By on April 21, 2017

2018 Lexus NX front – Image: Lexus

Pretty? No.

Popular? Most definitely. In fact, the Lexus NX is twice as popular as Lexus anticipated.

The Lexus NX, a crossover you must never confuse with the Nissan NX, is marketed in the United States both in NX200t and NX300h variants. At the New York International Auto Show three years ago, Lexus revealed the brand hoped to sell around 26,000 NXs per year; roughly 2,200 per month. At that point, in the lead-up to the NX’s 2014 Q4 launch, there were two schools of thought. One, the NX was so ghastly to behold Lexus surely wouldn’t sell 2,200 per month. Or, because Lexus is such a luxury crossover powerhouse, even the NX — with a face even a mother couldn’t love — will be more popular than Lexus anticipated.

Dealers believed Lexus’ forecast was on the low side.

But could anyone have expected the Lexus NX would be more than twice as popular as originally forecasted; that the Lexus NX would be America’s fifth-best-selling luxury utility vehicle; that the NX would account for one-in-five Lexus sales in America?

The hybrid helps, but not to any great degree. According to, only 5 percent of the NXs sold in the U.S. in calendar year 2016, and 5 percent so far this year, have been of the NX300h variety.

It’s the core NX200t — the one with the 235-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that starts at $36,280 and easily undercuts the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Audi Q5 — that has made the Lexus NX more than twice as popular as Lexus originally expected.

Way up from the 2,200 units per month Lexus forecasted, the brand is now selling nearly 4,500 per month, having topped 5,000 units in three of the last five months and reaching an all-time monthly high of 7,375 units in December 2016.

The NX doesn’t appear to have peaked, either. In 15 of the last 17 months, Lexus has reported year-over-year NX sales growth, with U.S. volume rising 25 percent in 2016 and 6 percent in the first-quarter of 2017 despite a slow start.

2018 Lexus NX rear - Image: Lexus

Lexus recently unveiled the refreshed 2018 Lexus NX in Shanghai. It didn’t exactly become a Range Rover Velar or Mercedes-AMG GLC63 or Volvo XC90 or Mazda CX-9 overnight. Nor does Lexus predict a continued rapid expansion of sales, with senior manager of communications Nancy Hubbell telling TTAC the brand expects NX volume to stay roughly where it is now.

“The NX is now in the fastest-growing segment of the luxury industry and more competitors are joining all the time,” Hubbell says, pointing to the diversity of alternatives as one reason Lexus can’t hope to double its forecasted output again.

One factor that led Lexus to its conservative early estimate was the degree of success enjoyed by its slightly larger sibling, the Lexus RX. Historically America’s best-selling luxury brand utility vehicle — and by a wide margin — it was safe to assume the RX wouldn’t make a great deal of space on the couch for the NX’s backside to earn a whole cushion.

And yet the NX has carved out a space for itself, not by eating into the RX’s territory, but by growing the couch. 2016 was the best year for U.S. Lexus RX sales in the model’s two-decade history despite the presence of another, more affordable two-row crossover inside the RX’s own showroom.

With the RX still growing, the NX contributing at an unexpectedly high level, and the GX and LX adding incremental volume, Lexus utility vehicle volume in 2016 was 43-percent stronger than it was in 2014.

How do the RX and NX co-exist? Lexus says the buyers are different. The average RX buyer is 64, eight years older than the average NX buyer. And the buyer of the RX, which has a base price 22-percent higher than the NX’s, earns approximately $150,000 per year, 36-percent more than the NX buyer earns.

The NX’s surprising popularity wasn’t just a surprise to Lexus in the United States. “The Lexus NX dramatically outperformed sales forecasts in every one of its markets around the world, including North America, Europe, and China,” the company’s press release for the 2018 model says.

Consumers are clearly enticed by athletic-for-a-Lexus dynamics, a sufficiently roomy interior, excellent seats, and a premium aura that makes smaller but similarly priced German subcompact crossovers seem cheap, though you and I may fail to be seduced by its gaping maw.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @timcaingcbc.

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83 Comments on “Did Anybody Believe The Lexus NX Would Be This Popular?...”

  • avatar

    I’m not crazy about Lexus’ current styling theme, but I think it works very nicely on this particular model. I think that has a lot to do with it.

    I also like the interior on this model.

    And since it’s a gussied-up RAV4, it must be a real cash cow.

    • 0 avatar

      No, this is not RAV4. they may be ride same platform but Rav4 has 101 q.ft. of space while NX only 71. NX is a smaller vehicle but light-years more comfortable.

