Review of the 2018 Lexus NX 300h F Sport P Navi, the now middle SUV from Lexus (between the RX and new UX), in F Sport P Navi trim.
We last had the Lexus Nx 300h in for review at the start of 2017, since when Lexus has given the NX a bit of a tweak to keep competition at bay, and its USP has become ever more relevant.
That USP is its hybrid powertrain in a sector which is, still, dominated by diesel engines, but with the UK’s silly obsession with diesel now under attack more than ever, the NX becomes ever more relevant.
With a standout design from launch, the NX may have been a bit polarizing when it arrived with its sharp angles and big grille, but it’s clearly been taken to the hearts of UK buyers and is the best-selling car for Lexus in the UK, with sales up a further 25 per cent in the last year.
In effect the Lexus NX is now the ‘Middle’ SUV from Lexus in the UK, with the new Lexus UX soon to arrive in showrooms, giving Lexus buyers a smaller take on the RX and NX.
But the NX is now, despite a titivate in 2017, four years old, so can a four year old Lexus still make a sensible alternatives to cars like the new Volvo XC60 and German offerings like the BMW X3?
Let’s find out.
2018 NX300h F Sport Inside and Out
When we first reviewed the Lexus NX, we said that for us its divisive design, with jarring angles and properly funky demeanour, was ‘Look over your shoulder good looking’; you can’t help but look back as you walk away. But, at that time, the looks were still quite Marmite for many, and it received almost as many negatives as plaudits as we spoke to the car park curious.
But this time round the plaudits were almost universal as we spent time with the NX, not because Lexus has titivated it (which they have, although it’s hard to spot) but because the design seems to have grown even on those traditionally minded souls who once found the NX a bit odd.
That augers well for the ongoing success of the NX, and the little tweaks Lexus wrought last year – tweaked grille and front bumper, bigger back bumper and new lights – have, when you see old and new NX together, improved on what was already a standout car.
Inside is still a pay grade or three above its price point and it still offers good seats, more than enough room front and back, lots of equipment as standard, from wireless phone charging to excellent Mark Levinson Sound, and Lexus Safety System+ with its plethora of systems from Adaptive Cruise to Traffic Sign Recognition.
The changes on the inside are, if anything, even less noticeable than then exterior tweaks, but you do get a bigger and better infotainment screen with bigger touchpad (we still don’t really get on with it), improved HVAC controls and a bigger space to charge your phone wireless. They’re all very welcome, but as we already think the NX’s interior is as good as it gets at this price, they’re just a bonus.
2018 NX 300h F Sport Performance on the Road
This is the bit where we supposed to say the NX falls apart; its lack of dynamism and its CVT gearbox ruining the promise of such a dynamic looking SUV. But the reality is nowhere near as black and white as that.
We’re assuming, if you’re looking at buying an NX, that you aren’t looking for the last word in handling and cutting edge performance, but you are interested in a Premium SUV which can deliver what you need for the vast majority of the time you drive it. And if that’s right, the NX should be right up your street.
Use it in the way it’s designed to be used – light inputs and laid-back demeanour – and you couldn’t find a better way to trundle round our congested roads, comfortable in a sublime cabin which makes the mayhem going on around rush hour traffic seem like someone else’s nightmare journey.
Leave the driving mode in Normal and judge inputs judiciously and the NX rewards with all you could ask from it on urban roads and motorways, never feeling under powered, never fluffing its delivery and hardly putting a foot wrong.
Where you expect it to go a bit Pete Tong is when a back road blat beckons. Well, maybe we’re wrong, but it seems to us that most reviews call this wrongly: the Lexus NX is really quite fun on a back road blat.
Maybe you just need to have driven it enough to make it respond, but stick it in Sport (or S+) and mash your foot and the NX does respond. Stop letting your ears dictate what you feel as the (quite hushed) revs rise as the CVT ‘box does its stuff, and you’ll be surprised by how lively the NX is, how well its Adaptive Suspension works to keep the NX flat (ish) and going in the direction you’ve pointed it, and how much traction the electric four-wheel drive delivers.
Really, the NX is not the back road bore many would have you believe.
2018 NX 300h Verdict
If you’ve read this far you’ll have worked out we like the Lexus NX rather a lot. Its quality shines out, it looks great (which is now a majority opinion), the cabin’s as good a place as any to be at this price point and it’s different enough from the crowd to hold real appeal.
For the vast majority of the time, when your car is a tin box to get you where you’re going unscathed and unruffled, it’s hard to think of anything that does it better. Not only that, but it does it quietly and economically, and if much of your driving is on congested roads you’re going to see 40mpg.
But if you do want to play the NX will join in and, whatever you’ve been told, it does it with some relish and enough confidence to put a smile on your face. However, if you do play silly buggers you will see economy dropping drastically. But then the daft blat is only a small part of your day, so it’s worth the indulgence to blow the cobwebs away.
If you’re looking for a premium family SUV and you don’t know what to choose, add the NX to your list. Drive the Germans and toss a coin to choose one finalist, and drive the very good Volvo XC60 as a perfect example of how good the non-German competition is, and compare it to the NX.
If you’re rational and sensible, you’ll end up with the Volvo or the Lexus. Either is the right choice.
Lexus NX 300h F Sport Review (2018) Photos
2018 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Specs
- Engine: 2494cc Electric Hybrid: 195bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 9.2 seconds / Top Speed 112mph
- Economy: 54.3mpg – Official / 34.4mpg – Test
- Emissions: 121g/km
- Price: £39,995 / Price as tested £40,640
- Test car supplied by Lexus UK