My first thought getting into the 2020 Lexus NX300 Luxury is "Base spec? REALLY?”.
For just over $55,000 before on-road costs, the medium SUV offers sumptuous interior styling, plenty of creature comforts, and a bona-fide buffet of driver assistance tech.
In fact, it’s so kitted out that it's hard to ascertain what going up a grade could possibly add.
How does the Lexus NX300's price compare to competitors?
The recommended list price for the entry-level, two-wheel-drive NX300 Luxury I'm testing here is $55,700 plus on-road costs.
Paying another $4500 on top of that will get you an all-wheel-drive Luxury.
Meanwhile, the next grade up – the front-wheel-drive F Sport – adds sportier looks, a wireless phone charger, ventilated sports seats, adaptive high beams, and a handful of other non-essential features for $61,700 plus on-road costs.
Of course, you could always opt for a hybrid version of the 2WD Luxury for $58,200 plus ORCs, or you could go all-out and buy the top-spec Sports Luxury AWD petrol variant for $73,971 plus ORCs. At that point, though, it feels like you’re just spending money for the sake of it.
The Luxury I drove gives a first impression of serious bang for buck – especially when you consider it’s far cheaper than competitors like the base-spec Audi Q5 (from $66,900 plus ORCs), Mercedes-Benz GLC wagon (from $67,400 plus ORCs) or BMW X3 (from $68,900 plus ORCs).
|Options as tested||NA|
What kind of car is the Lexus NX300?
The NX300 has turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine (with outputs of 175kW and 350Nm) which sends power to the front wheels only via a six-speed automatic transmission, with paddle shifters on the wheel for those who want to feel a bit more in control.
It's classed as a medium SUV, but the body of the NX300 is actually quite narrow despite the car’s height, and it’s certainly a more manageable size around town than the monstrous LX570 I drove a few weeks prior.
Of course, there will be plenty of naysayers who dismiss the NX300 as a Toyota RAV4 in expensive clothing. While they’re technically not wrong – the NX300 shares the same wheelbase and a handful of other components with the previous-generation RAV4 – the Lexus certainly looks and feels more premium on the inside and outside.
As for the whole ‘why buy a Lexus when you could have a Toyota for half the price?’ argument, the same could be said for the rest of the luxury car market. You’re paying extra for brand prestige, design finesse, luxury feel and X-factor. And for plenty of buyers, that’s reason enough.
Four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
175kW @ 4800-5600rpm
350Nm @ 1650-4000rpm
|Power to weight ratio||103kW/tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||7.7L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||60L|
What's the Lexus NX300 like to drive?
I found the NX300 to be a perfectly capable, relatively refined road-surfer – and the supremely cushy seats certainly helped the overall comfort level.
The turbo-powered engine certainly never feels like it's lacking, and it pairs well with an incredibly smooth idle-stop system, which is so well-executed it's easy to forget about. All in all, the entire arrangement is satisfyingly uncomplicated.
Road roughness isn’t always imperceptible, however, particularly during city and suburban driving, but the NX300 does a solid job of removing the bulk of the harshness and vibrations, as well as the engine and tyre noise.
You won't quite feel like you're floating on air, but most average buyers will have very few complaints.
The steering in the car feels as though it has a bit more weight to it, so it can feel like more pull is required to turn the wheel when taking sharper corners.
Otherwise, to me, the NX300 often seemed sportier than other SUVs of its size, with a punchy and immediate throttle response and a lower centre of gravity which gives it the illusion of feeling a bit more agile.
I don’t typically notice a huge difference when choosing the ‘sport’ mode in cars, but in the NX300 I felt it become immediately quicker to respond with a lot more kick to it upon accelerator input and a touch more fun factor.
All-round visibility is also great and greatly complimented by the car's impressively comprehensive driver assistance and safety technology.
However, an 11.4-metre turning circle can mean U-turns become three-point turns more regularly than someone shopping for a more compact SUV might like, but it's by no means a deal-breaker.
