2018 Lexus NX: Maybe You Don’t Know it as Well as You Think

Strong points
  • Excellent reliability
  • Bold design
  • Thrilling ride
  • Meticulous finish
Weak points
  • Less pleasant drive (NX 300h)
  • Very expensive F SPORT version
  • No performance F version
  • Limited legroom
Full report

The NX is the second-best selling Lexus model in Canada right after its big brother, the RX. Don’t know much about it? That’s not hard to believe, since it was only introduced in 2014 for the 2015 model year. While Lexus was a pioneer when it launched the RX several years ago, it’s now a full car-length behind compared to the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC (formerly the GLK) and BMW X3—all of which have been on the market for much longer.

The good news is that this segment is increasingly popular, and the NX may finally find its niche. Still in its first generation, the 2018 Lexus NX gets a slight—mainly cosmetic—update.

Classic or extraverted style? The choice is yours!

The changes are subtle and only a keen eye will notice them, especially since the vehicle looks different depending on the version you choose. Those of you looking for an SUV with more character can look to the F SPORT versions, quickly recognizable with a more athletic design. Their hourglass-shaped honeycomb grille is more prominent and, for 2018, the side air intakes have been widened, the fog lights pushed toward the outside and the headlights reworked to resemble those on the Lexus LC sport coupe.

The other versions, including the hybrid, feature a slightly sharper front end and a more subdued grille. According to Lexus, a little more than 50% of buyers like this design, but the base price of the classic versions is much lower than that of the F SPORT, which also helps tip the scales. Whether you like it or not, the NX doesn't do half measures. No one can accuse Lexus of lacking audacity.

The 2018 Lexus NX’s tail end has also undergone some changes, particularly a higher bumper. The shape of the liftgate has been modified to make it more practical and the exhaust outlets are bigger. Actually, they just modified the mouldings integrated into the bumper. You can even see the exhaust pipe in the rear, which detracts from the vehicle’s charm at this price. It’s a very obvious ploy.

Photo: Lexus

Superior luxury on board

Inside, a few changes have been made here and there, including a new design for the climate control buttons and a satin finish for most of the controls, gear lever included. The screen for the navigation system is wider and is part of the new standard Enform connectivity system, which includes an array of applications.

We would have made do with Apple CarPlay and Android auto, butLexus/Toyota decided to go exclusively with its in-house system.You still control everything via a modified touchpad, but we’ve seen better.

Is the hybrid version worth a look?

Since the NX 200t has been renamed the NX 300, logic dictates that there may be a new engine to go with the new name. This, however, is not the case. The goal was merely to match its name with that of the NX 300h, but there’s nothing new in terms of powertrains. It still comes with the turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 235 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s a smidge less power than what the competition is offering as standard, but then again, the NX is lighter.

While the NX’s platform is borrowed from theToyota RAV4, its hybrid system is borrowed from theLexus ES. Its 2.5-litre gas engine powers the front wheels while two electric motors take care of the rear wheels, thus creating all-wheel drive. You’ll save about 2.0 litres of fuel per 100 km, but you’ll sacrifice a bit of towing capacity, which is 680 kg (1500 lbs.) instead of 907 kg (2000 lbs.) in the conventional version.

In the NX hybrid, the gasoline engine is forced to work hard. And since the continuously variable transmission keeps the revs high under stress, this makes the engine louder. Considering that the hybrid version costs more but doesn’t save you that much on fuel, it isn’t really worth it. This explains why barely 5% of NX units are hybrids. A plug-in version would definitely be more interesting.

Photo: Lexus

Drives like a sport sedan

On the road, the NX F SPORT drives like a sport sedan and its conventional six-speed automatic gearbox squeezes out all the available power. The steering wheel is comfortable and you feel connected to the road thanks to precise steering. The suspension is slightly firmer and some versions benefit from the new-gen adaptive suspension, which reacts faster and has a multitude of settings to make it firmer or to give it more rebound.

The suspension can be set to Normal or Sport S+ mode, which gives the choice between optimal comfort and greater stability. You can select from three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport.The NX 300h also adds the EV setting that favours a fully electric drive mode.One thing that all NX versions have in common is a quiet cabin. Soundproofing is excellent, letting in almost no noise from outside the vehicle.

The 2018 Lexus NX may not have all the selling points of its German rivals, but it does have one thing that you can’t take away from it: extreme reliability. So don’t expect to have a very close relationship with the staff at your dealership.

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