230. The most notable options are triple beam LED headlamps with adaptive front lighting system for $1,515, the 10.3” infotainment screen with Mark Levinson premium audio for $1,060, and the panoramic view monitor for $800. With all the options and destination charge, the total MSRP comes to $52,855.
Wrapping Up the NX 300h
Overall the NX 300h is an excellent vehicle with many great attributes. At $52,855 it comes in at a higher price than the Mercedes GLA 250 and Chevy Blazer RS, but less than the Infiniti QX55. If Toyota/Lexus reliability holds true then the 2021 NX 300h should be a great vehicle for years to come.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.
Matt lives in the Utah mountains and often posts cool off-roading videos to his Instagram and YouTube channel.