2017 Lexus NX Review

2017 Lexus NX - Compact hybrid crossover from Lexus scores big at the pump.


The Lexus NX is a compact luxury crossover with a hybrid powertrain. Competitors include vehicles like the Acura RDX, BMW X3, Infiniti QX30, Lincoln MKC, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Porsche Macan. Like the Toyota RAV4 on which it is based, the NX comes only as a four-door wagon.

Two models are offered: Turbo and 300h. The Turbo comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 235 horsepower. The 300h comes with a gas/electric hybrid powertrain that pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with three electric motors and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack for a combined output of 194 horsepower. While the Turbo is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive, the 300h is offered only with all-wheel drive.

Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control and dual-front, front-side, side-curtain and driver-knee airbags. Also standard is a front passenger under-cushion airbag, which helps prevent an occupant from sliding out from under the seat belt. Optional safety features include blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning system and forward-collision mitigation.

The NX Turbo starts at $35,085 and the NX 300h at $39,720. All models have a $975 destination charge and the NX 300h is assembled in Japan.

The NX 300h's hybrid powertrain has a modest output of just 194 horsepower. On paper that trails most others in the compact luxury crossover class and it shows on the street as well. From a standstill, the 300h can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds -- decent for a hybrid, but at the back of the class overall. Because the hybrid system drives through a CVT automatic, power delivery is smooth if a bit tepid off the line.

Although there is an electric-only mode for low-speed operation, it's only useful at parking speeds and the battery capacity is quickly exhausted in mild cruising. In addition, the all-wheel drive is facilitated through an electric motor on the rear axle rather than a direct connection limiting the NX's casual off-road jaunts.

As you might expect, the hybrid NX 300h excels with EPA ratings of 33 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Easily the best numbers in the segment. Only diesel-powered competitors come close and, even then, fall a few MPG short. Real-world driving will likely yield about 28 mpg overall, perhaps as high as 31 mpg if you drive with a light throttle foot.

On the road, the NX strikes a fair balance between athleticism and ride comfort. The suspension does a good job of softening impacts while still maintaining a degree of overall composure on the rough stuff. The steering seems a trifle over boosted but tracks straight and true on the highway. Brakes have acceptable stopping power but suffer from a numb-feeling pedal with typical hybrid inconsistency.

Quietness has always been a Lexus hallmark and the NX doesn't disappoint. The interior is whisper quiet at highway speeds - easily the best in class. In acceleration, the hybrid drivetrain doesn't sound as refined as more potent turbo motors in competitors.

Inside, the NX sports a subdued and modern interior with lots of soft-touch surfaces. Materials are appropriate for the price and class. Front seats are nicely padded and the cabin offers good leg room. Head room is limited by the low roofline -- as is ingress.  Rear-seat room is just adequate for two large adults. Putting three in the back will squeeze everyone. Visibility is fine forward but limited to the sides and rear thanks to the sloping back glass and narrow greenhouse.

Controls are nicely arranged and the instrument cluster is easy to read in all conditions. Climate controls are placed high on the dashboard and easy to operate. Unfortunately, the infotainment system lags behind competitors in overall functionality and is controlled by a touchpad that's somewhat awkwardly placed between the seats. Combine that with an operating system that's got a steep learning curve and you end up with frustration. Also, Lexus does not support Android Auto or Apple Car Play,

Cargo space comes in at 54 cubic feet overall and that's near the bottom of the segment. All seats in use, cargo room drops to just 17.7 cubic feet. On the plus side, interior storage is good with lots of open and covered bins throughout.

Lexus's NX offers a competitive mix of features, comfort and utility at a fair price. The HX hybrid swaps straight-line performance for fuel economy -- something that not all buyers may appreciate given the price premium. If you are less concerned about cargo capacity and more concerned with comfort and reliability, make sure to give the NX a test before you buy.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.