Lexus NX 300 F Sport vs NX 300h Hybrid Review - Which NX?

 

Like most in the market, rising Lexus sales reflect the boom of SUVs, and NX, which arrived a few years back, now accounts for a quarter of its business. It’s had a recent makeover and here we tell the tale of two variants, the NX with a turbo in F Sport guise and the hybrid Limited.

Words: Kyle Cassidy   |   Photos Tom Gasnier

Lexus says the sales of the two powertrains are pretty evenly split but we know which we prefer. The NX 200t is now to be known as the NX 300. There are no changes under the bonnet though with the 2.0-litre turbo making 175kW and 350Nm of torque and this is still processed by a six-speed auto.

Added to the range of drive modes in the F Sport is a Custom setting to tailor the powertrain, steering, variable dampers and the air conditioning, of all things. The dampers are new, now with continuously variable control, while Lexus says it has tweaked a few of the suspension components to enhance the steering response and refine the ride.

While we’re not sure how often NX owners will fiddle with the drive mode button, we poked it along to ‘Sport plus’, for interest’s sake.

The dampers do their job well, keeping the NX level while maintaining a civil ride quality.

While they say they’ve sportified the NX, we say it’s competent but not quite compelling to drive. The NX turns well enough, but the helm is muted and the eventual understeer doesn’t so much build progressively but arrive quite suddenly. The dampers do their job well, keeping the NX level while maintaining a civil ride quality.

However, the NX 300, weighing in at over 1800kg, always feels weighty on the hustle. The engine has good urge in the midrange and pulls harder past 3000rpm, though has all but peaked by 5500rpm. Six gears are a minimum these days, particularly in the luxury class, but the torque makes amends for any gaps between ratios.


We liked the ‘Sport’ mode for town duties as it’s not too feisty but helps motivate the powertrain to tap those Newtons more effectively. There’s good pull happening from below 2000rpm for easy commuting, although you sometimes detect a faint turbo whistle under acceleration, which is most un-Lexus like. If the idea of a turbo sounds a bit racy, you’ll prefer the smoother progress of the 300h.

This utilises a 2.5-litre petrol engine joined by two electric motors for additional go and it’s all processed via the hybrid drive system’s planetary gearset, dubbed the e-CVT. Lexus says this delivers 145kW and 210Nm. The firm quotes 5.7L/100km as the average thanks to modest bouts of electric drive, and extended engine-off periods.

This will of course vary. We saw figures ranging from 9L/100km running around on the weekend, to a low of 5.9L/100km netted in slow crawling peak hour traffic. That’s where the hybrid works best.

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Like the F Sport, the unit is weighty, registering 1899kg on the scales and so the electric motors struggle to haul this along on their own, meaning the 2.5-litre is never far away from chiming in. Progress is smooth with the e-CVT but, like the 300, the steering is on the heavy side, and the hybrid’s brakes are particularly snatchy.

Town and motorway driving are its forte; it doesn’t much like a workout on the back road. Enough said. You’d buy the NX more for its style, quality interior and that Lexus after sales care, including the big four-year, unlimited kay warranty and service plan. The NX has a distinct look about it, one which has been tweaked both front and rear. The headlights take on LED technology, including an adaptive high beam system for the F Sport and Limited models.

The level of active safety gear rises for all variants which includes AEB with pedestrian detection, active lane keeping, all-speed cruise control and auto high beams. The F Sport interior is highlighted by ‘Naguri style’ aluminium trim while the red leather trim accents are new too. The other change inside is the enlarged screen, now measuring 10.3-inches. The system’s trackpad controller remains, not the easiest thing to master with your left hand, but the screen’s image is rich.

You’re either going to like the confronting interior design, or not, but one can’t poke holes in the way Lexus builds an interior while the quality of the surfaces and tactility of the controls is first rate also.

The NX range kicks off at $82,400 while the F Sport turbo is $94,800 and the Limited hybrid is $96,000.

There is no price difference between the Limited and F Sport grade, but the hybrid carries a $1200 premium, which we’d save and put towards gas for the turbo.

The Stats

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Model Lexus NX 300 F Sport  Price $94,800

Engine 1998cc, IL4, T/DI, 175kW/350Nm

Transmission 6-speed auto, on-demand AWD

Vitals 7.58sec 0-100km/h, 7.9L/100km, 184g/km, 1818kg