2017 Lexus NX 300 Review
Stuart Martin’s 2017 Lexus NX 300 review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In A Nutshell: A mild facelift and a model expansion for the NX headlines the changes to the smallest Lexus SUV, which asks little in terms of a price rise but cloaks worthwhile suspension and interior upgrades while preserving the value-for-money equation.
2017 Lexus NX 300/300h
PRICE Luxury from $54,800+ORC; F Sport from $60,800+ORC; Sports Luxury from $73,800+ORC WARRANTY four year/100,000km ENGINE twin-scroll turbo 2.0l 16-valve DOHC petrol; 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with electric motor (x2 for AWD) hybrid POWER turbo 175kW; hybrid 147kW (petrol 114kW, electric 105kW) TORQUE turbo 350Nm; hybrid 210Nm petrol, 270Nm electric TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto; hybrid 6-step CVT DRIVE front or all-wheel drive DIMENSIONS 4640mm (L), 1870mm (FOLDED MIRRORS), 1645mm (H) 2660mm (Wb) GROUND CLEARANCE 170mm TURNING CIRCLE 11.2m TOWING WEIGHT braked 1000kg KERB WEIGHT 1700-1895kg SEATS 5 SPARE Optional THIRST 7.2 (2WD), 7.9 (AWD), 5.6 (2WD hybrid), 5.7 (AWD hybrid), L/100km combined cycle FUEL 95RON PULP (T), FUEL TANK 60 litres
THE SMALLEST of the Japanese luxury brand’s SUV range is also the top-selling Lexus in Australia, with the NX representing almost a third of sales.
So far this year it has sold in similar numbers to 2016 – 2561 units so far, up by one on last year – with all-wheel drive models representing 60 per cent of sales, although the availability of an F-Sport front-drive model in addition to a 2WD Luxury model is expected to even up that balance.
The turbo petrol engines cover about 65% of the sales mix with hybrids the remaining 35%; just over half of all NX SUVs sold are Luxury models, with around a third wearing an F-Sport badge and remaining sales in the Sport Luxury category.
New global naming policies is the reason Lexus cites for a change in the model list, as the drivetrains are unchanged and prices have risen by less than $2000.
What is the Lexus NX?
The entry-level vehicle is now the NX 300 Luxury (previously called the 200t), which starts at $54,800 and delivers a standard features list that includes satellite navigation, a reversing camera (both displayed on the wider 10.3 inch display), 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and ignition, digital radio reception for the 10-speaker Pioneer sound system and tyre pressure warning.
Opting for all-wheel drive increases the price to $59,300; or going green with the hybrid drivetrain ups the asking price to $57,300 for front drive or $61,800 for the NX 300h AWD.
Stepping up to the F Sport NX 300 increases the price to start from $60,800, topping out at $67,800 for the AWD 300h variant – across the range, the hybrid drivetrain adds $2,500 and all-wheel drive $4,500.
The F Sport model is upgraded with a 360-degree panoramic view monitor with a “see through” mode that allows the driver to look through and around the vehicle, as well as a larger wireless smartphone charger cradle, paddle shifters for the automatic, a performance damper set-up, power-adjustable heated and cooled seats with position memory for the driver’s seat.
A mesh grille that is not worlds away from the F models elsewhere in the range adorns the front of the new F Sport, as well as black trim additions and a model-specific alloy wheel further distinguish the sports model, while the mainstream pair get a new grille with horizontal bars in the same ballpark as the RX and LX.
The bumper profiles front and rear have also come in for some attention, but there have not been wholesale changes made to the exterior.
The Sports Luxury NX 300 flagship is an AWD-only proposition and starts from from $73,800 with the standard features list including a leather-accented interior, colour head-up display, the Mark Levinson 14-speaker premium sound system, a sunroof and woodgrain-look ornamentation.
Premium paint adds an extra $1000 regardless of the model chosen and lower-grade buyers can also add “enhancement packs” with the sunroof adding $2500, or a pack including the sunroof, 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, head-up display and smart key for $6000.
What’s the interior like?
The smallest of Lexus SUV family isn’t over-run with cabin space but it’s not to the point of being uncomfortable.
I can (at 191cm) sit in the rear but a driver of similar size ahead of me would make that a very snug fit for legroom; rear occupants get vents from the climate control and a fold-down armrest but not a lot else in terms of features.
There’s no question however about the quality of the materials and fit and finish of the cabin – soft leather, tactile switchgear and a high-grade feel to the trim inserts, all of which flies in the face of its sharp pricing.
