TEST: A smooth drive with the stress-busting Lexus NX 300

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Manny De Los Reyes
Manny De Los Reyes
Manny de los Reyes, motoring editor of wheels.ph as well as its print edition, has been writing about cars since 1995. His life has been deeply intertwined with cars, having cleaned and maintained the family cars as a teenager, operating a paint shop and entering national car shows in college, before joining Nissan after graduation. He handled car brands as a copywriter afterwards. Today, when he's not testing or writing about cars or attending motoring events, he is home reading novels or playing with his shih tzu.

Of Lexus’s five current SUV models, the NX was the fourth to debut (in 2014), making it the second newest crossover from Japan’s premiere luxury brand (after the subcompact UX, which came out in 2018). The earlier three models (the midsize RX and the full-size LX and GX) predate the NX from a lengthy 19 years to a whopping 26 years. 

Which makes the fact that the NX has now become the second bestselling Lexus SUV worldwide (after the RX) is an impressive achievement.

Chalk it up partly to its ideal size. The NX is the compact crossover in the Lexus lineup. Which puts it squarely in the size-and-price sweet spot of a vast majority of buyers, which are mostly those who have older (or even adult-aged) children but don’t need the extra space and size of the RX.

 These are also people who desire a distinctively designed SUV (I freely use both “crossover” and “SUV” to describe the NX because it capably covers the differences between the two) that has arguably the most comfortable ride in its class. It’s a luxury brand, after all. And what could be more luxurious than a smooth, plush ride in a heavily soundproofed cabin?

Lexus is renowned for producing among the quietest, most refined and most comfortable automobiles in the world. Which makes them ideal for the high-stress conditions of Metro Manila traffic. And which is why I looked forward to testing the Lexus NX in our metro streets.   

The Lexus NX is available in three variants: the hybrid P3,688,000 NX 300h, the P3,718,000 NX 300 F Sport flagship, and my test unit, the P3,218,000 NX 300.

Styling

Style-wise, while I’m a big fan of Lexus’s spindle grille design language, I have always preferred its execution on the brand’s sedans and coupes. I feel that the aggressive front has a slight disconnect with the bulkier dimensions of an SUV. Which is why the spindle grille looks relatively better on the smaller NX and UX than their three bigger siblings, at least for my taste. 

In any case, the NX cuts a distinctive profile from any angle, thanks to that bold front end, the sculpted fenders, that arrowhead rear quarter window, and the angular character lines that run through the doors.       

Power and performance

Under the hood of the NX 300 (and the NX 300 F Sport) is a twin-scroll-turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter inline-4 developing an impressive 235hp and 350Nm of torque (mated to a 6-speed automatic delivering power to all four wheels). A four-cylinder motor will never be as smooth as a V6 or V8, but leave it to Lexus to employ its cutting-edge NVH-suppression measures to banish any untoward noise or vibration. The generous outputs also gave the NX 300 an agile responsiveness that belies its grace and smoothness. Its generous torque is available at a very flat spread from as low as 1,650 rpm all the way to 4,000 rpm, which means that a slight prod on the throttle is enough to get the NX smartly moving. 0 to 100 km/h? A surprisingly brisk 7.1 seconds.       

Ride and handling

Power delivery is one thing, but where the NX likewise shines is in its exceptional road-holding manners. The front MacPherson strut/lower arm and rear double wishbone suspension has been tuned to perfectly balance ride and handling. The springs, stabilizer bars and bushings have been tweaked for improved turn-in response and steady-state cornering while the finely tuned shock absorbers help deliver that trademark Lexus buttery-smooth ride.

Interior

Inside, you’ll find a very spacious and artisan-crafted cabin where most of the surfaces you can touch are leather-covered and plushly padded. Nearly all the controls and switches inside the NX, including the drive mode selector, shift knob and door handles, have a metallic satin finish, enhancing the premium look and feel of the cabin.

On the center console is an enlarged touch pad with a thoughtful padded and leather-covered wrist support, a charger tray for wireless smartphone charging, and USB ports with higher amperage for faster charging. The beautifully minimalist analog clock nestled within the A/C control display boasts a dark gray dial and satellite control, which automatically adjusts the time in different time zones.

Safety

On the safety front, eight airbags line the cabin while wide-angle cornering lights provide additional illumination when turning. Drive Mode Select also allows you to choose up to five different modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Sport +, and Custom—the latter allowing you to decide on the car’s powertrain, Adaptive Variable Suspension, power steering, and air conditioning settings. A foot-actuated power tailgate opens automatically for hands-free convenience.

The NX was designed to meet the expectations of those looking for a capable crossover that delivers an engaging on-road driving experience while still capable of tackling more challenging terrain. Knowing that you have a competent vehicle when the need arises is empowering. If the weather turns nasty or if road conditions degrade to less than ideal—two conditions that happen all too often in the Philippines—then having a vehicle that is more than up to the task of getting you to your destination without drama is indeed an asset. All that luxury, comfort, refinement and that legendary Japanese reliability are just the icing on the cake.

STYLING                              A-

POWER                                B+

RIDING COMFORT                A-

HANDLING                           B+

FUEL ECONOMY                   B+

INTERIOR SPACE                 B+

OVERALL BUILD QUALITY A-

VALUE FOR MONEY            A-

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