We take a crossover with sporting aspirations through its paces.

Crossovers are a dime a dozen in or country, and chances are, you have one parked in your garage right now, or are looking to get one in the future. Could it be our bad roads, unpredictable weather, or the desire for more versatility and comforts not found in smaller vehicles? It seems that crossovers answer all those questions, offering a package that seems to be unbeatable in the Philippine market. Lexus plays a hand that focuses on a combination of luxury and sportiness with the NX series.

There’s a reason why the NX series has been one of Lexus’ best-sellers over the world, and they seem to have the formula down right since the introduction of the NX in 2015. Enjoying a refresh for 2018 is the Lexus NX 300, with our tester being blessed in F Sport trim, this premium compact crossover marks the end of the NX 200 nameplate. More than just a rebadge, the changes are pretty substantial.

Despite the name change to conform with the existing NX 300h hybrid variant in the family, the engine remains the same - you get a 2.0L turbocharged gasoline engine that’s good for 235 hp and 350 Nm of torque. You also get a nice shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. Our F Sport variant tester came with paddle shifters for quick gear changes on demand, and they performed admirably.

All-wheel drive on the NX series comes standard across the range, together with dynamic torque control. Both systems adjust the front and rear differential torque split to suit driving conditions. 

The suspension has also been revised across to improve ride quality, with the dampers on the MacPherson struts on the front with a stabiliser bar, and bushings on double-wishbone rear. We noticed the NX 300’s suspension to be impressively compliant on uneven surfaces, just be aware that even in sport modes, this crossover has some body roll when driven aggressively.

The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) on the F Sport models, which allow for 650 adjustments of individual components on the fly to provide for continuous damping over varying surfaces, works extremely well in the background, ironing out and increasing ride comfort another notch.

We spent a few days driving the NX 300 F Sport in a variety of conditions, from stop and go traffic, to winding roads outside the busy Metro. In terms of fuel consumption, we were able to achieve a combined rating of 11km/l after three days, not bad, considering the amount of kilometers and much more “lively” portions of driving.

The engine is impressive and it does pull the NX 300 along without complaint. The gearbox is slick and doesn’t hunt around for the proper gear, even without human intervention via the paddle shifters. On the highway, the NX 300 piles on the kilometers, with NVH (noise vibration and harshness) at a minimum, making it a top pick for a quick getaway with the family. Rotate the drive selector in sport or sport plus, and the NX 300 tightens up and the engine revs higher.

While it does feel composed when pushed on your favorite backroad or mountain pass, the NX 300 is heavy and will roll a bit when transitioning the weight (AWD system and characteristics of the crossover). Kept within its limits, you’ll find that the F Sport variant’s toys lend much to the sportiness of the NX 300. Just don’t expect RC F or even IS 350 levels of agility. It’s good fun, and a constant reminder that Lexus still loves to inject fun in all forms of their model range.

On the outside, you’d be hard-pressed to spot any immediate differences. Lexus did more of a nip and tuck than a full facelift, and that’s alright by us. Tri-beam LED headlights are now offered, as well as an updated spindle grill (We like it, but it can be polarizing for some).

F sport variants also get the aluminum exhaust finishers and tweaked bumpers. It’s a small point but the cosmetic update sees the NX increase in length by 10mm to 4640mm, with the overhang bumped up by 5mm at either end. Other measurements, inside and out, remain unchanged.

On the inside, passengers are treated to a 10.3-inch multimedia display that is powered by Lexus’ own software. Unfortunately, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are missing, and the interface takes some getting used to as the main method of control is a trackpad style surface, rather than a rotary knob. No, the screen isn’t touchable, either. The system works well enough once you get over the learning curve, but it can prove extremely fiddly when driving.

The reversing camera projected on this screen is good, providing nice color and viewing angles. Lexus interiors have always been known for quality and the NX 300 is no exception; there’s nice materials sprinkled throughout the cabin, and the striking red interior combination is a looker.

Many knobs and switches are nice to touch and adjust, providing nice, tactile feedback. Where a passenger may rest their arm will most likely be some form of leather or soft touch material, and it’s all good stuff.

The Drive Mode Select function, which allows the driver to switch between eco, standard and performance-oriented drive modes, has also been improved, and can now be programmed to remember drive mode, chassis and air-conditioning settings. Oh, and the heating and cooling seats are a nice touch.

As for space, rear passengers will find it comfortable enough, as long as they aren’t above 6 feet tall. Luggage space is good with the rear seats up (500L), and impressive with the seats folded down (1,545L).

The thing with crossovers is that they’ve always been relegated to being a vehicle that will cater to someone who desires practicality over anything else, almost to the point of sacrificing looks and performance for that extra cup holder. What we admire about the NX 300 is that it looks so bold that it immediately sheds itself of that crossover conundrum.

The exterior design may polarize, but it is, no doubt, one of the most interesting and edgy crossovers for 2018. Add in an impressive engine, F Sport goodies, and you may very well have the most interesting and most performance-oriented crossover from a Japanese manufacturer today that can stand toe-to-toe with its European rivals for less sticker price. Now if only they did something about that infotainment system.


Specifications

Engine

2.0 L

Fuel Type

Gasoline

Performance

235 hp @ 5,600 rpm

Transmission

Automatic

Summary
Name Lexus NX 300 F Sport
Body Type Crossover
Price ₱ 3,558,000
Transmission Type Automatic
Engine
Performance
Economy & Environment
Dimensions
Safety & Security
Features
Technology

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