Let’s set the scene: October 2017, The Adelaide Hills, a bright Spring day.
Perfect warm weather is a great environment in which to drive a car to its fullest potential.
The updated NX range has some handy inclusions such a new adaptive suspension, a new infotainment system, and restyled front and rear ends.
The range has been refined to now be known as the NX300 which comes as a 2L turbo, or Hybrid.
An 8 speed automatic is as smooth as silk. The hybrid keeps the CVT from the previous model.
The pricing has increased slightly, but specification has increased substantially.
The range starts at: $54,800 for the Luxury NX 300. F Sport from $60,800, Sports Luxury from $73,800.
Across the range, the hybrid drivetrain adds $2,500, and all-wheel drive $4,500
Enhancement packs for the Luxury and F Sport grades add a moonroof for $2,500 or the moonroof plus 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, head-up display and smart key card for $6,000. These features are standard on Sports Luxury.
Other standard NX features include satellite navigation, reversing camera, power tailgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, smart entry and start, 10-speaker audio with digital radio4, Enform connected mobility2, tyre pressure warning sensors, 60:40 rear-fold seats and a spare wheel.
Importantly, the drive promises a quieter experience in what was an already quiet car. Handling and ride have also seen improvement.
The platform is shared with Toyota’s Rav4, but the similarity ends
It would certainly not be true to say the NX300 is a Rav4 in a pretty frock.
Steering has a lively feel, with a regal detachment. Although you can feel the road surface, it is kept in check by a well sorted chassis, well calibrated steering, and that adaptive suspension mentioned earlier.
The suspension has 650 “positions” selected by the system to keep the handling correct for the situation. The driver can choose which mode, depending on model.
Adaptive headlights on top models allows the computer to switch individual LED cells on and off to keep the road lit, without dazzling oncoming traffic. The cells deactivate as oncoming cars move through the lit field, without the driver having to do anything more than turn the system on.
We didn’t get a chance to use it in the daylight of course, but I have used it at night on other brands.
The styling of the headlights looks neater with the DTRL’s being moved into the bumper to form a “nikie”-like swipe.
The drive is where improvements will be most noticeable.
Gadgets have been lavished on the driver to make sure the car and its passengers are not only comfortable, but safe.
Extra sound proofing has made the cabin eerily quiet on all but the wort of surfaces. We did notice a little wind noise here and there, but it only added to the experience rather than detracting from it.
Lane keeping applies gentle force to the wheel to keep you inside the road markings, with a subtle shake of the steering wheel to let the driver know he has been a bit careless.
Blind spot warning, and forward collision mitigation are only part of the standard safety suite.
I like the Active Cruise Control too. It has a queue function that slows you to a stop in traffic. It stops and goes as the traffic moves, with minimal input from the driver.
Lexus stresses that the driver must remain alert, and that the systems are to aid good driving only. It is not meant to be an excuse for poor road manners, and bad driving.
Our drive took us over a series of roads in and around the wine region, sadly, there was no wine at lunch.
Sharp bends, corrugated roads, and loose surfaces showed how capable the NX truly was.
There is standard anti-sway for towing, which I doubt will ever see much use.
It remained composed and comfortable, and very impressive. AWD grip was particularly good.
The cabin feels luxurious. A slightly larger analogue clock, and 10.3” LCD screen, sit in a soft cushioned dashboard. Seating is leather in some models.
All in all, a very nice place to be.
I’d like to have seen a fully LCD driver instrument panel, but you can’t have everything.
The infotainment system input is via a touchpad only, and is not my favourite. I used it in the LC500, and it proved problematic. It is far too fiddly. The LCD is high quality, and has an excellent multi-mode camera set-up.
The Levinson audio in the top models more than makes up for the shortfalls in the input.
Satnav is standard, but with no way of “stopping navigation”, completing the trip, or deleting it altogether, remains the only way to stop directions. It seems a dreadful oversight.
You can turn the volume down, but using voice control is the easiest way to get the lady in the dashboard to shut up.
There is no Apple Carply/Android auto, a point of continuing consternation.
I like NX a lot.
It is spacious, with a premium feel. The safety gear is extensive, and the drive engaging.
Japanese build and reliability, coupled with comfort and quietness make NX one of the best small SUVs on the market.
Styling is modern inside and out.
Apart from the infotainment system, and lack of Carplay, NX is near to flawless.
The AWD models have slightly better manners, and would be my preference over the FWD setup.
If you’d like to see more, Rob Fraser from Anyauto drove the previous model here.
Luxury $54,800, F Sport $60,800, Sports Luxury $73,800,
hybrid drivetrain adds $2,500 and all-wheel drive $4,500
Engine: 2.0L 175kw petrol turbo or 147kw Hybrid
Transmission: 8speed auto for 2.0L and CVT for Hybdrid
Econ: 7.9L/100k for 2.0L and 5.6 for Hybrid