      In fact, last week I had privilege to drive it twice. I also drove RDX and Infinity qx30, And ’17 CX5. Infinity is not even in same league, it is just not an SUV. Acura is fast and pretty comfortable. But its center console is not too fancy. Mazda is good but not as fast and my relative wants status.

      NX. NX is small but incredibly comfortable, even on second row. Its leather seats are just dream. Bigger cars in this test didn’t have rear reclining seats, NX had them. We tested 45K MSRP model and dealer gives it away for 43K out of the door. Lexus is huge price undercut for its German competition.

      • 0 avatar

        The Buick Envision is just as comfortable and quiet as the NX, similar price or less on new 2016 Envison Prem l that could be had for about $10,000 or $33K if you don’t mind shipping from Miami or Illinois.

        The Envision is bigger, handles better, has torque vectoring AWD standard, and can see mid-30’s on the higbway.

        • 0 avatar

          Is this the one made in China?

          • 0 avatar

            YES. MADE IN CHINA.

          • 0 avatar

            “YES. MADE IN CHINA.

            Strangely, there was once a day people said the same thing about “Made in Japan.”

          • 0 avatar

            Just curious, redapple, where was the device on which you made the preceding comment built?

          • 0 avatar


            Easy on the curves buddy. When Japanese cars came to US they sold cars made for Japanese people. today they sell cars made for Americans. NX made in Japan – guarantee of best quality.


            The device? May be. Mine was build in US using Taiwanese, Mexican and Indonesian parts. Now, the choice is little here. But in car, the choice is not to buy Buick because:
            1- it will teach GM that consumer is not buying Chinese-made
            2- Chinese just don’t do a good job
            3- Chinese stealing out tech and not paying royalties
            4- china has too many people, it pollutes, etc.; if we give them jobs they may start making even more babies
            5- china is most polluted country, and the car that comes from there is polluted
            6- Trump is gonna nuke them anyway

          • 0 avatar

            I think it depends, but when buying products from the PRC essentially you are being robbed of long term ownership and materials quality.

            The issue is two fold in my view:

            1. The Chinese can produce world class products, they do not because they largely choose not too.

            2. Wholesalers and resalers are literally stealing hundreds of percent of value from you while delivering largely poor materials quality in the product.

            I personally like to buy quality products but I would not mind a PRC assembled product if the price and value were in reasonable harmony. However as we see with the Beats headphones by Dr. Dre, the user is talked out of $180 for a $16 product. Now I understand mfg costs, R&D, and margin from a mfg, wholesaler, and retailer, but this is a tad ridiculous. Not to mention the fact by building in PRC robs potential jobs from North America, hell even if production costs went to $50/unit in the current design, they found a market at $200. How much is enough? The current PRC assembled product in this case might be a $50-60 item all in on the shelf, where the frack is $200 coming from other than theft at all levels?

            On top of that they break easily:

            “I estimate that the COGS without labor or shipping is $16.89 — yet Beats is able to successfully retail these headphones for $199+. This is the power of brand. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine have leveraged their personal backgrounds and a sleek design to launch a remarkable brand that’s become fundamental to music pop culture.”


            EDIT: Christ on a bike, $299 now:


            F*** me you are stupid America.

          • 0 avatar

            How ’bout not buying “Made in China” b/c China is a totalitarian state which will eventually become the biggest military rival to the US?

            And unlike for things like cell phones, apparel, etc. – there are plenty of other options for autos (not made in China).

            In terms of quality – there really isn’t an issue when it’s a non-Chinese company that uses its own manufacturing methods and does checks on the quality of parts/materials provided by suppliers.

        • 0 avatar


          But it’s a Buick. There is intrinsic crappiness with the “domestics”. No, I am not joking.

          • 0 avatar

            Wsn, that much less than the current value and it has lease residuals to back it up. Edmunds has lease data on 12/36 63-66% residuals on the Buick, where the Lexus NX is 60-62%. So much for Lexus not depreciating. Money factor is much better with the Buick too. These are based on MSRP and we know Buick can give you a $10,000 head start as you walk out the door where Lexus might show you a $1,000 and hope for residuals down the road.

            So WSN and your anti-GM peanut gallery, time to get the facts straight.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          That 10k isn’t a savings in the long haul. 250,00 miles later, most people would rather be in the NX than in the Envision. For most people, not the paper route guy with a Fiesta that had 287,000 miles on it; the TCO of ownership on the NW will be much lower than the Envision. At 15 years and 250,000 miles someone will still want to buy the NX. The Envision? No so much. YTT(Trifecta Tune)MPG may vary

          • 0 avatar

            Coolant changes just outside of the bumper warranty at 45,000 miles for the Lexus. Along with differential changes at the same time if towing or traveling with a top cargo carrioer. Sounds like fluids are at their limits. Coolant changes are not until 150,000 miles on the Buick Envision. But transmission changes are every 60k.

