One of the most faithfully adhered to principles in the car business is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, or, if you like: “leave well enough alone”. In other words, if you’ve found a recipe for success, stick with it.
If the vehicle in question happens to be the second best seller in the company line-up, this is particularly sound advice.
Such is the case with the 2018 Lexus NX300, which is on the receiving end of a refresh…a few tweaks here and there, a bit of a name change, various interior upgrades, but otherwise, business as usual. “The NX has exceeded our expectations,” said Jennifer Barron, Director of Lexus in Canada, at the vehicle launch in Penticton, B.C. “It’s our second best selling model in Canada….next to the RX”.
A few particulars.
Launched in 2014 as the NX200t, Lexus’ compact SUV is now the NX300/NX300h. For 2018, it’s offered with two drivetrains: a turbocharged 2.0 litre four cylinder, and a hybrid powertrain featuring a 2.5 litre Atkinson cycle four cylinder gasoline engine mated to a pair of electric motors. These two develop 235 and 194 horsepower, respectively. Transmission choices are a six-speed automatic and CVT. Other changes include revised active suspension, a restyled “spindle” front end treatment, restyled back hatchback, and an upgraded audio display set-up.
A word about that revised rear hatchback. As well as offering a “kick activated” automatic door opener, the rear hatch can be set at different heights. If you’re in an underground parkade, for example, with limited ceiling room, you can adjust the rear hatch so that it won’t crash into the plumbing when it’s fully opened. Clever. Lexus has also added some new interior colour combos, and an “Enform” App suite that includes Slacker Radio, National Public Radio One, and various weather and traffic reporting outlets. Not to mention heated rear seats (optional), and a larger – 10.3 inch – audio display…..this latter feature is likewise optional.
What hasn’t changed is the demographic Lexus is shooting for. According to Jennifer Barron, the NX300 is aimed at “the under 40 consumer”….presumably well-heeled ones with disposable income.
The NX300 is not a pavement-shredder, but with the new suspension revisions, it’s surprisingly capable through the corners. It has an appealing sure-footedness about it, and the non-hybrid version at least, will surprise with its off the line snap and reserve power. And both models come with full-time all-wheel drive.
Delivered with, needless to say, a high level of comfort and driver-friendliness. No incomprehensible, BMW-esque switchgear here…many interior controls are redundant….two ways of accomplishing the same thing, in other words….and both models have steering wheel-mounted paddles. In every respect, this is an upscale SUV with above-average road manners and a comforting “you’ve arrived” interior ambience.
And I must put in a word about the front seats. In a word, flawless; excellent lumbar support, just the right distance from pedals and controls, and easy to reach fore and aft controls. I wish other manufacturers would put as much thought into their front seats.
And a word about fuel economy. While the NX300 has a decent but unremarkable combined fuel economy rating of 9.7 /100 km, the hybrid version sips gas at an impressive 7.5 L/100 km. For a vehicle of this size, this is a very good number. And I’m happy to see that you can actually tow something with the hybrid model….Lexus claims a towing capacity of up to 680 kilograms (1500 lb.). The turbo model, meanwhile, has a 907 kilogram (2000 lb.) towing capacity.
What also strikes me about this model is the apparent effortlessness Lexus has built into it. No fuss, no dramatics, no weirdness. Just get in and drive. What else can you ask for?
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinder / 2.5 litre four cylinder w. twin electric motors
Transmission: six-speed auto / CVT
Drive: Full-time AWD
Horsepower: 235/194 hp
Torque: 258 ft. lb (turbo) / N/A
Price Range: $44,050 – $62,750
Fuel Economy: 10.6 L /100 km (city) & 8.5 (hwy.) / 7.2 L/100 km & 7.9 L/100 km. Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC.
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).