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  • 2018 Lexus NX 300

    Posted on June 7th, 2018 ninarussin

    Compact crossover is big on luxury

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus NX

    Lexus NX

    The smallest member of Lexus’ crossover family takes the magic that has made the midsize RX 350 a best-seller and condenses it into a more compact, but equally appealing package. The 2018 model is carry-over from 2017, with power coming from either a turbocharged two-liter four-cylinder engine or gasoline-electric hybrid. The two-liter engine in the test car, rated at 235-horsepower, accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 7.2-seconds for the front-wheel drive model; seven-seconds for the all-wheel drive car.

    A six-speed automatic transmission includes large overdrive gears to maximize fuel economy on the highway: averaging 28 miles-per-gallon according-to the EPA. My average fuel economy for the week-long test drive was 25.1 miles-per-gallon, over a mile-per-gallon higher than the EPA estimate of 24.

    Base price is $37,385 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a panoramic view backup camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power folding second-row seats, a luxury package that includes 18-inch wheels, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, power liftgate, tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and blind spot monitoring, 10-speaker premium audio system, intuitive parking assist with auto brake, cargo mat, net and wheel locks. Final MSRP is $49,068.

    Styled to stand out

    Lexus NX

    Lexus NX

    The spindle grille that has become Lexus’ signature styling cue has received passionate feedback from both sides of the fence. While it doesn’t appeal to everyone, it has given the brand a presence on the road it never had before.

    In this writer’s opinion, the NX is one of the cars the design works best for. The higher profile of a crossover vehicle seems to give the grille enough vertical space so that it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the exterior. While the styling is aggressive, it is also premium and upscale.

    From the side the NX has a coupe-like profile with an elongated nose and aero roof. The optional 18-inch rims and low-profile tires enhance the side-view, giving the NX the appearance of a nimble animal in crouched position.

    Boomerang-style tail lamps wrap around the back corners of the car, drawing the viewer’s eyes to the edges. There is a nice tension where the car’s roofline and belt lines converge to meet the rear lighting.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    Lexus NX

    Lexus NX

    Depending on one’s perspective, June is either the best or worst time of year to test drive a car in the desert southwest. June is the hottest month of the year during which triple-digit temperatures are the norm, placing more stress on the vehicle’s mechanical systems and of course, climate control. The fact that this car has a black interior made cooling down the interior even more of a challenge.

    Even after being parked in the hot, noonday sun, the NX interior cooled down to comfortable mid-70s temperatures in about five minutes. Having driven plenty of test cars that take over 30 minutes to do the same thing, I found this impressive.

    Now that American drivers seem to have overcome their fear of turbocharged engines engineers are proving how efficient and appealing their performance is. The four-cylinder block under the hood of the NX delivers power comparable to a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine but with better gas mileage. The six-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears with no noticeable hunting or shift shock under normal driving conditions.

    Lexus NX

    Lexus NX

    The electric power assist steering system is typical for Lexus products: plenty of assist at the low end and a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. On-center response is on the soft side. One has-to assume that engineers did this intentionally since it is more the norm than the exception for Lexus (the sporty GS has sharper response). My guess is that the intent is to make steering less of an effort for drivers who have a hard time with the dicey feedback typical of steering systems in some German luxury brands.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a compact double wishbone setup in back. The double wishbone rear suspension enables engineers to maximize comfort in the second row and rear cargo room.

    Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid discs in the rear stop the NX in firm, linear fashion.

    Active safety features including the optional blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist work exceptionally well. The blind spot monitoring system gives drivers enough room to safely change lanes without making the distance so excessive that it’s hard to use in traffic. Lane keeping assist gently moves the car towards the center of the lane when the driver starts to veer out. There is no unwanted haptic feedback, nor is the intervention so severe as to be annoying.

    Because of its thick D-pillars, there are some significant blind spots towards the back of the vehicle. The rearview camera eliminates the problem when the driver shifts into reverse. In addition, this writer strongly recommends the optional blind spot monitoring system, especially for drivers who plan to use the vehicle commuting through thick traffic.

    Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing engine, wind and road noise intrusion to the interior so occupants in both rows can converse on the highway or enjoy the premium audio system.

    Upscale interior

    Lexus NX Interior

    Lexus NX Interior

    The NX is interior represents the level of luxury and refinement fans of the brand have come to expect, with soft touches in all the right spots, an easy-to-operate infotainment system, and superb fit and finish throughout.

    Lexus uses a touchpad device on the center console to control many of the infotainment functions, thereby eliminating unnecessary knobs and buttons. At the same time, knobs for simple controls such as radio channel selection and volume minimize driver distraction. Rotary knobs control the temperature and fan settings.

    I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view and plenty of lower lumbar support.

    Rear seats have plenty of leg and hip room to keep the average adult comfortable, especially around town. The optional folding power seats make it easier to extend the length of the cargo floor for bicycles and other large gear.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus RX comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, LED daytime running lamps, backup camera, tire pressure monitoring and Lexus Enform with automatic collision notification and stolen vehicle location.

    Lexus builds the NX at its Miyawaka, Fukuoka Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish compact crossover with excellent power, solid fuel economy and a versatile interior.

    Dislike: Expensive option packages significantly increase the vehicle MSRP.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: NX 300
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $37,385
    As tested: $49,068
    Horsepower: 235 HP @ 4800 rpm
    Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 1650 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 7.2 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 22/28 mpg city/highway

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