          • 0 avatar

            Nobody who’s buying either of these things new is still going to be in them, or care about them, 250k down the road.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        Well, if it rides on the same platform, then it can be credibly argued that it *is* a gussied-up RAV4, smaller volume being irrelevant. The NX300h is even closer, as it has the same hybrid powertrain.

        • 0 avatar

          @Jeff W.

          If you are talking of Nissan Pathfinder and its Infinity counterpart, you can say that Infinity is souped up pathfinder. In case of NX, there are more changes to the car.

          “…Lexus calls [NX] “loosely related to the RAV4,” Toyota’s popular small SUV. Still, Lexus insists the NX has 90 percent different parts and a structure that’s 20 percent more rigid…”

      • 0 avatar

        Except X3 has way more trunk space (I don’t think NX would fit luggage of family with kids going on vacation) and quite a bit faster. Wife said NX was slow. Choices of colors/interiors were limited. X3 won over.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with FreedMike. The NX is a crisp looking CUV.

      If Mr. Timothy Cain is confused as why such an ugly vehicle could be so popular, the problem is with his taste.

    • 0 avatar

      The Lexus design language is at least cohesive on the NX, unlike looking like being “tacked on” for other models (such as on the GS, LS, etc.) and less polarizing than the new RX (which is nearly Prius-level awful).

      Don’t know why Toyota would be surprised at the sales level of the NX.

      One only had to look at the sales success of the Acura RDX and the movement towards crossovers and SUVs has only increased.

    • 0 avatar

      My first post. This looks like an awesome site.

      I tried an NX in 2014 and was not impressed. Even though I was looking to replace my 04 RX, a very different vehicle, for sure. But even so, I thought the NX had a very stiff, jiggly ride, sluggish handling a noisy cabin, and a little on the small side. It seemed like an over priced, primped out RAV4. It sounds like Lexus has improved the NX since then, which is a good thing, because there is definitely a market for a vehicle like this.

      By the way, my wife’s ’17 RAV4 hybrid ltd is a terrific vehicle. It’s built in Japan (which I believe makes a superior product), has a smooth ride, strong acceleration, an attractive and quiet cabin for e vehicle this size, and good mileage. If you want a vehicle this size, and want to save $10k, you might want to check out the RAV4 before you buy the NX.

  • avatar

    I have driven the NX. It is not terrible to drive but it is not something I would call a good car. The drivetrain is not very responsive and the steering is just terrible. It is fairly smooth but not really comparable to something like an X3, for example.

  • avatar

    Lexus grill area has to be the ugliest in the market.
    Just shows you no matter how ugly a car is, people buy it anyway.

  • avatar

    This car deserves to sell the best, it is clearly a better drive than the Q3, GLA, and X1 in my opinion. Good job Lexus.

  • avatar

    I found the Lexus grill to look good on some models when they are standing still right in front of me. Not so good in pics or when they move. I have more issues with all lines in the body right now.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I didn’t believe this entire segment would be this popular. But, given the success of the RX, if Lexus put any effort at all into the NX they stood a good chance at doing well. Enthusiasts and car magazines still don’t seem to grasp why a car sells in the larger marketplace.

  • avatar

    It’s the very model of a modern compact crossover. (with apologize to Gilbert and Sullivan)

    Turbo, AWD, ride height, badge snobbery, I’m sure it attracts women to the dealership like ants to honey.

  • avatar

    It isn’t pretty, but at least it’s agressive. Everything it competes with is rounded, soft, and grandmotherly.

  • avatar

    Family member (female) has one of these. Not really my cup of tea but I have driven it extensively and I understand the popularity. They’re not car people. The interior is very well styled and excellent materials. There is more than enough power. And it is very likely to be Lexus-reliable with excellent resale value.

    I personally feel the ride is too busy and a bit too stiff for a Lexus. The brakes are mushy. Handling is a bit odd.

    Personally in this class and price-range, with solid reliability, I much preferred the Acura RDX. The V6 feels more lux, rides better. Feels roomier inside. Easier to see out of. The interior is not up to the Lexus though.

    Honestly though, you can’t really make a mistake buying any Lexus. They’re more than nice enough inside and out, they drive more than well enough especially if you’re not a “car person”, they’ve got a good badge, they don’t break, they hold their value, and they also cost a bit less than the Germans. Its simply an excellently made car for a fair price in its class.

