Lexus NX300: Smooth and sporty
If there’s one vehicle in the Lexus line-up that I’ve been very curious about to try and enjoy, it has been the NX300. As much as I love low-slung rocket-sleds, sports cars and massive torque and horsepower, the reality is that such cars are only actually enjoyable to drive on early weekend mornings. When traffic is sparse and non-existent. And if and when I actually do wake-up. My current lifestyle (as with most professionals and adults) means loads upon loads of work, with weekends being the only respite. In the time that I do need to drive, I need to go far distances, usually driving for hours on end, ferrying people and / or precious cargo, through some poor roads and equally poor weather conditions. Indeed, a sports car makes little sense 99% of the time for me.
Comfort, refinement, fuel-efficiency and ease of driving are traits which I look for in a daily-driver, and the Lexus NX300 has all of these indeed. Not to be a sell-out as a car-guy, but realistically, I haven’t daily-driven a manual for a good 10 years now, so we chose the path of least resistance, simply because it’s a day-to-day chore we need to do as efficiently and as seamlessly as possible. And that best describes the Lexus NX300. Seamless, painless, efficient. But surprisingly, fun.
The NX300 shares its basic architecture with the Toyota RAV4. The RAV4 is an excellent vehicle, favored by young families, and people with active lifestyles. Very roomy, very competent, safe and decently stylish. The problem is, it is as exciting as a refrigerator on wheels. While highly competent, comfortable and in many ways accomplished, the current RAV4 is old (a new one is due next year), and it lacks so much in the sex department. The NX300 oozes panache and sex-appeal in spades, thankfully.
The exterior is space-age stylish, with that prominent Lexus spindle grill in good proportion to the front. The chinky-eyed headlights and chrome strip around the grill and side mirrors give it enough elegance, while the silver, a color I have traditionally disliked, looked great with the futuristic looks, together with the liquid-silvery wheel colors. Inside, the seating position is excellent, the seats are a mix of red and black leather, and everything is within easy reach. The track-pad and easy access buttons make interface with the Lexus multi-media system easy and intuitive, although the track-pad is a tad hard to use when the road isn’t super-smooth as your finger tends to skip on it. The 3-spoke steering wheel looks nice, and wouldn’t be out of place in a sports sedan. It adjusts for reach and rake, has auxiliary buttons for the multi-media system plus paddle shifters for the 6-speed all-wheel drive automatic transmission. And being a Lexus, build quality is exquisite, and the interior is cleaner, neater and simpler with less buttons all-over as compared to previous Lexus models.
Power comes from Toyota-Lexus’ 2.0 liter 4-cylinder dohc 16-valve turbocharged and direct injected 8AR-FTS engine that delivers 235hp and 250 Newton-Meters of torque driving a 6-speed automatic. It comes with a myriad of technologies to help minimize fuel consumption, meets the latest Euro VII emission standards where Euro VII fuel is available, and variable-valve timing with intelligence (vvt-i) helps broaden the power curve and improve engine response and driveability as well as efficiency further. Power isn’t out of this world, shadowed by European rivals for sure, but it feels just right, perfectly balanced and judged for any driving occasion the NX300 will encounter.
It’s also a safe vehicle of course. Six (6) airbags are standard, as well as ABS-EBD brakes with emergency brake-assist. There are reverse sensors plus a rear-facing reverse camera, traction and stability control too.
On the road, the NX300 is smooth, fuel-efficient, refined, composed and comfortable. These are things we’ve all come to expect in the NX300. It’s easy to get into the NX300’s high-efficiency rhythm: steady on the throttle, inch-up all the way to 100km/h, and fuel consumption drops to an impressive 12-13.5 kilometers per liter. With more time on the road and a longer distance, I’m sure the NX300 can easily surpass 15km/liter. In the city, with careful driving, as on winding uphill roads, fuel consumption drops to an acceptable 8.5km/liter. Careful driving are the two operative words here.
But once the roads start twisting, the surface less smooth and quick overtaking maneuvers are the order of the day, the NX300 rises to the challenge, discarding its seemingly leather-soled shoes in favor of some proper trainers, sprints, lunges, brakes and corners confidently. The steering has a feel that is a pleasurable surprise: light, but feelsome, with decent weight and effort as you pile-on the lock. The brakes are just slightly softer than a German’s, with good feel, feedback and modulation, making threshold braking a surprisingly easy endeavor in the NX300. It’s truly hard to believe that the NX300 is related to the RAV4, thanks to the excitement the NX300 delivers.
The NX300 is ultimately attractive because it is the true entry-level Lexus, until the UX arrives. Sure, the CT200h is cheaper, but the NX300 offers more practicality, space and versatility. The Germans are still somewhat reeling from the diesel-gate scandal, which not only affected the Volkswagen Group, but the entire German automotive industry. And Lexus enjoys a significant price advantage over its European rivals thanks to JPEPA free-trade agreement, and ultimately, enjoys a stellar reputation as being an upscale Toyota, which means it is reliable as death, taxes and change. Had I won the P1.12 billion lotto, I would have bought a Lexus NX300 because it truly is fun, easy to drive and fuel-efficient for a daily-driver. Who can ask for more?