Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: February 2, 2020
The RX is Lexus’ best selling vehicle in Canada, embarrassing nearly every other vehicle in the premium automaker’s stable. But if the size of the RX is a bit too large, and you desire a smaller, more urban commuter tool, then the NX might strike your fancy at first glance. Dressed up in the F Sport package, the NX looks the part too, but ultimately fails to capture the vaunted magic of the RX, and here’s why.
It comes down to two things: the driving experience and the interior. Everything feels not just one step, but two grades lower in the NX. Driving feel is terribly muted and though the powertrain comes off as cohesively gentle and polished, it does little to move the needle forward. The NX 300 is powered by a stout 235-hp, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and like other four-pots on the market, feels underpowered, is tuned with lethargic mapping, and struggles to get this crossover’s rather substantial weight up and away. The NX is just begging for a naturally aspirated V6, and don’t even get me started on the uninspiring 194-hp hybrid. It doesn’t help that the NX 300 uses an antiquated 6-speed automatic either and though effective, lacks the buttery transitions of the 8-speed transmission found in both the Lexus RX 350 and Toyota RAV4.
The steering is fluid yet more muted and distant than the RX, but it rides nicely over broken pavement. I would go so far as to say it’s one of the most supple and absorbent crossovers in its segment, besting the Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Evoque in terms of ride comfort. It’s about on par with the BMW X3. But there’s just something about the NX that fails to capture the unwavering road mannerisms of the RX. The RX was a plump, supple, and smooth driving machine that overwhelming justified its hefty $50,000 - $70,000 price tag depending on options. The NX, while starting at a significantly lower $44,150, hardly feels justified, and it really doesn’t help that the neighbouring Toyota RAV4 is such a damn good package, and barely feels a few pegs lower on the scale of amenities, features, and luxury.
And that’s where the interior comes in. Where the RX revitalizes what a premium luxury cabin should look like, the NX takes that, scraps the blueprint, and installs an awkward cliff-side center console, a messy button-heavy layout, and a frustrating touch-pad that controls the infotainment display. The front seats are situated way too high up, almost bus-like, and outward visibility is hampered by the large A- and B-pillars. By comparison, the RAV4 cabin feels open, atmospheric, and less claustrophobic than the NX. It’s got larger back seats too and a significantly softer price tag to boot.
You want brand prestige, soft leather, and similarities of an RX without the size commitment? Then the NX is still a serious contender worth shortlisting for its plump ride and handsome sheetmetal. But take a good hard look at the RX first and see if it’s worth ponying up more debt for Lexus’ best-selling SUV. You won’t regret it. That, and the Toyota RAV4 in either its standard gasoline or hybrid spec. Both will have you questioning why you need an NX when these crossovers from the same family tree do the job of family hauling exceptionally better.
Model: 2020 Lexus NX 300 Executive
Paint Type: Eminent White Pearl
Base Price: $44,150
Price as Tested: $56,800
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,640 / 1,845 / 1,645
Curb weight (kg): 1,755
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 235 hp @ 4,800 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,650 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.7 / 8.5 / 9.7
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.9