    • 0 avatar

      The RDX has sold 1,000 units less this year and is long in the tooth compared to the newer NX. But the NX is the smallest runt of all of those me tinned above. It is Buick Encore sized!

      • 0 avatar

        Size-wise, NX is the the same as a RAV4 (same platform), and very similar to CR-V / Escape / Rogue / etc. It’s a compact.

        Encore is quite a bit shorter.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          It’s on the smaller side of compact—owing mostly to its origami shape—but it’s definitely compact. Thing is, the German automakers will try to sell you a subcompact for the same money.

          Of the German subcompacts, I like the X1 and that’s about it.

        • 0 avatar

          Freedmike, the Encore’s volume is only 5 cu ft of cargo less than the NX.

  • avatar

    I must be really out of touch but I just can’t see why anybody would pay a lot of money to drive around in a hideous lump like that

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m not surprised. Lexus needed a baby RX several years ago. It’s a fine car. I don’t hate it; I probably just wouldn’t buy one is all. It’s definitely got a lot of value for the money.

  • avatar

    It’s popular? I don’t think I’ve even seen my first one… yet. And I think that hideous nose would be noticeable enough to see even if I didn’t want to see it.

  • avatar

    I’ll throw out for the handful of people that care about such things, a QX50 AWD with the premium package is like $37K and a RWD version can be had for under $35K.

  • avatar

    It’s mostly the relative value for money versus the other luxury brands and the Lexus reputation that sells this. I also don’t find it that ugly. It has better proportions than the RAV4 and it’s not as over the top as the RX.

  • avatar

    I originally thought this would cannibalize RX sales, but apparently it hasn’t. I seriously doubt, however, that the NX is cross-shopped with the X3, Q5, GLC so those comparisons are somewhat irrelevant. More likely it is the IS or GS driver that brings back the sedan after the lease expires and decides they like the NX as a replacement – same ugly Lexus styling, but offering desired higher driving position and utility of a CUV.

    • 0 avatar

      I know of one that it cannibalized. My empty-nester parents downsized to one of these. They were very happy with a third-gen (AL10) RX, to the point that when the hideously styled AL20 appeared, my father decided he wanted to trade in their early-cycle AL10 for one of the last new examples of the same generation. Upon visiting the dealer, however, my parents decided that (a) the NX is much more right-sized for them and that (b) it wears the Predator Grille Era design language much better than does the RX. I wouldn’t say either they or I *like* the styling, but it looks much better in person than in pictures. The standard grille, IMO, is far superior to the F-sport grille you see in reviews.

      I agree with Jerome10’s comment above and those of carguy and dal20402 below.

      There’s a lot to like about it:
      – excellent fit & finish
      – quiet
      – good materials, albeit inferior to those of past Lexuses (I’m benchmarking it against the 2nd-gen, XU30 RX)
      – it’s quick. Sorry, folks, but just because *every* 2.0T and V6 vehicle on the market is quick doesn’t negate the fact that these also are quick.
      – very roomy and comfortable for four passengers, especially given the compact-style length and width of the vehicle.
      – good economy for what it is. I got between 28 and 32 mpg when borrowing it for a 700-mile road trip last summer. Note that when cruising, the 8AR-FTS goes into a pseudo-Atkinson cycle a la the Prius’s engine.
      – it has dual injection, meaning carbon buildup is not the worry that it is in DI-only vehicles. This is important, as Lexus has a cohort of owners who buy for the long haul rather than leasing.
      – they’ve done a great job “premiumizing” the New MC platform. The NX feels weighty and solid.

      Things I don’t like, and these skew toward nitpicking:
      – the front seat headrests. Apparently the ones in the F-sport have more adjustability, but the standard US headrests sit too far forward for many drivers. They don’t bother my parents or me, but I know my brother dislikes them.
      – the 8AR-FTS has a very slight vibration when the NX is braked at red lights. It’s well, well within the limits of “normal 4-cylinder vibration,” but it may bug someone used to a 2GR V6.
      – it has the same dumb rear-center seat belt design that the RAV4 has.
      – rear seat comfort devolves from outstanding to abysmal when you add a third passenger. It’s not really a part of the vehicle’s mission, but I’ve never been in another rear seat that is so fantastic for two adults but so bad for three. Chalk it up to narrow dimensions and tumblehome in the side glass.
      – the touch pad infotainment controller is pretty bad; it’s definitely a step backwards from the old joystick.
      – feel free to laugh, but the CD player is a big downgrade from those in previous Lexuses. If you’re still going to offer it, keep it high-grade. The old RX’s stereo would play my crappiest of CD-Rs with aplomb; the NX’s won’t read them.
      – throttle settings from Normal to Sport seem to vary little; for Normal to Eco, they vary hugely. Eco seems designed to mitigate fuel wasting by binary drivers who can’t modulate the throttle. If you have a light foot, Normal is going to serve you much better in traffic.

