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2018 Lexus NX: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Lexus NX, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Lexus NX Review

The 2018 Lexus NX premium compact crossover is one of those vehicles where there’s no real wrong choice. Of the three versions, it mainly comes down to personal taste (regular, slightly sporty or lower-emissions), with initial outlay as more of a secondary issue. At the other end of the ownership experience, Lexus vehicles tend to enjoy strong resale values.

Even though the NX is based on the Toyota RAV4, it still comes with all that typical Lexus goodness. This means distinctive styling, turbocharged or hybrid power, a high-end interior, plenty of modern features, a wide range of safety equipment, and a cockpit-like driving position similar to what you’d find in a BMW.

This nod to Munich is not coincidental. Lexus would have us believe the NX appeals to a younger, more active type of customer as opposed to the well-off soccer parent who prefers the larger RX. Despite its sporty pitch, though, the NX doesn’t feel especially muscular.

What’s New for 2018?

The Lexus Safety System Plus (including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure assistance, intelligent high beams and forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection) is now standard, along with power-folding side mirrors. The erstwhile NX 200t entry-level model is renamed the NX 300. Some new exterior and interior color choices have become available. The infotainment screen has grown an inch, now measuring eight inches diagonally. The Remote Touch Interface controller has been enlarged by 30 percent to make inputs less fiddly. The cabin sees a few updated switches. And the whole range has received some minor styling tweaks. See the 2018 Lexus NX models for sale near you

What We Like

Excellent interior quality; rear legroom; reasonable starting price; fantastic Lexus reputation for service and reliability

What We Don’t

So-so powertrains; no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration

How Much?

$36,980-$39,370

Fuel Economy

The NX 300 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This is linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.

With front-wheel drive, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving. All-wheel drive adjusts those figures slightly to 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive F Sport version is rated at 22 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.

In the hybrid-powered NX 300h, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine combines with two electric motors for a total system output of 194 hp. (Lexus/Toyota does not give combined torque figures for hybrid vehicles.) It uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) along with a part-time all-wheel-drive system, which engages the electric motor at the rear wheels whenever it’s needed. Fuel consumption is rated at 33 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Lexus NX comes in two versions differentiated by drivetrains: the turbocharged NX 300 and the hybrid NX 300h.

The NX 300 ($36,980) has 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition, automatic LED headlights, LED brake/fog/running lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated/power-folding side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, an 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, a cargo cover, a rearview camera, a 4.2-inch TFT driver display, Bluetooth, an 8-inch central display screen, Siri-based voice controls for drivers with iPhones, an 8-speaker audio system, HD Radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary input and a USB/iPod interface.

The NX 300 F Sport variant ($39,370) brings 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats, paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, a black headliner and door mirrors, plus various other cosmetic additions.

All-wheel drive is an extra $1,400.

Aside from its hybrid drivetrain, the NX 300h ($39,330) offers the same equipment as the NX 300, along with a power-adjustable steering wheel and Wi-Fi. There’s no F Sport variant of the NX 300h.

There’s a wide array of options, including 18-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, heated/ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, a hands-free power lift gate, power-folding rear seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors/assistance.

Cargo space behind the NX 300’s rear seats is 17.7 cu ft., 54.6 cu ft. when they’re folded down. Naturally, the NX 300h has to accommodate some hybrid hardware, so it offers 16.8 and 53.7 cu ft., respectively. Neither model’s space is that great, and the sloped roof compromises practicality a little further.

Safety

Standard safety features include a comprehensive array of airbags, traction/stability control, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure assistance, intelligent high beams and forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the NX an overall score of the maximum five stars, along with four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the NX a Top Safety Pick+ after it aced every category.

Behind the Wheel

Although Lexus is pitching the NX as a sporty alternative to its other luxury crossovers, it doesn’t quite convince. The basic 4-cylinder offers tepid acceleration (standstill to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds) and there’s no option for a more muscular engine. The hybrid is even slower (standstill to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds). Handling is taut and together, but it’s hardly in the realm of sporty crossovers like the Audi SQ5, Porsche Macan or BMW X3.

However, the NX should be praised for its interior comfort, both in the front and back. Strip away the sporty branding and this is yet another luxurious, comfortable Lexus SUV. Rear passengers come in for special treatment, as Lexus has managed to incorporate more rear legroom than most rivals.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Acura RDX — A popular rival, with excellent technology and strong V6 power. A new generation is due soon.

2018 BMW X3 — Accomplished and desirable. A pleasure to drive and use.

2018 Lincoln MKC — Combines excellent technology with a smooth, comfortable ride.

2018 Jaguar F-PACE — Fresh, elegant, talented, roomy and well-equipped.

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class — Based on the C-Class and an extremely well-executed package.

Used Lexus RX — Those who need a little more space than the NX should look at a used RX, which offers plenty of amenities, including an optional hybrid powertrain.

Used BMW X5 — If a truly sporting character is preferred, consider a certified pre-owned (CPO) X5, which is roomier than the NX and far more impressive in terms of handling and acceleration.

Autotrader’s Advice

Lacking a truly interesting engine, the F Sport version doesn’t seem to have much of a point. Which leaves us choosing between the hybrid — probably our first selection, if the budget allows — and the NX 300, leaving some financial flexibility to choose a few options like blind spot monitoring and the powered tailgate.

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