The 2017 Lexus NX ushered in a new design language for Lexus when it was introduced a few years ago, and for the most part, it's still a very good expression. (We think the RX doesn't wear the look so well.)
This year's model doesn't change any exterior panels, which is good—we like the current look. The interior is a little more restrained, so we've given it one point above average on our fashion meter, a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The exterior of the NX is visually engaging, even if its a little clumsy at some angles. The crossover blends sharp creases, pointed shapes, and a fastback roof to make something that looks unique. Its shape is now part of the Lexus lexicon, but when it was introduced it was a polarizing look for the automaker.
A sharp crease angles up from the base of the front wheel well through the rear wheel to the line of the thin taillight, with a deep indentation in the door forming an asymmetrical sill in the base of the door. The front leads off with an in-your-face versions of the Lexus spindle grille shape, with a softly rising hoodline above it, flanked by narrow, swept-back headlights with an L-shaped band of LED daytime running lights outlining it.
The F Sport version carries a black mesh grille and metallic bumper moldings, black side mirrors, and 18-inch wheels to help distinguish it from the crowd. The optional 19-inch wheels give the crossover its most aggressive look, but also run nearly $4,000 installed from the dealer. (We can't decide what's more unattractive: the wheels or the price for them.)
Overall, if you can look past all those details, the NX profile itself isn't all that shocking. It retains the basic two-box form of the crossover utility vehicle, though its sharply angled tailgate makes it far less rectilinear than the Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. There are a lot of sophisticated shapes in its lines, with lots of slashing angles and sharp points in the body creases, lights, and window lines.
The interior of the NX is somewhat more restrained than its exterior. Colors and materials are in the usual Lexus palette of dark grays, muted silvers, and matte wood grains, and that helps it steer away from the garishness offered in some rival models if you don't watch out. The metallic accents contrast nicely with the softer trim and upholstery materials, complementing the large round gauges.
Still, the long and angled dash top and protruding console form an unusual Z-shape when looked at from the side. In keeping with its sportier positioning, the dashboard conveys more of a cockpit feel. The front compartment, in fact, has more in common with the Lexus IS sport sedan than the mid-size RX family crossover.
The shock has worn off, and the Lexus NX better fits with the rest of the lineup.
The 2017 Lexus NX is motivated by two very different powertrains. The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 used widely across the Lexus lineup that is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available on base NX 200t models, and is newly standard on NX 300h hybrid models.
That turbo-4 approach the modus operandi for much of the class, and the version offered by Lexus is in line with the rest. The NX earns a 5 out of 10 on our performance scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The base, 2.0-liter turbo-4, which is rated at 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, is relatively advanced. It uses direct injection and varies between a conventional or more efficient Atkinson cycle—which is predominately used in hybrid powertrains—to extract every mpg from its 15.9 gallon tank.
Lexus doesn't offer a V-6 to power its top-trim NX, unlike others in the class. Rather, the NX 300h uses a hybrid system shared with the RAV4 hybrid to be the optional engine pick for the small crossover. The NX 300h uses a 2.5-liter inline-4 paired to the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which combines two electric motor-generators that can power the vehicle alone (at low speeds, under light loads), recharge the battery, or supplement engine torque with electric power.
The NX offers good roadholding and handling, overall, with occupants sitting a bit lower than they do in the larger RX and less lean and body roll than you'd find in the Toyota RAV4 on which it's structurally based.
For all the sporty visual cues, the NX 200t simply isn't a sporty-driving vehicle in its "Normal" driving mode. Because of a delay in power delivery—perhaps a mix of fuel-efficiency-minded engine controls and turbo lag—the driver is left to game the powertrain behavior they want by providing exaggerated inputs rather than smooth ones.
Turning the knob to the "Sport" setting changes its personality. It holds higher revs longer and makes the acceleration significantly crisper, potentially at the price of lower real-world gas mileage. You can largely ignore the "Eco" setting unless you're on flat roads and surrounded by slow traffic, preferably in nice weather so the reduced climate control settings aren't noticeable.
