2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury Review

The NX grows up for its second run


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Attractive redesign is evolutionary, potent hybrid powertrain, much-improved infotainment, ergonomics and controls have been leveled up.
Negatives: Not especially fun to drive, tight second row.
Bottom Line: The NX 350h has been redesigned in all the right ways and fits nicely below the new RX. It's more refined, efficient, and technologically so much better than before.
It's hard to believe this is just the second generation of the NX small crossover starting in 2022. It's also hard to believe it shares underpinnings with the Toyota's RAV4 and Venza. Not only does it get totally redesigned, but it also is the beneficiary of a new infotainment system that the model was sorely lacking with the 2021 model. For 2023, the NX comes in two gas trims and two hybrid trims, as well as the option of adding an F Sport Handling package to the top two gas and hybrid trims that changes the look and improves the driving dynamics. Keep expectations in that regard to a minimum since it's mostly just aesthetic changes. We drove the NX 350h Luxury to see how much the new NX has changed since the last generation. Read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

7.2

 

We'll just say that the NX 350h does what it's supposed to do from a driving perspective. It won't set your hair on fire, but it's competent and can manage daily driving duties more than adequately. At least the hybrid powertrain is decently powerful, and the ride is pretty smooth except for some unsettling from larger bumps in the road.

Ride Quality: For the most part, the ride is very good. Dampening keeps things in check, but if you go over a large bump, the NX feels a bit out of sorts.

Acceleration: The new NX 350h is quicker than the old 300h by a good amount. 0-60 mph arrives in 7 seconds flat, better than the 8.3 clocked by the last NX hybrid. The CVT is pretty good, but when you push the NX, engine is annoyingly noisy.

Braking: The NX 350h's brake felt pretty good. There was decent progression and feel with no sponginess or grabbines.

Steering: Steering is light and without feedback, but turn-in is good and the NX 350h feels on center.

Handling: There's some body roll, as expected in the Luxury, non F Sport trim. The car doesn't feel unbalanced or unpredictable, but it is a luxury crossover.

Technology

9

 

Lexus leveled up quite a bit compared to its old system, and that's a very good thing. Not only is the screen much larger, upsizing from 8" to a standard 9.8' and an optional 10.3". Most importantly, the old OS and the old trackpad are gone.

Infotainment System: The 14.0-inch touchscreen in our test vehicle is crisp and vivid. Almost as important is the fact that it is nicely canted toward the driver and easy to reach. The new OS is also remarkably good. It takes some adjustment to get used to it, but it's echelons up from the last system in pretty much every way. Pairing a smartphone with Bluetooth is quick and easy.

Controls: The physical climate control knobs and audio power/volume knob are embedded into the screen. It's a great hybridization of the two, and Lexus nailed it this time. It takes some getting used to, but everything works far better than before. We also love the physical shift knob and the steering wheel controls.

Styling

7.9

 

A lot has improved with the redesign, but we're guessing a lot of folks will still find the huge spindle grille still polarizing. The body has become less creased in its evolution, and the interior has also become more refined with the changes. It's still recognizable as an NX, which is a good thing, but it has certainly grown up a bit for the 2nd generation.

Front: Lexus ditched the horizontal bars altogether, and now every NX has a mesh grille with the F Sport's pattern slightly different from the rest of the lineup. The spindle grille, itself, is taller than before, and the chevron DRLs have moved from the bumper into the headlight cluster. The grille also now receives three horizontal cutouts in the base. Overall, the 350h now looks a lot more like the F Sport from the front, which is a good thing. Way to embrace the grille.

Rear: The overall shape of the back end is much the same as before, but some key elements have changed. First and foremost, there's now a light bar that unifies the taillights, which are more squared off at the outer edges. The Lexus badge is also gone, replaced by actual LEXUS lettering for a more refined appearance.

Profile: it still looks very much like the old NX here but with key changes like a more steeply raked windshield, a more vertical front fascia, leaner door handles, and less dramatic creasing on the lower portion of the doors.