      Apart from what I’ve noted about Eco mode, I disagree with criticisms of its dynamics. Within the context of FWD-based Canyoneros, it’s a solid balance of comfort and performance. If you’re comparing it to something RWD-based or lower slung, then no, it’s not going to shine.

      All in all, it’s a good vehicle.

  • avatar

    What’s not to like? Its affordable, reliable and, in F-Sport guise, a perfectly good handling compact CUV. Add to that a great dealer experience and decent resale and you have a formula for sales success.

  • avatar

    It’s the most comfortable vehicle in the class, and has probably the nicest interior materials in the class. Unlike the Germans, Lexus didn’t reduce their standards much for this class. The interior is several cuts above those in the X1 or GLA.

    When we were car shopping, my wife *loved* the NX300h, but they were too expensive both new and used. Used RX450h were actually cheaper, although my wife didn’t like them as much (felt too big and heavy). The model was severely supply-constrained for quite a while after launch.

  • avatar
    George B

    “Consumers are clearly enticed by athletic-for-a-Lexus dynamics, a sufficiently roomy interior, excellent seats, and a premium aura that makes smaller but similarly priced German subcompact crossovers seem cheap, though you and I may fail to be seduced by its gaping maw.”

    Tim, I think the Lexus NX simply has a luxury badge at a reasonable price and enough ride height so the female driver can see over other cars in traffic. It could as athletic as a farm tractor and still sell so long as it has a big “L” in front and enough refinement to make a positive first impression.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    And how successful is the Nissan Rogue?

    Maybe the Star Wars effect is not as great as some consider.

    The hatch makes a comeback.

    • 0 avatar

      According to Tim Cain, the Rogue sells quite well:

      According to this Nissan, the Rogue had a great March with 39,512 units sold:

      That makes it the best seller in its segment for the year so far, according to Cain’s GCBC website:

      That would make it the best selling non-truck vehicle of any type in the US, behind only the full-size offerings from Ford, Chevy, and Ram.

      I’d day that is, by any measure, a best selling vehicle.

      But what on earth do the Rogue’s sales have to do with this Lexus? They aren’t competitors, as they get ranked in different sales segments. You won’t find a single model from a luxury marque in the Top 55 of US sales, and when you do, its the Lexus RX, which is WAY ahead of the closest competitor, the BMW X3:

      I don’t think you are asking for a comparison that makes any sense.

  • avatar

    Credit where due – Toyota demonstrate their forward thinking prowess yet again, anticipating trends years ahead of competitors.

    Who else would have been brave enough to go all in on the “Trump Gob” front end styling when they did?

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t think the sales success of the NX has much to do with the styling.

      Look at the tepid sales of the IS, RC, GS and LS.

      Frankly, I’m a little surprised it took Toyota as long as it did to come out with an Acura RDX competitor.

  • avatar

    Took my wife’s NX F-sport loaner on a 20 mile round trip for ice cream, found it far nicer than I expected. Much like the IS250, it wasn’t fast or slow, but the “of a piece” same story coming to me from the interior, ride, dash, infotainment, controls etc. that made it enjoyable. The well executed integration of all the various occupant/driver facing factors is special. The 1st gen RSX I drove was sportier, but had an odd mix of cheap and nice bits inside and some very flawed for our family ergonomic issues. The Audi is nicer, but for what it costs to own I’m going to move up in size.

  • avatar

    Has anyone seen the new Audi witness protection ad? Where they try to clarify the Lexus blends in better with a crowd then a q5.

  • avatar

    I’ve had the NX as a loaner twice when my GS400 was being serviced. What a pile of crap. The engine moos like a sick cow, the tall suspension is far too stiff for the height the sport mode makes the accelerator into a hair-trigger, it’s cramped and the touch-screen mouse thingy are a nightmare to use. I think it looks kind of cool but it’s a real let-down for Lexus.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Lemme see, your GS400 is a comfortable mid-size sedan that you’re comfortable with. You disliked a small CUV that was unfamiliar to you wile your sedan was being fixed then had anecdotal comments to make about it. Nest time, let some of the females you know drive the NX. You may end up surprised.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Because our esteemed editing staff are crafty and filled with boundless guile; I believe a Lexus NX and a Lincoln MKC comparison test are in due order. I know some lady lawyers who really like theirs.

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