A stylish, comfortable and somewhat compact crossover

A stylish, comfortable and somewhat compact crossover

Luxury compact crossovers are among the most popular types of vehicles in the United States, making the category one of the most controversial in the industry. Almost every luxury brand has a dog in this race, and they all start with relatively similar bases: compact but not too compact chassis, transverse turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and Haldex-based all-wheel drive systems. So how can the new 2023 Lexus NX 350 F Sport stand out from others? and who is he?

The Lexus NX is based on the same chassis as the Toyota RAV4 and Venza, so it has good bones. Lexus then takes that base, and gives it sharp, eye-catching styling, a stylish interior, all-new technology, and a more comfortable ride.

During my week with the NX 350 F Sport, I took my family on two long trips and used it as a daily ride to see if its style, technology and comfort could overcome its lack of space and relatively sedate driving demeanor.

Lexus NX 350 F Sport 2023 specifications
Base price (F Sport Handling as tested) $40,705 ($56,225)
Powertrain 2.4 liter four cylinder turbo 8 speed automatic | All-wheel drive
Horse power 275 at 6000 rpm
Torque 317 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm
Seating capacity 5
Curb weight 4,035 pounds
Towing capacity 2000 pounds
Shipment size 22.7 cubic feet behind the second row | 46.9 cubic feet behind the first row
Land clearance 7.7 inches
0-60 mph 6.6 seconds
EPA fuel economy 22 mpg city | 28 highway | 25 combined
Take it quickly A stylish and comfortable daily driver, if boring and lacking in practicality.
a result 7/10

basics

The NX is Lexus’ second-smallest crossover, only larger than the UX Hybrid. It is also currently one of the newest crossovers from Lexus and contains the brand’s latest technology and interior design. Lexus is starting a new language in interior design, and the NX is the first car to bring it to the forefront.

There’s a new touchscreen infotainment system replacing the old trackpad setup, and it represents a huge leap forward. The old trackpad system was almost painful to use, but this new system is one of the best touchscreens I’ve used. Everything is well laid out, you don’t have to dig through multiple submenus to find most functions, and the climate bar at the bottom is consistent. Most importantly, all climate buttons remain easy to use while driving.

As for the rest of its red interior, the NX 350 is typical Lexus, which is a good thing. The design is sporty and interesting, every material is top-notch, and the build quality feels sturdy enough to withstand a hit from a drone. For years, Lexus’ beautiful, comfortable interiors were riddled with a terrible infotainment system, but since Lexus fixed that in the NX, the rest of the interior can be appreciated better.

Cruising around the neighborhood in the NX 350 F Sport is bound to turn heads. The NX retains Lexus’ signature spindle grille, but it’s one of the cleanest uses of it yet. Its headlights are simple, with jewel-like LEDs, and its taillights are connected to a light strip that runs the width of the tailgate. For a car based on the RAV4, the Lexus NX looks sharp and expensive, especially in my test car’s Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 paint.

The NX is available with a few engines: a 2.5-liter unassisted engine in the base 250, a hybrid version of that in the 350h, or a plug-in hybrid system with the 450h+. However, for this non-hybrid 350 model, Lexus borrowed Toyota’s new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine from the updated Highlander with 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. The powerful four pairs of pots are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and drive all four wheels.

Driving the Lexus NX 350 F Sport

Lexus claims zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is quick enough, but the engine never felt particularly interested in achieving that. He’s gruff and whiny, like a Highlander, and never wants to work hard. However, there are no complaints about the eight-speed automatic transmission, which shifts gears smoothly.

My test car also had the Handling Package, meaning it rode on adaptive dampers, sat in sport seats, and wore gloss black 20-inch wheels. As far as I can tell, “handling package” is somewhat of a misnomer. The NX 350 F Sport Handling doesn’t have a sporty feel, nor does it handle well. Its steering is actually well weighted, but unfortunately this doesn’t translate into sharp front-end response, and its suspension is too soft and allows for too much roll. I couldn’t find the grip limits because the nausea would start all over the body before the NX got to that point.

The flip side of this lack of sportiness is superior driving comfort. The NX 350 F Sport Handling is more of a comfortable daily driver than a sporty crossover despite its larger wheels, short wheelbase, sporty appearance, Sport name, and supposed sport suspension. They’re soft enough to handle big bumps with ease but still composed enough to eliminate any minor vertical movement or tension. It’s quiet inside too, so highway driving is a breeze.

