The 2019 Lexus NX is a uniquely sized entry in the increasingly crowded luxury SUV scape, occupying a middle ground between so-called "compact" models like the BMW X3 and "sub-compact" models like the BMW X1. This approach has its pros and cons, but ultimately gives the NX something distinctive to help it stay competitive in the face of so many new rivals.
Another distinctive element is the NX 300h model’s hybrid powertrain that achieves best-in-class fuel economy and a vastly lower fuel bill compared to its many rivals that are not only less efficient, but frequently require premium fuel. The turbocharged, gas-only NX 300 also drinks the pricey stuff, while its power and efficiency are unremarkable for the segment.
Besides its size and fuel economy, the NX offers an appealing blend of a comfortable ride, an agreeable driving experience and a quiet cabin that’s meticulously crafted. Safety equipment and ratings are also exceptional, as is its reputation for reliability. The standard Remote Touch tech interface is less well-received, though, and can constantly frustrate.
In total, the NX falls into the file marked "alternatives worth considering" rather than "class leaders."
What’s New for 2019?
The NX is unchanged for 2019.
What We Like
Excellent interior quality; generous rear legroom; reasonable starting price; available hybrid model; superior reputation for service and reliability
What We Don’t
Small cargo area for the segment; distracting and frustrating Remote Touch interface; no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto; unremarkable turbo engine
The NX 300 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is optional. Estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving. AWD adjusts those figures slightly to 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined. The AWD 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 three electric motors for a total system output of 194 hp. Two of those electric motors are used to motivate the front and rear axles, respectively, creating a different sort of AWD that accomplishes the goal of improving poor weather traction, but isn’t suited to more demanding tasks.
Fuel consumption is rated at 33 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined. Plus, unlike the gas-only NX, it runs on regular fuel, reducing your fuel bill even more (its average annual gas cost is $650 less).
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Lexus NX comes in two versions differentiated by drivetrains: the gas-only NX 300 and the hybrid NX 300h.
The NX 300 ($36,485) and the NX 300h ($38,835) come with virtually the same standard equipment that includes 17-in alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, rear privacy glass, proximity entry and push-button start, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, a backup camera, power-folding mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment), "NuLuxe" simulated leather upholstery, 60/40-split reclining and folding back seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a cargo cover, one USB port, Bluetooth, in-car Wi-Fi, the Remote Touch tech interface (8-in display, center console touchpad controller) and an 8-speaker sound system with satellite and HD radios, a CD player and a media player interface.
The NX 300 F Sport ($38,725) adds a sport-tuned suspension, 18-in wheels, special exterior and interior styling, front sport seats, different gauges and a special F Sport steering wheel. An adaptive suspension can be added as an option.
Option availability can depend on region, specifically in regard to certain options that can be available as either stand-alone items and/or within packages. These packages are also not really available separately, as most are essentially added one atop another.
The Comfort package adds blind spot monitoring and heated/ventilated front seats. The Premium package adds all that plus 18-in wheels, upgraded running lights, a sunroof, a power-adjustable steering wheel and driver memory settings. The Luxury package all of the above plus automatic wipers, leather upholstery and a heated steering wheel.
One exception to this packaging hierarchy is the Navigation package, available by itself, that adds a 10.3-in display and integrated navigation to Remote Touch along with two extra speakers and a variety of smartphone-based connectivity features. Other stand-alone features include a power liftgate, parking sensors and upgraded LED headlights.
The NX offers one of the most comprehensive selections of standard features in the segment. Besides standard antilock brakes and stability, there are 8 airbags (front, front-side, side-curtain, driver knee, passenger under-seat), a backup camera, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.
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 non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the NX the best-possible ratings in every crash protection and prevention category, as well as in those for headlights and child seat anchor ease-of-use.
Behind the Wheel
The NX provides a confident and secure driving experience, but it’s far from the sporty end of the spectrum. The F Sport adds some zest, but the ride can be a bit firm unless you opt for the adaptive suspension. In any case, competitors like the Acura RDX, the BMW X1 and the surprisingly luxurious Mazda CX-5 offer a more memorable driving experience.
The NX’s engine selection also leaves a bit to be desired. The basic 4-cylinder offers tepid acceleration (standstill to 60 mph in seven seconds) and mediocre fuel economy. The hybrid, on the other hand, is one of the thriftiest vehicles in the segment and a great way to save some dough at the pump. However, it’s even slower than the turbo, reaching 60 miles per hour from a standstill in a glacial nine seconds.
OK, so it isn’t the best to drive, but the NX should be praised for its interior. Strip away the sporty branding and this is yet another luxurious, comfortable Lexus SUV with meticulous build quality. Rear passengers are in for special treatment, as Lexus has managed to incorporate more legroom than many SUVs that are bigger than it on the outside. That does come at the expense of cargo capacity, however, which is among the smallest of "compact" luxury crossovers and much closer to those a segment below such as the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40.
Then there’s the Lexus Achilles heel: the Remote Touch tech interface that constantly frustrates and distracts. It also can’t be had with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Acura RDX — All-new this year and significantly improved. It offers far more space for the money than the NX.
2019 BMW X1 — Although the bigger X3 has been the NX’s traditional competitor, the X1 is closer in size and price. Check it out.
2019 Volvo XC40 — Like the X1, the new XC40 is closer in price and size to the NX. We love its style and thoughtfully designed cabin.
2019 Mazda CX-5 — It may not have a luxury badge, but believe us, in its top trims, the CX-5 is a luxurious, stylish and well-equipped small SUV that should seriously be considered alongside the NX.
The NX 300h may be slow, but its fuel economy is exceptional for this segment, and it’s estimated to save you $650 on average per year compared to the turbocharged NX 300. If you don’t care about performance or sportiness (and if you do, the NX isn’t the best bet anyway), the hybrid is the way to go.