Cabin: Much of what we thought was weird or annoying in the 2021 NX is now gone, replaced by a cabin that has grown up. The most noticeable, of course, is the larger infotainment screen that pretty much makes up the whole center stack now that it incorporates audio and climate. The protruding center stack on the old one that mimicked the front of the car is no more. The new steering wheel design is also nice, and the upgraded materials look and feel great. The two-tone interior is also a nice addition to the NX's options.

Comfort

8

 

The NX is improved ergonomically and in terms of materials quality. While it's not huge inside, you can comfortably tote four adults without any significant problems with headroom or legroom.

Front Seats: Lexus does front seats very well, and the NX proves that. There's just the right amount of cushioning and bolstering, and the seatbacks are wide and accommodating. The Luxury model gets standard leather seats that are soft and supple.

Rear Seats: The second row seats are comfortable in all positions, but the center cushion is on the flat side. The legroom isn't huge, but if the front occupants don't send their seats all the way back, the outboard positions are pretty good with 36 inches of legroom.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): It's not as quiet inside as the RX, but sound deadening is decent. There's only a bit of road noise at high speeds, but wind noise is minimal.

Visibility: The seating position in the NX is very good, and the sloping hood allows for good sightlines when maneuvering in tight spots. The C-pillar is thick and raked, so it's tough to see out the rear sides. The 360 camera helps at lower speeds, but you definitely have to make use of properly positioned side mirrors in traffic.

Climate: We wish the center stack vents were a bit larger, but the air movement is still pretty good, and the system works well. The heated seats in both rows are excellent, and they activate quickly. Adjustability is also very good.

Safety

9.6

 

The redesigned NX is about as safe as a modern car can get. Not only does it have a superb set of standard safety features that place it at the top of the heap, but it also scores pretty much perfect marks in crash and safety tech.

IIHS Rating: The NX earned "good" in every crash test and "superior" in crash avoidance & mitigation. It's also one of the few vehicles to get a "good+" for LATCH ease of use, making it far less frustrating for parents to install child seats.

NHTSA Rating: The federal government has not yet tested the new NX.

Standard Tech: The NX come with a huge set that includes the excellent Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 with Lane-Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist, Pre-Collision System w/ Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control w/ Curve Speed Management, Lane Departure Alert w/ Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam Headlamps, and Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Additional standard equipment includes Rear Cross Traffic Automatic Braking, SmartAccess Entry System w/ Pushbutton Start/Stop, Backup Camera w/ Dynamic Gridlines, and Digital latch with Safe Exit Assist,

Optional Tech: Our tester came with a Panoramic View Monitor, Lane Change Assist, and Front Cross Traffic Alert.

Storage/Cargo

6.8

 

The NX isn't huge on cargo space, but it does provide some good interior storage options that the 1st-gen model lacked. It's a bit surprising, however, that the cargo space with the seats in place is greater than the 2021 but less voluminous with the seats folded flat when compared to the 1st-gen vehicle.

Storage Space: Lexus really thought things through here. Despite the presence of a more traditional shift knob, the front phone charging tray tucks away to reveal a storage binnacle underneath, an ingenious use of space. We also like the cupholders and the armrest compartment. The door pockets aren't very long, but they're deep enough to hold water bottles and other small gear.

Cargo Room: Cargo room for the NX 350h is 22.7 cubic feet with the seats in place (up from 16.8) and 46.9 cubes with the seats folded flat (down from 53.6).

Fuel Economy

8.9

 

Effeciency is the name of the game these days, and the NX 350h does not disappoint. Although it lacks the all-electric range the NX 450h+ PHEV (37) miles, you can go 18 miles in the NX 350h, which is still a very good thing.

Observed: 39.4 mpg.

Distance Driven: 145 miles.

Audio

9.2

 

Our Luxury model was optioned out with the 17-speaker Mark Levinson system that provides great bass, clarity, and fullness. There are very few systems that are this good, and the asking prices of $1,020 is well worth the listening pleasure it provides.



Final Thoughts

We've always liked the NX, and this time around it's much improved over the old one. It's not exactly a blast to drive, but it's more than competent when it comes to daily driving duties. It's well-styled, well-appointed, and the interior is the best it's ever been. The tech finally looks and works great, and the NX has matured to the point of being truly appealing in the segment.
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