By on March 19, 2019

  2018 Lexus NX 300h front quarter

2018 Lexus NX 300h

2.5-liter hybrid inline-four (194 total system hp)

Continuously-variable transmission, all-wheel drive

33 city / 30 highway / 31 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

7.2 city / 7.9 highway / 7.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

31.7 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $39,330 US / $58,206 CAD

As Tested: $48,503 / $58,940 CAD

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,206 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

The luxury crossover realm is a weird one. The market has been built on the age-old plan of taking a more basic model and adding profitable flash. The problem lies when the base model is good enough for most buyers.

Indeed, starting out with the best-selling non-truck in America means building something distinctive atop the platform is a challenge. Distinctive most certainly describes this Lexus NX 300h, in more ways than one. But beneath the surface lies a solid performer.

2018 Lexus NX 300h profile

Styling, however, remains improbably weird, much like most of the mainstream Lexus lineup. Note the massive front overhang looking like a cartoonishly large nose. Creases, panel gaps, and body seams are everywhere, with no coherent theme. At least my tester was painted beigeish-silverish (like every third crossover at Kroger), meaning it will eventually blend into the background of suburban life.

From the front, the NX at least has one of the least-offensive applications of the signature Lexus spindle grille. The combination of headlamp and LED running light swoosh is awkward, however. Note the little channel catching the light coming from the innermost edge of each headlamp – it looks a bit like my inflamed tear ducts in the middle of hay fever season.

2018 Lexus NX 300h front

While I’m piling on complaints, I have two more. One is what I assume is a fluke – but the other is an inconvenience. I awoke one morning to a surprise combo snow-and-ice fall and needed to clear the glass to get to the office. I’m searching the cabin for the snow brush the fleet management company places in each car this time of the year in this godforsaken frozen wasteland we call The North, all in vain. I figured (correctly) that the brush would be in the cargo hold, and pressed the power hatch release.

2018 Lexus NX 300h interior

Nothing. The hatch refused to open. I tried again from outside the car, pressing the button on the hatch itself, to no avail. I mean, I get it. It’s somewhere below twenty degrees Fahrenheit; I didn’t want to arise, either. I climbed into the rear seat and reached over to retrieve the brush and cleared the glass, all while cursing.

The issue never returned, even on a colder morning, but I made sure to keep the snow brush in the front cabin.

The other serious dislike – the touchpad controls for the infotainment system. I’ve managed to adapt to the mouse-like nubbin on some other Lexus models, but the touchpad is so imprecise that I find myself taking my eyes off the road to more accurately select a navigation waypoint or a new audio track. I have to say, it’s time to suck it up and offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Lexus. Even if it requires hastily duct-taping an iPad to the dashboard of every car, God knows it would be an improvement. The famously loyal Lexus buyer might not care about the tape, either.

2018 Lexus NX 300h center stack

That’s probably the point. Lexus doesn’t need to make the NX 300h better on the inside, nor does it need to look better outside. Lexus buyers will keep buying a Lexus, and other brand owners will often aspire to own a Lexus, all due to three significant factors: reliability, solid resale value, and an incredible dealership experience. The driving experience is secondary.

That’s where this ugly duckling shines, surprisingly – on the road. Through that snow? Faultless. On pockmarked roads after the snow melted? Solid, quiet. On the highway? Without equal. I put a few more highway miles on the NX hybrid than I normally do in the span of a week – I drove to and from Cleveland, as well as to Detroit, from my Columbus home – and I could have continued on the Interstate without complaint for hours on end.

The ride was quiet, with barely audible thumps when whacking the interminable expansion joints on Interstate 71. Crosswind stability was superb, especially when blasted by eighteen-wheeler traffic. Seating front and rear was relaxing and serene. Steering was light enough while cruising, but was surprisingly well-weighted at lower speeds, allowing easy, precise placement of the crossover at all times.

2018 Lexus NX 300h front seat

That drive could have gone on for some time, too – the relatively small fuel tank (14.8 gallons) pairs with Lexus’ hybrid system for a combined rating of 31 mpg. I managed a bit better over my time, at 31.7 mpg for the week. For a tall, heavy wagon, that’s rather impressive.