The F Sport option is the one to have if you really enjoy the act of driving. The combination of its tuned suspension, more performance-oriented wheels and tires, and the "Sport" driving mode produces the one NX version that proved rewarding to throw around curving roads. We drove an F-Sport fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels and lower-profile summer tires, which delivered a noticeable improvement to roadholding.
In addition to the Normal, Eco, and Sport modes, the NX 300h has an electric-only mode that powers it only on electricity (at speeds below about 30 mph) as long as the battery holds out, which is generally less than a mile.
Lexus has added what it calls a "kickdown switch" in the hybrid 300h to deliver immediate extra power when required; it works well enough, at the price of some increase in engine noise.
While Lexus has put a lot of work into giving the NX hybrid a more natural acceleration feel and minimizing the engine's tendency to spool immediately up to maximum speed and noise, it still doesn't really have enough electric power to accelerate in brisk traffic on the electric motor alone. So, like the larger RX, its engine usually switches itself on to provide power when accelerating. That said, the noise suppression is so good that drivers will have to watch the power meter to determine whether or not the car's stayed in electric mode—engine turn-on is all but imperceptible.
The NX proved to be very quiet on most roads, and the hybrid model is particularly good at suppressing engine howl, the Achilles' heel of that powertrain. We'll leave you with a caution that the F Sport setup and the more aggressive 18-inch wheel-and-tire combinations bring more road noise; the 17-inch base setup is noticeably quieter.
The F-Sport package includes an active sound control that amplifies the engine note through the cabin when a roller switch on the lower center stack is engaged. Whether off or fully on, the sound is perfectly natural—and adding some engine noise makes the NX feel sportier if you're on nice curving mountain roads, even if it doesn't change the performance characteristics at all.
No longer groundbreaking like it was two years ago, the Lexus NX is now mid-pack for performance.
The 2017 Lexus NX has a compact footprint with a wheelbase much smaller than many of its competitors, but a comparable overall length.
Interior packaging isn't hugely compromised by having half a foot less space between the wheels, though, and the Lexus manages to be relatively comfortable up front with room for a fair amount of cargo in the back. We give it a 7 out of 10 on our comfort scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
By the numbers, the NX rides on a 104.7-inch wheelbase, which is 9 inches shorter than the Mercedes-Benz GLC and 6 inches shorter than the BMW X3. Despite that, the NX nearly manages the same 183-inch overall length as the other two, although it has slightly less room in the back for rear-seat passengers.
The seats up front are better anyhow. The front seating position isn't as high in the Lexus NX as in some other compact crossovers, giving it a more car-like feel and increasing head room. They're quite supportive, and the sport seats in the optional F-Sport package are even better, with substantial bolsters that feel like those in a sport sedan, rather than a crossover utility vehicle.
The rear seats have 36.1 inches of leg room, though we found both cushions slightly flat compared to the bolstered front seats. The optional power folding rear seat also includes individually adjustable backrests, allowing each of two rear occupants to alter the seat angle to their liking. One surprising design aspect was that the roof pillar just behind the rear door angles forward enough that taller rear-seat passengers have to crane forward to see out the rear window.
The long, low cargo area reflects a basic platform adapted from the high-volume Toyota RAV4, with that vehicle's practicality—though the sloping rear tailgate may prove challenging for large, rectangular boxes or other bulky items. That said, the cargo volume of 17.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 54.6 cubic feet with it folded down is among the lowest in the segment. Rather than a conventional vinyl cargo cover that rolls up to retract, the NX has a folding two-piece "tonneau board" to eliminate the gaps at either side. It looks dressier, but stowing it in the custom compartment under the load floor requires the cargo bay to be empty—which isn't always the case.
The NX has plentiful interior storage space, including a large glove box and an even larger center console.
Up front, the NX is definitely a Lexus. In back? We'll talk to you later.
The 2017 Lexus NX has a solid set of of crash-test ratings and is available with a comprehensive set of advanced safety features.
By the numbers, the NX earned a five-star overall score from federal testers, including four-star ratings in frontal impact and rollover crash safety. The independent IIHS gave the NX top "Good" scores in all of its tests—including the small overlap front crash—and rated its optional advanced safety systems as, well, "Advanced."
