2023 Lexus NX Review

2023 Lexus NX - Lexus gets serious with sporty new NX.


After getting a complete overhaul in 2022, Lexus' compact crossover entry stands pat for 2023. Changes for '22 included new styling, interior, technology, and engines. Still sharing a platform with parent-company's Toyota RAV4, the NX is a 5-passenger, 4-door wagon that's offered with front- or all-wheel drive. Competitors include the Acura RDX, Audi Q3, BMW X1, Cadillac XT4, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Volvo XC40.

The model lineup includes NX 250, NX 350, NX 350h, and NX 450h+. All but the 250 come standard with all-wheel drive, with the NX 250 offering front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive as an option. The 250 comes with a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine while the 350 gets a 275-horsepower turbocharged 2.4-liter four. Both come with an 8-speed automatic. The 350h pairs two electric motors with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder for a total output of 239 horsepower. The 450h+ borrows its 302-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain from the RAV4 Prime and offers an estimated 36 miles of all-electric range. Both hybrids come with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Maximum towing capacity is 2,000 for all models.

Prices range from a low of $39,025 to a high of $57,975 depending on model. Standard safety features include automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. The NX 350 and NX 450h+ are offered with a F Sport Handling Package. It includes sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension, sport seats and 20-inch gloss black alloy wheels. All models get an available 14-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play, a head-up display, wireless charger, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and a host of new engine offerings -- including a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

Though all NX models look similar on the outside, there's a big difference under the hood. The underpowered and noisy 203-horsepower four-banger in the NX 250 feels a bit out of place in a luxury vehicle. Unless you are on a strict budget, the 275-horse engine in the NX 350 makes a LOT more sense. It's strong enough to propel the NX from 0 to 60 MPH in about 6.7 seconds. That's relatively quick in the class. More importantly, the engine sounds more refined and seems happier in its pairing with the 8-speed automatic.

Hybrid models are a bit unique in the class and offer a great blend of acceleration and efficiency. There isn't a price premium for the NX 350h compared to the gas NX 350. Buyers will lose a bit of acceleration though, as the 0 to 60 MPH time drops to about 7.4 seconds. Those that have the money, might want to consider the NX 450h+. Not only is it the most powerful engine offering, but it also has the best fuel efficiency and can be used as an electric vehicle if the batteries have enough charge.

The all-wheel-drive systems in the NX are not suited for serious off-road work. They are intended to provide additional traction and stability on slippery roads are well-defined trails. However, since front-drive is only offered on the NX 250, most NX models will come equipped with all-wheel drive.

Hybrid models notwithstanding, fuel efficiency is a strong point for the NX. While the front-drive 250 gets an impressive 25/32 MPG EPA rating, the all-wheel-drive version nets ratings of 22/28 MPG, the 350 does one MPG better on the highway and the same in the city. 350h models get an astonishing 41/37 MPG rating. The 250 runs fine on premium grade gasoline, but the 350s and 350 require premium-grade fuel. All models have a somewhat small 14.5-gallon fuel tank.

Thinking about luxury crossovers, sport is an important part of the equation for most competitors. Up until now, the NX really didn't play in that space. It tried to be more luxurious, but always shied away whenever the road got twisty. That changes somewhat with the redesign in 2022 with the more to the more rigid TGNA platform. NX driver's no longer needed to get weak in the knees at the thought of carving down a mountain pass or canyon road (not that there are lot of those in Chicago). The new NX is still quite comfortable, but now it is capable as well.

The NX' ace-in-the-hole is the adaptive suspension system that comes with the Sport Handling package. Along with the 20-inch wheels and firmer steering settings, it helps the NX feel significantly nimbler than before, almost on par with the Audi or BMW and considerably more athletic than the Cadillac.

In routine driving, NX feels quite comfortable with a ride that's comfortable and controlled. Big impacts tend to pound through, but minor imperfections are nicely muted. There's some brake dive in hard stops, but secondary motions are kept in check. The steering feels a bit numb on center but tracks true on the highway. Brakes have adequate stopping power but can be taxed with a full passenger load.

Interior noise levels are low as the NX is one of the quietest vehicles in the class. One exception to that rule is the engine in the base NX 250, which thrashes a bit in hard acceleration.

Interior design takes a giant leap forward with the all-new NX. Overall, the look is more modern, and materials are a huge step up. The look is still typical Lexus with a lot of dark colors, but at least the design is fresh and certainly more functional.

The NX has always been a bit oversized in its class, meaning the interior is reasonably roomy for four adults. The front seats are very comfortable and extremely supportive. They boast great leg room and adequate head room. Rear seats are comfortable as well. Visibility can be challenging to the sides and rear because of the narrow greenhouse and thicker rear roof pillars. Additionally, the low roofline makes getting in more difficult compared to more upright competitors.

From a tech perspective, the current NX more than competitive in the segment. The infotainment system is easy to use and seamlessly integrates Apple Car Play and Android Auto. In true Lexus fashion, there are quite a few buttons and knobs, but most are clearly marked and logically placed. The available wireless charging tray is conveniently placed, but on the small side, meaning larger phones won't fit without first removing the case.

Rear seats up cargo capacity is 22.7 cubic feet. With the seats folded that number jumps to 46.9. Both numbers are competitive and more than before, but still fall short of some competitors. There is a shallow storage bin underneath the cargo floor and available power-folding rear seats. Interior storage is adequate but not generous, and the door pockets and center armrest bin are about average in size.

Bottom Line -
The NX sports a modern design, great efficiency and reasonable pricing. With the redesign last year,iInterior room, always a strong point, gets better, but more importantly, the NX is significantly more appealing from a driver's perspective. In addition, refinement to the infotainment system goes a long way to luring younger buyers. The hybrid offerings are quite unique in the class and make the Lexus appeal to a wider set of buyers, but the best overall buy is the NX 350 with the Sport Handling Package.

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.