2019 Lexus NX 300 F Sport Review

The well-rounded small sport-luxury crossover


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Smooth and controlled ride, F Sport trim does the design justice, roomy back seat, uniquely styled inside and out.
Negatives: Infotainment controls still too vague and distracting to use, climate control buttons and toggles are too small, cargo space suffers due to design.
Bottom Line: The NX 300 in F Sport trim looks great, and it's a competent driver, if not thrilling. Its tech is so-so, but at least it's got solid safety features. For buyers who want a solid balance of luxury, comfort, and good driving manners, the NX 300 F Sport presents a great option.
It's hard to believe the Lexus NX has been around largely unchanged since it was introduced back in 2015, but it's managed to remain fresh with some minor changes and some nice safety additions. The NX competes with the likes of the Volvo XC60 and the Acura RDX in the small luxury crossover segment. The NX is much older than both, and its formula is very similar in terms of sporty design, a unique and comfortable interior, and a focus on safety. We drove the NX 300 F Sport for a week to see how it's holding up in the fifth year of the first generation of the vehicle. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

7.3

 

The NX is a nicely balanced vehicle when it comes to the driving experience. It's not super sporty, nor is it overly cushy. Lexus might have the RX as its best-selling vehicle, but we think the NX is the most well-rounded in its driving manners. The RX leans more towards the luxury side of things, whereas the NX land smack in the middle.

Ride Quality: Great ride comfort overall but not so disconnected from the road that it feels floaty. It manages bumps and gaps very well.

Acceleration: 0-60 comes in about seven seconds, which isn't blazing fast but quick enough to get on a highway on ramp with no trouble. The 6-speed automatic shifts well, and in Sport+ mode, the responses are faster. There's very little turbo lag, as well.

Braking: The brakes are a little soft, and there's nose dive under hard braking. Stopping distances are at the higher end of average.

Steering: The steering lacks feedback, but there's a bit of effort built it, which is nice. It's on center and accurate.

Handling: Our tester had the adaptive suspension option, which manages body roll and keeps the NX planted regardless of the road surface. It's nice and firm in sport mode, and the NX corners well, though you can't take it too hard into corners.

Technology

6.8

 

Though the look of Lexus Enform has improved over the past few years, the functionality continues to suffer with their controls. The rest of Lexus in-car technology works very well, so we're not quite sure why their infotainment is so behind the times.

Infotainment System: At least the 10.3-inch screen looks great because Enform is still frustrating to use. Menus are easier, and nothing's convoluted, but it's just slow and tough to move the cursor. At least it has Apple CarPlay now.

Controls: The touchpad is terrible. We regularly overshot our on-screen selections. The accompanying buttons work well, as do the steering wheel controls. We do wish the handsome HVAC controls were larger, though.

Styling

8.5

 

Lexus has tweaked things a little bit inside and out over the years, and the 2019 version stays the same course as the 2018. What looks a bit awkward in the regular NX 300 gets improved by the F Sport trim that's edgier and sportier.

Front: Now, the NX F Sport gets bigger lower intakes that have been blackened, and the grille has dark chrome trim on the grille frame.

Rear: Gone are bizarre details at the inside edge of the taillights since they've been smoothed out a little. The tailpipes are also longer. Overall, it's a nice look.

Profile: There's just a lot going on in the side view, but it's not a total nightmare. The creases and contours in the body sometimes look disparate, and the door guards make things a little too busy. At least the proportions are right, and the sloping roof is sporty.

Cabin: Though the center console mimics the grille, it's actually a nice touch rather than being tacky like Cadillac's past attempt. The leather and metal, and even the plastic, are very high quality, and the modern look is well done.

Comfort

9

 

You'd think a sporty-looking crossover like this is tight on space, but the NX is actually quite roomy. Lexus also designs their seats with both passenger comfort and sporty support in mind, coupled with the fact that their leather is very nice.

Front Seats: The F Sport buckets are deep, comfortable, and laterally very supportive. They're some of our favorite seats. The only thing missing is an extendable thigh bolster.

Rear Seats: Even tall adults can sit back here in comfort with ample legroom and headroom. The seats are also well-contoured.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Like most Lexus vehicles, the NX is quiet inside, even at high speeds. There was no noticeable wind noise, and the build quality is excellent.

Visibility: The seating position is very good, making sightlines out the front and sides very good. The big rear pillars and the sloping roof make it tough out the back.

Climate: Though the controls are frustrating, the climate system works very well. The F Sport Premium Package also adds heated/ventilated seats, which are excellent and quick to respond.

Safety

9.3

 

The NX is a very safe vehicle, nailing scores with ease. It also now comes standard with a top notch level of safety features, including automatic accident avoidance technology that put it at the top of the heap.

IIHS Rating: It earns the Top Safety Pick + score, the highest possible. It gets "good" in literally every category, which we rarely see.

NHTSA Rating: The federal government gives the NX five stars.

Standard Tech: The Lexus Safety System+ comes standard on the NX. It even includes the Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and adaptive cruise control, which together are virtually semi-autonomous, and the NX's systems work very well.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with the excellent Panoramic View Back Up Monitor and the Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Storage/Cargo

5.9

 

For day-to-day usage, the NX is just fine, but it has trouble taking on bigger loads due to its cargo space that's been compromised by the sloping roofline. The cabin also suffers in the name of style with few accessible small gear storage options.

Storage Space: Aside from the armest and medium-sized door pockets, there's not much for your daily gear that's within reach. There's nothing in the center stack except for the angled deck in front of the infotainment screen. The cupholder is really the only accessible open space between the front occupants.

Cargo Room: The NX has 17.7 cubic feet with the seats in place and 54.6 cubes with the rear seats folded flat. That's way smaller than the Volvo XC60 and the Acura RDX.

Fuel Economy

7

 

The NX's fuel economy is about on par with its competitors. Not miserly nor wasteful. But when you drive in Sport mode 100% of the time, the numbers dip.

Observed: 20.1 mpg

Distance Driven: 144 miles.

Audio

8.4

 

Our tester had the optional 10-speaker premium audio system that sounded very good. It's part of the F Sport package that's built into the cost of the NX 300 F Sport, and it's got solid bass, good clarity, and no distortion that we could notice. It's no Mark Levinson system, but it's a nice addition.



Final Thoughts

The NX might be due for a redesign soon, but it still stays fresh with the minor tweaks. It still looks attractive inside and out, but with new entrants, it will have to fight to keep up. Good thing the NX has reliability on its side, and it continues to sell well for Lexus. The RDX looks better, as does the XC60, but the NX is the one to get if you don't want any concern about quality and residual value. We enjoyed driving it, and it should be near the top of your list for small sport-luxury crossovers.
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