Lexus NX 300 AWD F Sport – You sometimes see a motoring writer make the comment that “this car is worth the extra money”. There is almost a glibness in the expression where the extra money might be a thousand dollars, ten thousand, twenty-five thousand or more. Only the individual buyer can determine whether it is worth the extra cash.
We have been testing a range of medium sized SUVs including some of the popular brands such as the Honda CRV which has made some major improvements and is a very good car.
What are we driving?
But as soon as we started to drive the new Lexus NX 300 there was an extra feeling, an ambience that you had to respect. Furthermore, the vehicle has some special features and technology.
But the entry level Honda has a list price of $30,690 (plus on roads) while the Lexus starts at $54,800.
What do you get for that extra cash? We drove the NX 300 F-Sport all-wheel-drive drive to find out.
What does it look like?
From the front, the NX 300 has that now familiar Lexus look, with a strong, very strong grille especially below the bumper line. There are the side lights in the shape of the Nike Swoosh.
Lexus calls the overall effect “Striking, aggressive and exceptional”. Lexus has not been able to get the market share of the German luxury brand Mercedes, BMW and Audi so you can see how they are striving to stand out amongst the crowd.
The different mesh patterns on the grille is the way to differentiate between equipment levels.
With black guard panels over the wheels, 18-inch rims and a waist line crease down the side that has a slight, flowing wave pattern they have clearly given an effort to detail.
The distinctive sloping rear window, more Nike style rear lights and a faint crease line below the roof, adds to the fastback look. From the side it is far more sports wagon that plain but functional SUV station wagon.
An electronic automatic opening tailgate is standard across the range with 500 litre cargo storage with the rear seats up and 1,545 litres with the seats down. Lexus says the boot can hold “four 9.5-inch golf bags, or two suitcases (77cm x 2)”.
Apart from mixing the measurement units, I presume the 9.5-inch golf bag refers to the diameter otherwise its only good for the four-year old’s plastic golf set.
The boldness extends, to some extent, with the nine exterior colour options. Ours was Vermillion and you can get a deep sky blue called Cobalt Mica although the other colours are just variations on white, grey and black.
Australians seem very conservative when it comes to car colours. The paints have a Self-Restoring Coat Technology that helps improve scratch resistance.
What about inside?
Two of the four interior colour options have bright highlighted inserts, either Tuscan Sun or Flare Red (which was the one we had).
The other colour inserts are white or black. Naguri- Style aluminium was present in all options.
The interior is graphic but with a slightly mature line. The centre dash has controls in several layers that are designed like an up-market apartment block where each subsequent level is set back from the one below it.
A large 10.3 inch screen protrudes from the top of the centre dash and with a hint of refinement, there is an analogue clock.
The large screen is much wider than it is tall but can still present detailed information, such the sat/nav, map and the directions clearly shown at the same time. The system has SUNA Live Traffic Alerts as well.
There’s plenty of accented leather trim and all models have heated seats. Dash/dials are fairly easy to read although the centre 4.2″ Colour Multi Information Display is a bit cluttered.
The Head Up Display can show various information including vehicle speed, lane keep assist tachometer, navigation instructions, audio and cruise control and tachometer. I liked it.
Driving with manual control via the paddles or gear lever, I like to have the tachometer in as easy to read position as possible.
The seats hold your firmly and a 10-speaker audio system is standard across the NX range. A Mark Levinson surround sound system is an optional upgrade.
The F-Sport has extra features such as ventilated front seats, wireless phone charger and driver’s seat memory.
A Panoramic View Monitor displays birds-eye images from cameras mounted on the front, sides and rear of the vehicle.
While the second row of seats do fold down with a 60/40 split, they do not fold quite flat. This is one area where the Honda CRV has a better system.
What about driving?
There are two drive train configurations. The sportier one is a two litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which pushes out 175kW.
It is matched to the 6-speed automatic gear box. The hybrid has a non-turbocharged 2.5 litre four cylinder which, along with the electric motor, Lexus rates at only 147kW. It drives through a CVT gearbox.
You can have either two wheel drive (Luxury and F Sport grades) or Part-time All Wheel Drive (all grades) drivetrains.
The AWD models have a Dynamic Torque Control system automatically adjusting the front/rear differential torque split to suit the prevailing conditions.
I find Lexus vehicles are particularly well suited for touring. The smaller vehicles don’t necessary give you a huge punch in the back but they get along quite nicely. The NX F-Sport fits this description.
It held the road, coped with bumps and enjoyed the sweeping bends with enough power for overtaking on rural roads.
You can select eco, standard and performance-oriented drive modes which can now be programmed to remember drive mode, chassis and air-conditioning settings. And the engine note sounds pretty good.
One reviewer didn’t think it was quite exciting enough but I don’t have the need to be a boy racer. The suspension has been improved with the F Sport and Sports Luxury having Adaptive Variable Suspension to provide greater continuous damping adjustment over varying surfaces.
Don’t think of this as an SUV or an off-roader. It is an SUV sports wagon made for the bitumen.
The fuel consumption for our F-Sport AWD is rated at 7.9L/100km and for the 2WD you only gain 0.2 l/100km. By comparison the AWD hybrid rates at 5.7 l/100km and you gain only 0.1 l/100km if you go for the 2WD.
Lexus NX 300 Safety
It is pleasing to see that all the safety features offered in the Lexus Safety System+ are standard across the range.
The package includes: a pre-collision warning system detecting pedestrians in addition to vehicles; autonomous emergency braking; all-speed radar cruise control; active lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring; rear cross traffic alert; trailer sway control and a selectable wider field of view for the reversing camera.
The Lexus is rated with a towing capacity as 1,000 kg with a braked trailer although it seems an academic figure. Its hard to see owners with a trailer full of rubbish going to the tip or a camper trailer on the back.
I would take the car on graded dirt roads but not much rougher.
To sum up the Lexus NX 300 AWD F Sport
Starting at $54,800 adding on road cost and a colour and trim cost of $1,500 that seems to be an additional cost you cannot avoid, will mean it to get on the road is around $62,000.
The cost to step up to a four-wheel drive system is $4,500 while the additional cost to go to a hybrid powertrain is $2,500 which I think is surprisingly low.
The NX 300, which is the bestselling model for Lexus, has been improved significantly. It has a stand out design and a comfortable, competent driving experience. With more standard features including safety technology, it is a credible car in the prestige category.
- Very quiet, comfortable ride as you would expect
- Hybrid Option
- Does nothing wrong
- Archaic cruise control stalk left over from the old Toyota days – why isn’t it just buttons on the steering while like everyone else?
- Lane keep and adaptive cruise was hit & miss – lane keep often didn’t work
- Seating not as flexible as others in the class
- Space saver spare
- Odd little removable panel behind the touchpad between the front seats. When you lift it out it has a mirror built into it.
Model: Lexus NX 300 AWD F-Sport
Model Price: $73,858 RDAP NSW
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Drivetrain: On demand AWD – 6-speed automatic gear box
Safety: 5 Star ANCAP
CO2 Emissions: 178g/km
Economy: 7.9 l/100km
Tow Rating: 1,000kg
Tow Ball Rating: N/A
Servicing: Loan car or pick up and delivery within range limits
Warranty: four year/100,000km
Overall PCG Rating 74/100
Behind the Wheel 8
Ride & Handling 9
Fit for Purpose 8
Towing Ability 5
Off Road Ability 6
Value for Money 7