After they're all combined, the Lexus NX is a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS and it earns an 8 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Like many new crossovers, the rear three-quarter vision isn't great in the Lexus NX. A rising window line meets a falling roofline to provide only a small triangular view out the rear side, and the standard rearview camera becomes a necessity for parking.
The optional frontal collision warning system senses impending collisions with obstacles or other vehicles ahead via the sensors used for the adaptive cruise control. It's hardly one of the more subtle systems—although that's what you want here; it warns the driver with both a light and a buzzer if a crash is imminent, and will automatically brake if the driver doesn't respond.
Lane departure warnings and blind spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert are optional extras that add more than $1,600 to the sticker if selected together.
The Lexus NX has a very good safety scorecard complemented by good advanced safety features.
|Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:||(4/5)|
|Overall Side Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Barrier Rating:||Not Rated|
|NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating:||(4/5)|
|Side Impact Test||Good|
|Roof Strength Test||Good|
|Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint||Good|
|IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
|IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
The 2017 Lexus NX is offered in three models: NX 200t, NX 200t F Sport, and NX 300h, with multiple options packages among the models.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone air conditioning, steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 7.0-inch screen for infotainment.
Lexus offers good optional equipment beyond that starting point (which is also good), and we like the 7.0-inch screen. All that adds up to an 8 out 10 on our features scale—but there's a caveat: We don't much care for the infotainment system or its controller, so we docked it a point there to arrive at a 7. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Premium and luxury packages are available on NX 200t and NX 300h models, F Sport models can only add premium equipment. Opting for the premium package adds heated and cooled front seats (only heated seats in the F Sport trim), 18-inch wheels, a moonroof, and LED headlights. Splurging on the luxury package, which adds more than $6,500 to the bottom line (including $1,875 for navigation), adds leather upholstery, a power liftgate, and interior wood trim.
The NX 200t F Sport is distinguished by its black mesh grille, which is visually much bolder than the chrome slats on the standard NX. It also adds a number of other trim features, including metallic bumper moldings, black side mirrors, two choices of 18-inch wheels, distinctive cabin fittings, and well-bolstered sport seats with black or red upholstery and accent piping. The pedals and footrest are drilled aluminum—just like those on race cars in which every ounce of extraneous weight must be removed—a stylish, if superfluous, feature. The F-Sport also includes an engine sound composer, which lets the driver boost the engine note heard inside the cabin via a roller switch on the console.
The infotainment is operated via a touchpad in the center console. Drivers can, theoretically, access functions by moving the cursor using only their finger, though we didn't find it notably less distracting than the previous method—and it still requires watching the cursor movement on the screen while driving. Front passengers can also operate the interface, which proved the best method.
Lexus makes available a few features outside of the big packages for choosy buyers. Frontal collision warning with automatic emergency braking, parking assistants, and a power liftgate can all be added as standalone options. A moonroof is available as an a la carte option as well.
Handsomely equipped to start and with very good options, we're still not sold on point-and-click infotainment.
The 2017 Lexus NX manages comparable fuel economy to many other luxury small crossovers, although none of them are particularly fuel efficient.
In base setup, the front-drive Lexus NX 200t manages 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 25 combined, according to the EPA. That's good enough for a 6 out of 10 for fuel efficiency on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Adding all-wheel drive to the NX 200t drops the combined rating 1 mpg, adding the F Sport package drops the highway rating a further 1 mpg. It's important to note that all versions of the NX 200t require premium fuel.
To get the most fuel-efficient form of the NX requires opting for the hybrid NX 300h, which has standard all-wheel drive this year. That version is rated at 33/30/31 mpg by the EPA. At just over $2 a gallon for gas (and more for premium fuel), it would take roughly 6-7 years to recoup the hybrid's initial $3,000 premium.
Most small crossovers from luxury brands hover around the same mark: comparable Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and BMW X3 models are both rated at 24 mpg combined. In many cases, small crossovers aren't much more fuel efficient than the next biggest crossover across the dealer's lots; the base Lexus RX is rated at 23 mpg combined.
The small Lexus 'ute isn't terribly thirsty, but it's not terribly efficient either.