2018 Lexus NX 300 Review: After a week with the vehicle

Courtesy of Lexus
Courtesy of Lexus /

The Lexus NX is a sharp-looking, smooth, and luxurious crossover with an improved but still frustrating infotainment system.

Lexus sells a lot of its RX SUV and plenty of its smaller NX crossover as well as a lot of sedans. The company refreshed the NX a bit for 2018. It plays an important role in what seems to be an ever-growing segment. I had a chance to drive the latest iteration for a week-long test drive. I’d driven the previous version of the vehicle, and I was eager to see how the changes Lexus made to the NX 300 would impact the model.

In a world full of crossovers and SUVs, it can be hard to compete and Lexus does a good job of making the NX stand out with edgy styling, a comfy interior, and a whole lot more.

What’s New for 2018?

Photo provided by Lexus
Photo provided by Lexus /

Lexus changed the exterior of the vehicle slightly for this model year, giving the crossover a new grille, front and rear bumpers, and some taillamps. The suspension also received updates, slightly improving ride and handling.

Some standard equipment additions include Wi-Fi hotspot, power-folding side mirrors, updated controls for infotainment and the climate control system, automatic emergency braking, larger infotainment screen options including an 8-inch and a 10.3-inch display.

Additional upgrades are wrapped up in options and optional packages and include things like a power rear liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, auto-dimming mirrors, and more.

What is the NX 300 Like?

Photo provided by Lexus
Photo provided by Lexus /

The most striking quality of the vehicle is the styling. It looks sporty and ready to go fast. While the engine puts out a good amount of power, the vehicle’s driving dynamics don’t live up to the expectations set by the exterior. It’s a soft and comfy cruiser that offers a reasonable amount of practicality and a long list of features. It’s not a sporty crossover as you might expect from a quick look at the vehicle.

Driving the NX 300 is lovely. It’s smooth and comfortable on the road. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood puts out 235 hp, which is plenty for a vehicle that will likely be used for grocery runs, road trips, and family duties.

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It handles well enough for what most people will use it for. If you push it on a twisty road you get tons of understeer, and under heavy acceleration, there’s some torque steer. Aside from that, I have no complaints with the drive, but I’d personally look for something with a little more character on the road.

The interior is beautifully styled and the seats are some of the best in the business. I drove the NX from Indianapolis, IN, to Chicago, IL, and was comfortable the entire way there. I wasn’t fatigued after the long drive as I have been in other vehicles I’ve made that trip in.

The NX 300 comes with nice plenty of nice driver aid features like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, which makes highway cruising an almost no-effort endeavor. You just sit there and relax.

My biggest complaint with the NX 300 is the infotainment system. To be frank, it’s awful. Even with the improvements to the touchpad controller and added features, it’s a pain in the rear to use, especially while driving. It requires too much attention and takes your eyes off the road for too long. It’s a dang safety hazard, and Lexus would do good to scrap the whole touchpad interface altogether.

Where Does It Fit in the Market?

The small luxury crossover segment is tougher than it’s ever been before. BMW, Audi, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo all offer some seriously good competition to the Lexus NX 300. Most beat it when it comes to sporty performance and ease of use, but those two factors aren’t everything.

The Lexus NX 300 still stands out thanks to its eye-catching styling and comfortable interior. I don’t know that the recent improvements to the vehicle will really draw in too many more buyers, but they definitely help keep the model competitive with the rest of the small luxury crossover field.

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It will be interesting to see how the Lexus NX 300 fares in terms of sales. With the new Acura RDX and BMW X3 being so good, Lexus may struggle to gain more buyers.