Lexus’s entry-level crossover gets an update for 2018, three years after its introduction as a 2015 model. It’s a significant refresh, too, bringing some cosmetic changes, a suspension re-engineered for a smoother ride and sharper handling and a standard suite of active safety equipment that includes radar cruise control, pre-collision system, lane departure alert and automatic high beams.
Lexus has also made a small change to the NX’s naming strategy so that the gasoline version formerly known as NX 200t is now NX 300, while the hybrid model remains the NX 300h.
That doesn’t affect what’s under the hood. The NX 300 uses a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the NX 300h has a 2.5L engine that works with an electric motor to produce 194 hp. The gas-powered variant has a six-speed automatic transmission, and the hybrid uses a continuously variable type; both powertrains come standard with all-wheel drive.
Where Lexus was once considered conservative in upscale vehicle circles, the NX wears the brand’s latest extroverted styling cues, including a daring “spindle” grille and angular lines. There’s a lot going on here compared to many of the NX’s competitors -- including the Acura RDX, Buick Encore and BMW X1 -- especially up front, where this Lexus’s face is cut up with slashes of LED lighting and faux air intakes.
Over the road, the NX feels a lot like its larger RX sibling: The NX 300 quiet and smooth, but not as entertaining to drive as its European classmates or the sportier RDX. It’s a different story in the hybrid NX 300h, which is loud and feels heavy, especially in comparison to the hybrid RX, which is a picture of refinement. And uncharacteristically for a Toyota-built vehicle, the NX’s dash is fussy and cluttered.
Aside from the addition of that standard active safety kit, the NX’s feature list carries over, too. NX 300 models get heated eight-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, backup camera, 17-inch wheels, eight-speaker stereo, LED headlights and fog lights and passive keyless entry. The NX 300h adds a heated steering wheel, electric steering column adjustment, ventilated front seats, navigation, 18-inch wheels, sunroof and auto-dimming side mirrors.
The NX 300 can be optioned with Premium, Luxury and Executive packages, plus a trio of F Sport option packs. Meanwhile, the NX 300h’s only available extra is the Executive package.
Fuel consumption estimates are 10.6/8.5 L/100 km (city/highway) for the NX 300 (10.8/8.9 with the F Sport packages) and 7.2/7.9 for the hybrid NX 300h.