Road Test: 2018 Lexus NX 300 F Sport

The Lexus NX 300 has been a regular favorite of ours. It’s sized just right, is exciting to look at, features all the high quality materials and comfort one would expect from a luxury brand, and so much more.

For 2018, the NX 200t was renamed the NX 300, and we had the opportunity to sample the F Sport iteration for the first time. Although the NX 300 offers a raised driving position, it still evokes a sporty driving experience.

The muscular stance of the NX complements the angular shapes of the body. F SPORT trim features a unique honeycomb front end with a more aggressive grille, very bright LED headlights with automatic high beams, and a lower bumper updated with more elegant chrome treatment.

The sharply raked tailgate and integrated spoiler are punctuated by Lexus’ signature L-shape seamless LED illuminated taillights. Larger exhaust openings and new 18-inch F SPORT alloy wheels finish off the sporty look.

The LED theme continues with standard power folding outside mirrors that house turn signal lights. A single LED elegantly streams a welcoming beam of light along the top of the door handles and to the ground upon approaching the NX. It’s an elegant and appreciated detail.

Lexus engineers made improvements to the vehicle’s suspension tuning to enhance ride and handling. We definitely felt it, with a very composed, comfortable ride, yet athletic handling.

The springs, stabilizer bars and bushings have been retuned for improved turn-in response and steady-state cornering. Also, new shock absorbers improve the quality of the NX’s already smooth ride.

The 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder engine under the hood produces 235 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The D4-S injection system, which uses a combination of direct fuel injection and additional port fuel injectors ensures ample power at all engine speeds. Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence-Wide (VVT-iW) optimizes torque throughout the engine speed range and allows the engine to start in the Otto cycle and then run in the more fuel efficient Atkinson cycle at cruising speeds.

A 6-speed automatic transmission routes the power efficiently while the G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) system enables more spirited driving by selecting the optimum gear and downshift pattern in response to g-forces.

The Drive Mode Select dial on the center console allows the driver to tailor the throttle and steering assist to their liking. The default setting is Normal. Sport mode sharpens responses, and ECO mode targets more fuel-efficient driving through dulled throttle response during take off, and it works.

NX is EPA rated for 22 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, 24 combined, and we averaged 25 mpg after a L of mixed driving.

AWD is optional on NX and helps provide maximum traction as well as cornering control. Taking input from various sensors (vehicle speed, steering speed and angle, throttle angle and yaw rate), the system continuously monitors and actively governs torque distribution to the rear wheels, as needed, via an electromagnetically controlled coupling in the rear differential. Under most normal driving conditions, the system operates in front-wheel drive mode and can send up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels when extra traction is needed.

For enthusiasts who love the sound of an engine, NX 300 F SPORT comes with Active Sound Control (ASC), which brings some of the engine note through the speakers and enhances it, with a volume adjustment open the dash by the driver’s right knee.

Inside, the NX 300 is every bit elegant and sporty Lexus.

Body-hugging, quilted NuLuxe sport seats are exclusive to the F SPORT, and are available in our favorite exclusive color, Circuit Red. The perforated leather F SPORT steering wheel and brushed metallic gearshift exude sportiness.

F SPORT’s unique instrumentation was inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar. The driver can view real-time performance with the Lexus-first G-Force meter “G-ball” in the Multi Information Display (MID). The G-ball moves in response to the vehicle’s lateral and longitudinal forces. The MID displays the peak force in each direction. Display bars indicate the steering angle, throttle opening angle and brake pressure. The MID also provides a turbo-boost display.

Our NX 300 F Sport came with heated/ventilated front seats, a boon for anyone who has experienced them. Lexus detailing shows in the front dome lights and map light that illuminate with a light finger touch thanks to capacitive-touch lenses; no more fumbling for buttons in the dark. Footwell lighting accentuates the luxury ambience.

Designers carved out maximum space with the NX design.  There is plenty of room to carry passengers and gear – or anything else.  Storage in four compartments beneath the cargo floor provide space for keeping your valuables out of sight.  There’s a place for everything throughout the cabin, including a large glove box and console box, a console mid-tray, utility box, sunglasses holder, two front and two rear cup holders and front and rear door pockets.

The standard 60/40 split rear seat with recline can be upgraded with a power-folding option. You can lower or raise the seats individually using switches on the instrument panel, on the side of each rear seat or within the luggage compartment. The available power liftgate, which includes memory height, likewise can be operated by switches on the instrument panel, door and wireless remote.

The center console is a focal point with an updated display and switchgear that features knurled rockers. The 10.3″ infotainment screen features navigation with 3D map views that are incredible, and a second-gen Remote Touch Interface (RTI) that’s 30 percent larger for easier input and selection.

RTI is used for navigating the system’s menus via a touchpad in the center console. We find that it works well when the sensitivity is adjusted properly.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still not in place, but they should be very soon.

We appreciate Lexus offering complimentary Lexus Enform Safety Connect now for the first ten years which includes an Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), Roadside Assistance, Automatic Collision Notification, and Stolen Vehicle Notification. The Lexus Enform response center operates 24/7/365.

Lexus Enform Remote is also new and included for one-year at no charge. It allows the NX owner to remotely view and control certain aspects of the vehicle using a mobile app, including remote door lock/unlock, remote stop/start for the engine and climate control,  vehicle finder, guest driver monitor and more.

With Lexus Enform Service Connect (complimentary 10-year subscription now included), the NX can also send alerts for specific factory recommended maintenance, simultaneously alerting a preferred Lexus retailer.

The full suite of active safety tech is standard on every Lexus now, including radar cruise, pedestrian detection, and lane departure alert. We found the radar cruise worked very well, and going forward we’d like to see a lane-keeping system with lane centering similar to what’s offered on the RX.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 10
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 10
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 10
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 9
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score  97


Make: Lexus
Model: NX 300
Trim Level: F Sport
Engine: 2.0L Turbo 4-Cylinder
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Options: Cold Weather, Auto-Dimming Mirror, LED Headlights, Nav, Power Door, Premium Paint, F Sport, Floor Liners, 3M Protection

Base Price: $39,775
As-Tested Price: $49,023

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