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America has found a stride in its thirst for Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs), and such a desire carries well into the luxury market for compact-sized crossovers. Lexus has been one to champion the compact luxury crossover segment with the Lexus NX, which happens to come in a variety of trim levels and even a hybrid option.
In my recent encounter with a Lexus vehicle, I get ahold of the new NX 300 in the F Sport trim. The NX 300 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine does well to combine decent power and efficiency. I see that the Lexus NX 300 may not live up to the hype of new coming competition partly due to an older 6-speed automatic transmission that it uses. While the 6-speed automatic feels proven and well-tuned to land in the proper gear under most circumstances, the overall powertrain would benefit from a couple of additional cogs. Still, the NX 300 has adequate acceleration and provides a good amount of low-end torque to get things moving with only a small dash of turbo lag. Zero to 60 mph comes in at about 7 seconds flat for the all-wheel-drive setup.
Out on the road, the NX 300 F Sport does well to give the driver confidence in its handling and eagerness to run with traffic. The adaptive dampers on my NX 300 F Sport test vehicle, which come as part of opting for the F Sport trim, adds a welcomed dynamic for the NX to handle better than non-f-sport trims. The added benefit of a Sport+ drive mode or Customized drive mode to firm up the dampers slightly is a welcomed sporty aspect of the NX. Unfortunately, Lexus doesn’t add any other performance additions to the formula of the NX F Sport, and you make do with the same power figures. Bottom line, you’re not going to jump up and down about the overall performance of the NX 300 F Sport no matter what you do or how fast you drive – it just isn’t that kind of “sporty” vehicle.
Fuel economy is very consistent with the turbocharged engine and in the real world you’ll expect to match the EPA-estimates of 22 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined for the AWD NX 300.
The other things that one should note for the NX 300 F Sport versus other trim levels are mostly subtle changes in the interior outside of the NX F Sport exterior’s exclusive 18-inch wheels and unique front grill. The cabin gets a bit of sporty treatment with an F Sport heated steering wheel with shift paddles, door scuff plates, black heated rearview mirrors, aluminum pedals, and perforated NuLuxe sport seats with heating and ventilation up front.
In keeping with the Lexus tradition, the NX 300 F Sport doesn’t depart far from its conservative roots in its execution of ride and drive qualities that are still on the soft side of things to retain its luxury theme. Moreover, the expected top-notch fit and finish is found throughout the Lexus NX 300 F Sport with soft-touch surfaces in just the right places to prevent the limited amount of hard plastics from cheapening the interior.
The space and seating areas of the NX 300 F Sport are somewhat tight, but most will be able to find a relatively comfy seating position. Up front, the seating areas are noticeably narrow, but the NX’s front seats are comfy and the cabin is quiet out on the road at speed. Cargo room is a bit short but folding the rear 60/40-split flat-folding seatbacks is a benefit to taking advantage of the CUV-ness of the new NX 300.
Probably my biggest complaint with the NX 300, as well a number of other Lexus vehicles, is the use of its remote touchpad interface for interaction with the infotainment system. In all, the Lexus infotainment system isn’t all that bad it is just that the remote touchpad interface is utterly frustrating and can be counterintuitive for keeping focus on the road. However, there is the integration of Apple CarPlay and Alexa Skill, which adds a bit of intuitiveness back to the system – but you still have to use that annoying remote touchpad if you’re not giving a valid voice command.
The other areas that the Lexus NX shines is its value and quality build for a luxury compact crossover. Lexus builds some of the most reliable cars on the road and the NX is no exception to the rule. The NX can be had at a starting price just over $37,000 but can quickly climb to my fully-loaded test vehicle’s price of $52,599, which is a point where you start to wonder if you should upgrade to the larger RX 350 sibling of the NX. Still, if a zippy compact luxury crossover is on your shopping list with a taste of individuality in the F Sport trim, then the NX 300 F Sport is something you don’t want to overlook, considering the plethora of advanced safety features and feature packages bundled on my test vehicle, which include many of the more desirable options on the luxury market.
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