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Sunday Drive: 2021 Lexus NX a great competitor in the small crossover market

By Craig and Deanne Conover - | Aug 28, 2021

David Dewhurst Photography

The exterior of the 2021 Lexus NX300.

Lexus has always been a leader in the luxury, small SUV market, with the RX always being one of the bestselling small crossovers. It was designed well, it’s very spirited and it gives those wanting to add luxury to their lives through a smaller SUV exactly what they are looking for. With that in mind, Lexus was somewhat of a latecomer to the compact luxury SUV market with the NX, coming in on the heels of other car-makers like Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Cadillac that offered similarly sized utilities.

Being late to the game, however, does not mean you will be starting at the rear of the race, as Lexus has shown since adding the NX to its line six years ago. In creating the NX, Lexus’ goal was to design a car with a huge sense of “cool,” causing customers to instantly fall in love with it.

Combine that with ease of driving and great utility space that is simple to configure, and the NX provides the perfect combination for a compact SUV. Then add the great Toyota hybrid technology, and it just keeps getting better and better.

David Dewhurst Photography

The demographic they are looking to attract to this new SUV is a younger, more active family looking for a smaller crossover that will allow them to do all the fun things they love and adapt to their busy lives while still having a very luxurious feel to it.

The term “inner bullet” has been used time and time again by the designers of the new NX, and that term is a good description of the overall look of the vehicle. With a diamond shape that starts at the new standard spindle Lexus grill, the SUV widens through the body and then tapers into the rear. The presence of the wheels and tires has been emphasized, giving a strong SUV feel to the vehicle even though it is smaller in size.

Toyota is a pioneer in hybrid technology, and it has become evident to us that any Toyota product with an “h” in the name will perform as advertised and will usually achieve better mpg than the EPA standard. We were not disappointed with the NX; after a week of all types of driving, we were right at 33 mpg, a better result than the 32 mpg the vehicle has been credited with by the EPA. The hybrid comes with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 194 horsepower and includes an electric motor to help with the driving. Since our tester was all-wheel drive, it had an extra electric motor to power the rear wheels that kicked in as needed.

The NX hybrid might disappoint the real automotive enthusiasts of the world as it is not as quick as the gasoline-only version. With this in mind, Lexus expects it to appeal to only 10% of the active buyers in the market. We expect those purchasing this one would be very environmentally conscious and want to reduce their carbon footprint for a healthier overall world. In that vein, the NX 300h is a very smart and excellent hybrid choice in the compact SUV market.

Once one is seated in the NX, most of the ruggedness of the exterior disappears as the SUV surrounds its occupants with the luxury and comfort that have become the essence of its brand. Soft-touch surfaces wrapped in NuLuxe are everywhere the driver’s or passenger’s hand or arm could possibly wander along with soft metal accents to break up the interior with elegant flair.

The seat cushions have been reshaped for a better fit; they are quite similar to what Lexus has done in the new IS series and designed to give a more confidant feel for the driver. We loved them in the IS, and during our weeklong test drive of the NX, they seemed to get more comfortable with each mile we traveled.

David Dewhurst Photography

There was also some extra space near the arm rest in the center console where one operated the touch pad. What to do with this space? A sunglass holder was added. This was very convenient and different from the normal overhead location. Even better, the top popped out and had a mirror on the back of it for a quick check to make sure all was in order with our shades before we exited the NX.

The technology package lived up to all the expectations we have come to enjoy with any Lexus model. Quick phone hookup and seamless voice recognition are the standards. One new feature is with the addition of the Lexus Enform app to a smart phone, a number of options become available such as remote start and stop, door lock and unlock, and the ability to track the vehicle’s speed and where it has been. There’s also a curfew setup – now there’s an innovation every teenager is going to hate.

David Dewhurst Photography

There is even an available smart charger that will charge any properly equipped smartphone by just placing the phone on it. A power rear door is also available and, of course, all models come standard with smart access; just a touch of the door handle opens the vehicle.

On the safety side, there were many additions that could be included such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking, lane departure warning and intelligent auto-dimming, high-beam headlamps.

Does the NX live up to the vision that Lexus had when designing the vehicle? We definitely have to say mission accomplished! The new NX should do exactly that and more. It was very impressive to drive and its design kept turning heads, even the younger ones!

Base price: $46,510

Destination charge: $1,025

Price as driven: $52,855

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