2018 Lexus NX 300h rear seat

At nearly $49,000 as tested, it ought to be impressive. A de-contented NX 300h starts just under $40k, but adding navigation and heated/ventilated seats, among other niceties that really should be standard in a Lexus, brings that bottom line up a good bit.

This wouldn’t be my first choice for a compact crossover. I’d struggle to get beyond the looks and the touchpad. But I’m certain that there are thousands of buyers who’ll be swayed by other factors, and if they can deal with the little superficial concerns that bug me, they will be incredibly happy with what lies beneath.

2018 Lexus NX 300h rear

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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33 Comments on “2018 Lexus NX 300h Review – In the Eye of the Beholder...”


  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Is the silver trim real metal or painted plastic?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    With the F-sport appearance package, this is actually a decent looking car.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Agreed, this one actually looks good in F-Sport trim and even looks pretty good here. Other than the ridiculous dashboard pop-tart infotainment system from the early 2000s, its a pretty solid crossover.

      Trouble is, many buyers want great tech in their cars and will look elsewhere to get it. I hope Toyota ups their tech game – and soon.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    The Lexus ES hybrid has a combined rating of 41 mpg. A ten miles per gallon decrease is quite a hit for the thrill of riding high.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The difference between 31 and 41 mpg is literally four dollars a week. WGAS?

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        I drive 20,000 miles annually. With my CA spec gasoline running $$3.20/gal now, that 10 mpg difference equates to roughly $9.70 a week or $504.00 annually.

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          Gee – I thought everyone in California was driving a Tesla or riding high speed rail. You mean they still sell gasoline?

          • 0 avatar
            R Henry

            Yes, there are certainly a significant number of Tesla’s in my hometown. It is curious to note that we also have a Rolls/Bentley dealer, a Ferrari dealer, a Maserati/Alfa Romeo dealer with a full pre-owned exotics department, and the nation’s only AMG only store. Thousand Oaks, CA is a curious place.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          OK. A 90th percentile commute and California gas prices make it 9 bucks a week.

          Against 170 bucks a week in depreciation.

          • 0 avatar
            R Henry

            Those are my actual fuel costs/driving habits, which matter to me. Depreciation is not a big deal if you buy a well depreciated car in the first place. I don’t like wasting money.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            “Depreciation is not a big deal if you buy a well depreciated car in the first place. ”

            Lexus definitely has you in mind while deciding what their $60,000 cars are going to have.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        The ES gets THIRTY THREE PERCENT better gas mileage than the NX.

        That’s a HUGE hit.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          Any high end Toyota or Lexus lose value like any other premium auto brand.

          A new Land Cruiser is $76K while an Escalade is $64K on cars.com. While a 2009 with less than150,000 miles the LC is $26K and a Escalade is $17K.  A new LX570 3-row is $92K while a 2009 is $27K.

          So the LC drops $50K and the Escalade only drops $48K.  Toyota LC is not luxurious and should not have that depreciation compared to another luxury marque.the LX is more like a luxury vehicle in it’s high depreciation of $65 in last decade.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          A 33 percent increase in the cost of Orange hair coloring, while possibly huge in isolation, doesn’t really matter all that much as far as the Federal budget deficit is concerned…. I suspect many Lexus buyers feel the same way about this 33 percent.

  • avatar
    Heino

    Isn’t this related to the RAV4 hybrid?

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      Well, the problem is that this NX is related to the previous generation RAV4 Hybrid. That was fine 4 years ago, but now that its former platform mate has moved to the TGNA architecture and has an improved hybrid motor capable of greater hp and mpg, the NX is quite outdated. I’m glad the reviewer got a chance to drive and review a vehicle I like, but that reference point is important context. I, for one, love the NX style. But the next gen should be vastly improved if the RAV4 is any indication.
      disclosure: current owner of a Lexus and former owner of RAV4 hybrid.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    Why is this grille referred to as a “spindle grille”? What spindle does it resemble? It has a very slight resemblance to an ancient Greek spindle *weight*, but the actual spindle (the long shaft) is not here in any form.

    Did someone at Lexus or Toyota actually refer to this using the word “spindle”?

    May I suggest that it actually bears a far greater resemblance to women’s clothing?

