The saying goes, you can’t please everyone. That certainly applies to automakers. For example, this week’s tester is the 2021 Lexus NX300h. This luxury compact SUV tries a lot with such a small vehicle.
The h means it has a hybrid powertrain. But my tester was also the special edition F-Sport black line, a sporty hybrid. Is there such a thing?
As a Lexus, he tries to show that he is more than just an overpriced Toyota. With similarities and sharing some aspects of the Toyota RAV4, that’s hard for the NX to shake.
And the NX is at the end of its current life cycle with a redesigned new generation coming for model year 2022 (see video at end). So this week’s tester wants a lot, but can they tick all of these boxes? Not as much. And here is why.
In terms of appearance, the NX300 looks a bit old-fashioned. There is nothing that sets it apart as the NX lacks distinction. It’s pretty enough, but there is no wow factor. I saw a spy photo of the next-gen NX and I love it a lot. Seeing the future of this vehicle may have spoiled my opinion of the current version.
Nonetheless, the steady, consistent, conservative look of this SUV fits its shape. It’s supposed to be refined and as a hybrid it doesn’t have to be sporty or aggressive, which is good because it’s neither.
The drive train of the NX300h is as practical as it gets. The 2.5-liter engine also has three electric motor supports and all-wheel drive. That all sounds good, but it adds up to a meager 194 horsepower. Additionally, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) does its job of being fully efficient, but it doesn’t help make this vehicle an exciting one.
If you are looking for tranquility, efficiency and sophistication, the NX300h is for you. If you expect it to be bubbly, quick, or fun, you will be disappointed.
Inside, the Lexus NX300h fulfills the mission of differentiating itself from its Toyota counterpart. It is imprecise to portray this as a RAV4 with a Lexus badge. It’s much more than that with lots of subtleties and high quality touch points that you won’t find in a Toyota.
The focus is once again on comfort and sophistication and the NX300h is a success for that.
In addition, the cargo space is excellent (especially for a hybrid). There are 16.8 cubic feet behind the second row and 53.6 cubic feet of total cargo space.
Lexus’ touchpad interface for their infotainment system continues to be an obstacle. There is a lack of intuition and the operation is quite cumbersome. It would be appropriate for Lexus to remove this touchpad from any future upgrades to all of its vehicles. Otherwise, the NX has a lot of technology and can be integrated into both Apple and Android smartphones.
With the F-Sport Black Line Special Edition package (new for this model year), the NX succeeds in giving this vehicle a bit of sportiness both outside and inside. Features of this package include: black 18-inch F Sport wheels, color-coded fenders, blue inner seams and heated steering wheel. The Black Line Special Edition definitely makes the NX300h something special and without it this hybrid would have been pretty much forgotten.
The 2021 Lexus NX300h MSRP is $ 46,810. With the target fee and the additional fees for fenders, lighted door sills, and rear bumper guards, my tester had a retail price of $ 48,745.
Any time a vehicle, especially an SUV, can get above 30 mpg, it’s a good thing and the Lexus NX300h has a 33 mpg / city and 30 mpg / highway rating. During the week’s worth of mostly suburban driving, I’ve averaged just over 31 mpg.
This luxury hybrid SUV is considered “good enough” by the general public. It’s just good enough to be relevant and viable, but it’s certainly a good thing that Lexus is updating it since it’s so close to the end of that relevance.