Does the Lexus NX300 have good fuel economy?
Fuel economy in the NX300 Luxury is quoted as 7.7L/100km, but my week of, admittedly, mostly city driving was closer to 11.4L/100km – which feels like the consumption figure of a much larger car.
A lack of longer freeway sprints could have contributed to this higher figure, given I drove this car at the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown, which meant I couldn't stray far from home and was stuck in suburbia.
As such, I engaged in shorter, more regular trips with and without passengers, all the while with the idle-stop system engaged and typically with the car's seat heaters and climate control active.
In a previous review, the NX300 Luxury hovered around the 8.0L/100km mark for more mixed use driving, while a more recent review of the front-wheel-drive Crafted edition also recorded north of 11L/100km.
Is the Lexus NX300 a spacious and comfortable car?
To me, the NX300's cabin is where a lot of the premium feel lies – you can nab two-toned seats as standard (I recommend the caramel-hued ‘Ochre trim’) and they’re incredibly comfortable, something most of my passengers remarked on immediately.
There are thoughtful design touches throughout, like a padded leather rest for your wrist while you use the touchpad and even a removable hand mirror. Less civilised people will tell you the latter serves a debaucherous purpose, but I legitimately used mine to check my makeup – so get your minds out of the gutter, folks.
The NX300 ensures it puts the ‘SUV’ in ‘medium SUV’ with its spacious cabin, which offers front and rear passengers plenty of room to move. The only occupant who might feel a little hard done by is the rear middle passenger, who’s forced to put up with a fairly narrow seat.
The boot, accessible by a power tailgate, offers 500L of space, or up to 1545L with the rear seats folded. That’s roughly 50L less than many of its competitors, but you'll only feel it's lacking if your requirements extend beyond supermarket shopping, luggage and the family dog.
|Boot volume (min/max)||500L / 1545L|
|Towing capacity (braked/unbraked)||1000kg|
18-inch / 225/60/18
What standard equipment does the Lexus NX300 have?
As previously discussed, the NX300 is chock-full of driver assistance and safety tech – so much so that navigating the tiered dash can feel overwhelming at times.
That’s not helped by the tricky touchpad Lexus inexplicably persists with – although this time round I found it slightly easier to utilise (practice makes passable, I guess?). Still, I’d rather a touchscreen.
Keyless entry and exit, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, seat heaters, brake hold – you name it, the Lexus has it. Well, except for a speed limiter and a head-up display (lack of the first is a pet peeve, but lack of the second is tolerable thanks to the positioning of the instrument cluster).
A particular standout was the lane-trace assist system that keeps you on the straight and narrow by steering and monitoring lane deviation. Unfortunately, the radar active cruise control lacks the smarts of more sophisticated rivals to keep itself in check on downhill runs without a lead car.
This meant the car would roll beyond the set speed without slowing itself, despite being an 'adaptive' system, which may cost you a speeding ticket if you don’t catch it early enough.
Is the Lexus NX300 a safe car?
Safety-wise, the Luxury has all your acronyms covered, from RSA to PKSA and PCS (translation: it reads speed-limit signs for you, alerts you to obstacles when you’re parking, and will tell you to brake if you’re about to have a crash).
For added safety cred, there are wide-angle cornering lamps to improve pedestrian visibility at night and the pre-collision system boasts daylight cyclist detection.
The Toyota-esque reverse camera really ruined the premium vibe for me – it looks like a video feed from the late ’80s, but it does the job fine.
Should I buy the Lexus NX300?
The NX300 Luxury may be a glammed-up RAV4, but it plays the part with aplomb. The car looks and feels comfortable and refined, offers plenty of premium touches, and is impressively generous with its standard safety tech.
Sure, some of the features lack the elegant execution of Euro rivals, but overall this car works to earn every cent of its $55K price tag. But for the love of all things holy, buy the base spec. Anything else is just window dressing.