    May I suggest we henceforth refer to it as “the trademark Lexus Black Strapless A-Line Dress grille”?

    https://goo.gl/images/32ddXb

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “May I suggest we henceforth refer to it as ‘the trademark Lexus Black Strapless A-Line Dress grille’?”

      That’s way too many words.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      @SPPPP

      1. It sort of does look like a spindle. It particularly looks like two full drop spindles, facing each other.

      2. Lexus themselves did call it the Spindle grille. Often times, automakers themselves trademark or name specific design motifs to strengthen their association with the brand. See Kia’s Tiger Nose grille or Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design. Sometimes, the design motifs are unsightly enough that journalists create their own names. Acura may have called their previous grille design Power Plenum, but many in the industry referred to it as a beak. Other motifs are so old, it’s hard to tell where the name came from. It’s unclear whether or not BMW named its own Kidney grille, but I’ve certainly seen them use that in press releases.

      3. I agree on it looking like an A-line dress, but that’s not naturally catchy. It’s also gendered and would risk the chance of turning off some non-female-identifying buyers.

      4. Actually, they *should* call it that!

  • avatar
    Greg Hamilton

    I have a Rav4 Hybrid which is basically the same car. I also have problems with the power rear hatch. It fails intermittently. The control module for the rear hatch has been replaced once by the dealer, but the problem persists. Sometimes I just have to go in through the rear passenger door. Where is Scotty Kilmer when you need him?

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      What kind of gas mileage are seeing. I thought previous gen RavH were in the mid 30s on real MPG testing

      • 0 avatar
        Greg Hamilton

        It depends on the temperature and the length of your trip. In the winter the engine has to warm up to operating temperature. So your mileage will be less. Also if you make short trips (less than 5 miles) in the winter the engine will be running most of the time so your mileage will be less. I make a lot of short trips so I average around 29 in the winter. When I make longer trips 30 to 50 miles I will typically see 36 to 37 mpg. If you are running the A/C your mileage will be lower. Overall it has been a good car with decent (for me) power.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Lexus “mouse” was already bad, but the newer touchpad system is truly terrible. I’d probably rate it as the worst user-interface available in 2019.

    The base turbo version could also use about 25 more hp. It’s more powerful than the HT2000 in the XT4, but just barely. This hybrid is a good option for people wanting max MPG or that enjoy slowness.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      “The Lexus “mouse” was already bad, but the newer touchpad system is truly terrible. I’d probably rate it as the worst user-interface available in 2019.”

      Don’t give them too much credit there. I took an ex car shopping this weekend, during which time I discovered that Ford is still putting their 4″ gameboy radio in $35,000 Explorers.

      Pros: Buttons.

      Cons: Which lag like a mid-00s prepaid phone before they do anything.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        That radio with Sync 1 can be had in a $60,000 F350 as well. I’ve never tried the Lexus touchpad to compare but the Ford system is bad.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Ford’s 4″ gameboy radio is a GREAT name for it. Car companies pinch pennies where they can, but making the centerpiece of even the non-tech heavy versions of your cars look like crap is beyond stupid.

        They equipped a fair number of the Fusion Sports this way – so there’s all black and grey with the only color coming out of that tiny screen. And they thought they’d ask 30 large for them.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Crisply handsome and balanced looking; makes even silver acceptable.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    48k for a small Lexus CUV? Good god.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Lexus looses it value just like any other luxury vehicle.  So I wouldn’t believe the wive’s  tale about Lexus holding their value. Residual values are set by the banks and the food chain of auction and dealerships just play along to make as much money as they can out the consumers.

    Edmunds long term test of the Lexus GS loosing over 1/3 of it’s value from MSRP.

    “Resale and Depreciation:

    We accumulated 20,940 miles on our 2013 Lexus GS 350. Edmunds’ TMV® Calculator valued the vehicle at $47,431 based on a private-party sale. The market did not seem to support this price, as CarMax offered us $40,000 and the best we could muster from a private partywas $41,000. This made for 30-percent depreciation from our paid price of $58,377. We were disappointed.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’d have to say SUVs from luxury marques depreciate a might bit slower than their car variants in 2019 (vs 2013)

  • avatar
    zipper69

    All the weird creases and compound curves in odd places count against it, they only seem to have missed out of extra entrance and exit vents and a double whale tail. It actually looks odder in real life.


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