2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line Review

Sinister duds for the 1st gen's exit from the stage


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Remains attractive in spite of its age, Black Line trim dresses things up nicely, comfortable for adults, great efficiency, super safe.
Negatives: The hybrid powertrain lacks gumption, small and frustrating controls, infotainment not up to par with competitors, tiny storage compartments.
Bottom Line: The NX 300h F Sport Black line doesn't do any one thing really well, but it's a great all-around premium crossover that's easy to drive, easy on the eyes, and very safe.
The NX has been around without a redesign since 2015, and a new one will come next year. For now, we get a dressed-up kit in the form of the Black Line trim that gives the NX some nice aesthetic add-ons to keep the breed alive and kicking. For the most part, though, the NX remains largely the same with the exception of Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and power-folding mirrors with auto-dimming as standard equipment. Inside, the tachometer and the steering wheel get tweaked. Otherwise, the NX remains an edgy, capable luxury compact crossover. We drove the 2021 NX 300h gas-electric hybrid in F Sport trim for a week to see if it's still got what it takes to be desirable in a field that has newer members.
 

Driving Experience

7.4

 

Nothing about the NX 300h F Sport will wow you in the driving experience, but it is very competent for daily driving. It has the right combination of comfort, efficiency, and easy driving manners. F Sport bits helps in the handling, but it's still no street carver.

Ride Quality: The NX 300h F Sport manages bumps competently, even with the Sport-Tuned adaptive suspension.

Acceleration: The ECVT and 2.5-liter four with electric motors don't do the NX any favors in the sprinting department. It takes a long 9 seconds to hit 60 mph, and it certainly feels that way.

Braking: The regen brakes don't feel great, and there's definitely a little bit of deadness in the pedal. Stopping distances are on the long side.

Steering: The NX 300h's steering is decent on effort but lacks feedback. Precision is good, as is turn-in and on centeredness.

Handling: Our tester came with the available adaptive suspension, combined with the Active Cornering. This aids handling and gives the NX 300h competence in turns. It's no autocrosser, but owners will feel secure in the turns.

Technology

5.8

 

Oh, the ways we despise Enform. The screen is ok, but the controls just frustrate the hell out of us. It has all the precision of a moving a straw in a watery milkshake. Overall controls in the NX could use some work, too, namely the steering wheel buttons.

Infotainment System: The 10.3-is clear and easy to read, but the graphics are still in need of a serious update. Sure, it's great that the NX has Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Apple CarPlay, but that doesn't make up for the fact that operating the whole system is cruddy.

Controls: We can't stand the touchpad that makes moving around the screen more than a challenge while standing still. Try it while driving, and you have a recipe for an accident. The steering wheel buttons and climate control buttons are too small and need to get upsized.

Styling

8.7

 

In our opinion, the NX 300h in F Sport trim is really the only one to get. Dress it up with the Black Line trim, and it actually changes the overall look to one that's more modern. It's a nice touch that extends the visual life of the NX. We didn't get to see the Halliburton luggage, sadly.

Front: The F Sport's big grille is one of its best features and adds aggression to the front end. The black mesh looks great, but we don't like the faux intakes on the lower fascia.

Rear: The rear fascia looks good with the IS's taillights and the smoothed out signature. Lexus did a good job back here with some muted creases that help mitigate the visual height and to give it a slightly unconventional look for a crossover.

Profile: The Black Line trim provides body-colored fenders, which give the NX a more unified look from the side. The dark chrome wheels look great, but we would've like to see at least 19" versions.

Cabin: The center stack shape does a nice job of mimicking the grille, and we love the blue stitching all over. The redesigned steering wheel looks good, too. We just can't figure out why there's a stupid hand mirror in the center console.

Comfort

9

 

The NX might look small on the outside, but there's a surprising amount of room in both rows. Adults will have no problem getting comfortable.

Front Seats: Despite their appearance and feel, the F Sport bucket seats are synthetic leather. It's a good thing they're soft, supportive, and well-bolstered.

Rear Seats: Tall adults can sit in the outboard positions. There's good legroom and headroom, but the middle position is only good for short distances due to the flat seat bottom and the HVAC vents in between the front seats.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Like all Lexuses, the NX 300h is well built and free of errant noises. Highway speeds remain quiet. You can, however, here the buzzy powertrain work hard when pushed.

Visibility: Visibility out the front and sides are good, but the D-pillars make it tough to see out the rear side windows, not atypical of stylish crossovers these days.

Climate: The NX's climate system works very well, as do the heated seats and steering wheel. The vents sit a little high on the center stack, but air movement is good.

Safety

9.3

 

The NX is one of the safest premium crossovers out there, and it scores at the top of the segment in all areas. Lexus's standard equipment set is robust, and nothing needs to be added as optional equipment. This should make buyers feel very secure.

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 2.0+ comes standard on the NX 300h. It comes a Pre-Collision System with Cyclist & Pedestrian Detection, All-Speed Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Intelligent High Beam Headlamps.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

6.2

 

The NX doesn't offer up the best options for in-car storage, and it gets beat by competitors when it comes to cargo room. Front row occupants have to suffer a little because the interior design sacrifices some practicality.

Storage Space: The only really usable space in immediate reach is the cupholder area in the center console. There really is no other place to put your phone and keys since the angled deck in front of the touchscreen is tiny. The armrest compartment is also on the small side, 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. While it's not the smallest, it gives up space to the Acura RDX, which has almost 58 cubic feet with the seats folded flat.

Fuel Economy

8.6

 

The NX 300h does well in the fuel consumption category. If you don't drive it in Sport mode all the time (like we did), you'll have no problem getting the EPA estimates.

Observed: 29.1 mpg

Distance Driven: 103 miles.

Audio

8.5

 

Our tester had the stock premium audio system (instead of the optional and awesome Mark Levinson system). It's still a very good system that sounds great. It just lacks the power and fullness of the upgraded sound system.



Final Thoughts

Although it really is time to redo the NX (which is just over the horizon), the Black Line trim makes a compelling case to consider the NX 300h F Sport. It's well-appointed, attractive, and comfortable, as well as very efficient. What Lexus has over Mercedes and Audi is reliability, and that goes a long way these days. But you have to sacrifice good infotainment, gutsy acceleration, small-ish cargo space, and some ergonomic issues in the process.
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