2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport AWD Review

A good premium crossover shows its gray hairs


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Still looks good despite its age, F Sport trim adds the right amount of flash, easy to drive and quite comfortable to sit in, excellent build quality.
Negatives: Horrible infotainment controls and lack of precision, some buttons are too small to use while driving, tight on cargo and storage space.
Bottom Line: The NX 300 in F Sport trim still manages to look good even five years later. While it won't thrill enthusiasts when it comes to driving, it is competent and solid. If you can look past the infuriating infotainment experience, it presents a solid premium crossover option.
Unless you get the 2020 NX 300 in the new paint color, Cadmium Orange (like our tester), you won't be able to tell the difference between it and the 2019 model. Lexus, however, has added Android Auto, a standard, a power-adjustable steering column, road-sign recognition, lane keep assist, and Active Cornering Assist. There's also a new two-tone colorway in the palette. Other than that, the NX's styling continues unchanged. It's been around without a redesign since 2015, so it's a bit overdue for some freshening, at least. We helmed the 2020 NX 300 in F Sport trim for a week to see how it holds up against newer competitors.
 

Driving Experience

7.3

 

The NX 300 F Sport is the model's best iteration when it comes to driving. It's no rocket, but it does respond well to inputs and provides a nice balance between sporty and compliant. But if it's fun you want for less money, go with the Mazda CX-5 with its 250 horses and better driving dynamics.

Ride Quality: Even with the sport tuned suspension, the NX 300 F Sport manages bumps really well. It didn't feel unsettled over big gaps on curved off-ramps at 50 mph, which is solid.

Acceleration: The 6-speed automatic had no trouble finding the right gear, and the acceleration felt linear, if not powerful. Dial it into Sport+, and the throttle and shift points respond even better.

Braking: The brakes are a bit on the spongy side, but it's not unmanageable. The NX exhibits some nose dive when pushing hard on the brakes, and stopping distances are at the high end.

Steering: Although the steering lacks feedback, there is a modicum of effort. It's also on-center and responds well to inputs. We had no trouble hitting apexes o in the turns.

Handling: Our tester came with the available adaptive suspension. Combined with Active Cornering and the Sport-Tuned suspension, the full setup helsp the NX 300 F Sport manage turns and body roll very well. While it doesn't corner like a performance-focused crossover, it's better than most.

Technology

6.8

 

We're not sure why Lexus hasn't totally overhauled their Enform infotainment system and its corresponding controls. The graphics look so-so, and the operation of the whole thing is totally frustrating.

Infotainment System: The 10.3-inch touchscreen looks good, and there has been some improvement to Enform over the years, but overall operation is slow, and menus could be way easier. They should take notes from Hyundai and Mazda. At least it now comes with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Controls: The touchpad is the worst. Maybe 25% of the time we were able to select what we wanted on the infotainment screen without overshooting. The We do wish the handsome HVAC controls were larger, though.

Styling

8.5

 

In our opinion, the NX in F Sport trim is really the only one to get. In stock guise, the NX looks awkward and the lower portion of the front fascia is too aggressively angled backwards, making it look like a D-Day era beach landing craft. Overall, the NX F Sport does a great job of communicating the brand's angular design language. It does, however, need to be updated or redesigned.

Front: The big black mesh maw looks good, and the front end that was tweaked last year still looks sporty and aggressive.

Rear: The back view is a good one now that the 2018's overstyling has been somewhat muted and smoothed out.

Profile: The NX has a busy side view, but the angles work together well. The Cadmium Orange paint pops nicely. We'd like to see the chrome window trim eliminated in F Sport trim so it could match the black fender trim.

Cabin: The thematic center stack matches the grille nicely, and the rest of the cabin has very nice materials. Seat leather looks great, and the F Sport treatment adds a nice touch.

Comfort

9

 

The NX might look small on the outside, but there's solid space in both rows, despite the small-ish cargo space.

Front Seats: You'd never guess the F Sport bucket seats aren't real leather. They're soft, supportive, and very comfortable.

Rear Seats: Even tall adults can sit in the contoured outboard positions. There's good legroom and headroom, as well. The middle position is only good for short distances due to the flat seat bottom and the HVAC vents that compromise legroom.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Our ride was quiet and composed even at highway speeds, and the NX 300 is well made with no squeaks or rattles.

Visibility: The seating position is very good and the shorter sloping hood makes it easy to negotiate in tight spots. The view out the back is compromised due to the raked, thick pillars.

Climate: The NX's climate system works very well in cold weather, as do the heated seats and steering wheel. We did not get to test the ventilated seats during the chill of late fall.

Safety

9.3

 

The NX lights up the safety charts, and those great crash test scores are bolstered by its excellent level of standard safety features. Buyers will feel confident in its ability to protect them and their families.

IIHS Rating: It earns the Top Safety Pick + score, the highest possible. Its only demerit is "acceptable" child seat anchor LATCH ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: The federal government gives the NX line of crossovers the full five stars.

Standard Tech: The Lexus Safety System+ comes standard on the NX. It comes with a Pre-Collision System w/ Pedestrian Detection, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Intelligent High Beams. It's one of the best standard sets in the business.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with the Panoramic View Back Up Monitor, which was a huge help during busy trips to the grocery store.

Storage/Cargo

5.9

 

The NX takes hits for its lack of space in the front cubbies and in the rear cargo section. While it's enough to get by, don't look to bring anything substantial with you like tons of sports gear and luggage.

Storage Space: The deck in front of the touchscreen is just okay. You might forget your phone if you leave it there. You'll end up using the cupholder for that duty. The armrest compartment is small, as are the door pockets.

Cargo Room: The NX has 17.7 cubic feet when the 2nd row us up and 54.6 cubes with all seats folded flat. That's not a lot of space, but it's several more than the new Audi Q3. If a bit more space is what you need, then look at the Acura RDX, which has almost 58 cubic feet all in.

Fuel Economy

7

 

The NX's fuel economy is about what'd you'd expect from the segment. It's not thirsty or economical, and we were able to just about meet its EPA estimated mileage in combined driving, which we had to achieve by avoiding Sport mode.

Observed: 24.2 mpg

Distance Driven: 116. miles.

Audio

9.4

 

We loved the 14-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system. It's one of the best around, but keep in mind the total package that includes it is nearly $3,000, taking the total price of our tester to almost $52K.



Final Thoughts

The NX 300 F Sport is a very good premium crossover. We actually like it quite a bit. It manages to be stylish without putting on airs, but it is getting a little bit old compared to newer offerings like the fun and energetic Volvo XC40 and the new Acura RDX. It has dependability, ease of use, tremendous safety ratings, and sporty style on its side, but for almost $52,000, we can think of better options that are less expensive. The NX gets hampered by its infotainment system and its abbreviated storage and cargo space. Let's hope the next version improves in these areas when the NX gets redesigned.
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