During my week there, I drove from my home in southern New Jersey to Manhattan. The long drive to New York City was comfortable, and the NX’s compact size and tall ride height made navigating painful Manhattan traffic a breeze.

Since I had the NX 350 F Sport over Easter, I also had to take family rides in it, which meant packing up my family of four, our dog, and all the Easter baskets we had to deliver to my nieces and nephews. This is the part where I would say the Lexus did well, but it doesn’t. My dog ​​was basically pinned to one side of the cargo area with a few bags taking up most of her space. (Mr. Dr. NB: Lexus NX 2023: No, the dog won’t. -CT) My son also had to put bags between his legs in the second row because they wouldn’t fit in the trunk with the dog. None of us were comfortable. The Lexus NX 350 F Sport is too small to be considered a suitable family car.

Highs and lows

The Lexus NX 350 is one of the largest mixed bags I’ve driven in a long time. There is certainly a lot to like about this topic. It’s a good-looking little car that stands out from the sea of ​​boringly styled crossovers, its interior is sharp and interesting, its new infotainment tech is nice to use, and it’s probably the most comfortable crossover in its class.

However, there are a few things she doesn’t like as well. Its size undermines its usefulness as a crossover, and its engine isn’t very fun to use, isn’t very efficient, and lacks the sporty ride that its looks and F Sport name suggest. Also equipped, the NX 350 F Sport Handling is expensive, at close to $60,000, and it’s not even the most expensive NX you can get.

Features, options and competition of the Lexus NX 350 F Sport

As usual with Lexus, the NX comes well equipped as standard. The entry-level NX 250 starts at $40,705 and comes with NuLuxe synthetic leather, a leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power front seats, heated seats, 18-inch wheels, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

My Lexus NX 350 F Sport Handling tester has an upgraded 14-inch infotainment screen ($1,105), a killer 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system ($1,020), a panoramic sunroof ($1,600), and a view camera system Surround ($1,070). . A few extra goodies, like a cold weather package, a digital rearview camera, and triple-beam headlights with cornering lights — all under $1,000 each — brought the price of my car as tested to $56,225.

Competing in the premium compact crossover segment means competing with cars like the Acura RDX, BMW X1, Audi Q3, and Cadillac XT4. Although the NX is the second-smallest Lexus SUV, its small size and limited cargo space put it more in line with the cars mentioned above, rather than cars like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. The NX has 22.7 cubic feet of cargo space, making it smaller than the BMW X1 (27.1 cubic feet), Acura RDX (31.1 cubic feet), and Audi Q3 (23.7 cubic feet).

The Lexus is more comfortable than the Germans, but the BMW X1 rides and handles better. Its competitors are all priced similarly but they all come with more powerful engines to start, while the Lexus NX needs to jump up to 350 to get its more powerful engine.

If I were to spec the Lexus NX, I’d go with the 350 F Sport but skip the handling package. I like the look of this car, inside and out, even if its name belies its handling. However, it’s not sharp enough to drive to justify the handling package, so I rely solely on its strength: comfort. The Ultrasonic Blue Mica paint looks great too so I’ll keep it, but I’ll opt for the standard black instead of the red on my test car. I felt like I was sitting in Eddie Murphy’s restaurant delirious Jacket.

Fuel economy

According to the EPA, the Lexus NX 350 gets 25 miles per gallon combined, including 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway. I averaged just over 23 mpg during my week driving the NX 350 on a mix of suburban roads, busy city streets, and highways. Compared to its competitors, it’s a midsize affair, which outperforms cars like the Acura RDX (23 mpg combined) but fares worse against the BMW X1 (28 mpg combined).

Value and judgment

It’s hard to call the Lexus NX 350 F Sport a good value. At its price, all of its competitors are well equipped, but most are more powerful, faster, and feature more luggage space. Instead, what you’re paying for is Lexus style, bank vault build quality, and a comfortable ride. If you value those things above everything else, they’re worth the price.

When I first drove this car, I couldn’t really see who it was intended for. It’s too small to be a family crossover, too expensive to be economical, but not sporty enough to match its style. However, after a week of using it, I feel like the NX 350 (F Sport or otherwise) is intended for a very specific person. Its target customer is someone who can afford a stylish, comfortable crossover that gives them a little more ground clearance than a sedan and a little more trunk space but either doesn’t have kids or lives in an empty lot. If so, the NX 350 could be a great daily driver.

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