Decent door pockets, a smallish centre console and a useful glovebox offset the absence of small storage for phones (unless its in the wireless charging cradle that erodes centre console space) and other staple items, which end up in the cupholder
Most of the placement and operation is easy to decipher quickly, but access to much of the car’s infotainment system is through the main screen.
One of the key changes to the NX range is the inclusion of the wider 10.3 inch screen sitting atop the centre of the dashboard, similar to the system employed in the new LC range, which offers a wide-view of the satellite navigation map and an easily-deciphered view of the system’s functions.
Unfortunately, it is still controlled by an awkward touchpad controller set-up, which is a little larger and an improvement on the fixed mouse system from previous generations, but continues to be less favoured than the systems found in the German and British opposition.
The tall transmission tunnel does add to the snug fit for the NX’s front occupants, but seat comfort and driving position – assisted by decent range of electric adjustment for both seat and wheel – are good.
The climate-control system on the centre stack, just below the new screen, is now operated by toggles, with the designers thankfully resisting the chrome stripes found elsewhere in the Lexus range that are difficult to operate accurately while on the move.
Lexus says the size has been increased on the central analogue clock and it also has GPS control to adjust for different time zones – although if I was contemplating a road trip that crossed into even one different timezone I’d be opting for one of the larger of Lexus’ SUVs.
One of the reasons would be boot space, which is listed at a reasonable 500 litres but doesn’t represent a massive load bay; the number increases to 1545 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded.
What’s it like on the road?
With the drivetrains unchanged, the best choice of chariot for the first drive was the new addition to the F Sport range, the front-wheel drive model, which claims the high ground on fuel economy.
A claim of 7.7 litres per 100km wasn’t quite matched on the country road drive program, which was littered with press-ahead driving and full-throttle overtaking, but the fuel number on the trip computer’s centre display remained in the single digits.
The two-litre turbo produces 175kW and 350Nm but driving only the front wheels did little to disturb with torque steer.
Where the new model impresses is in its more secure feeling on the road – better planted and more assured on undulating bitumen in particular – while still managing to improve the ride quality; it is still firm but with an improved feeling of control.
The steering has also improved for weighting, helped no doubt by the adaptive damping suspension system which in Sport and Sport+ modes still managed to retain reasonable ride quality.
Pushing harder into bends shows the suspension engineers have worked hard at improving the steering and body control and while it’s not top of the handling class it’s a much better all-rounder.
Switching to the Sport Luxury model with the hybrid drivetrain – a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine combined with electric motors to deliver 147kW – changes the character given the CVT soft-edge to the acceleration, but at cruise the brand’s renowned quiet cruising demeanour is now matched by the more comfortable underpinnings.
Changes to the MacPherson strut front suspension and trailing-arm double-wishbone suspension include changes to front and rear anti-roll bars and bushes, lower-friction front dampers.
Refinements include a new calibration for the rear stabiliser bar (increased by 22 per cent on the hybrids and 19 per cent on turbo petrol) and stabiliser-bar bushes, and new front dampers with reduced friction.
The adaptive variable suspension on F Sport (which has a model-specific sports calibration) and Sports Luxury use the latest incarnation of the system that debuted on the LC coupe and is continuously variable.
What safety features does it get?
Top of the list of changes under the skin is the range-wide inclusion of the Lexus Safety System+ with a raft of systems designed to prevent or reduce the severity of accidents.
The brand’s pre-collision safety system is standard and has been upgraded to detect pedestrians as well as vehicles, using a camera as well as radar to do that and detect lane markings for the other driver aid systems.
Also now standard range-wide is the autonomous emergency braking system, which operates between 10 and 180km/h for vehicle detection but pedestrian detection is only in action up to 80km/h.
Active cruise control and active lane departure warning system with audible alerts and steering assist are also now standard, as is the blind-spot monitoring, updated parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer sway control (not that you’ll be towing much with a 1000kg braked towing capacity), auto-dimming mirrors inside and out, trailer sway control and a wide-angle view for the reversing camera.
The entry-level model is also equipped with bi-LED headlights utilising automatic high beam; the F Sport and Sports Luxury models are now equipped with an adaptive high-beam system that varies light distribution from each headlight to drop high beam from traffic approaching and ahead.
There are also eight airbags, stability and traction control, anti-lock and brake assist systems, hill-start assist and a tyre-pressure warning system.
So, what do we think?
Lexus will be hoping the mildest of facelifts and key upgrades will keep its compact SUV relevant to the ever-growing customer base now spoilt for choice by the Germans, Brits, Swedes and Japanese – the suspension changes have been worthwhile and the safety upgrades welcome, as is the absence of a drastic price rise.