The Lexus NX 300 and I go back a long way – almost 5000 kilometres, to be exact, for that was the distance a new NX 300h petrol / electric hybrid SUV carried two of us from the Gold Coast to Townsville and back more than five years ago.
While we travelled north up the coast road, the return trip was via inland Queensland through Charters Towers, Hughenden, Winton, Longreach, Emerald, the Darling Downs and home.
Recently I was reacquainted with the Lexus sports utility vehicles, not in hybrid form, only petrol. Not a lot has changed for the NX 300, except an upgrade of its pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking, which now ‘sees’ cyclists during the day and pedestrians at night.
Also new, lane tracing assist helps keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane, including on gentle curves. In active cruise control it, not only matches the speed of any vehicle in front, but also brings the NX 300 to a complete halt without the use of the brake pedal.
Standard NX features include satellite navigation, power tailgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, smart entry and start, 10-speaker audio with digital radio, Enform connected mobility, tyre pressure warning sensors, 60:40 rear-fold seats and a spare wheel.
The test vehicle – the Lexus NX 300 Luxury 2WD, at $55,400, plus on-road costs – was plucked from the foot of the range.
Having been updated two years ago, the exterior has been pretty much left alone. It’s some of the best looks Lexus has come up with, but cannot avoid somewhat dated design features in a fast-changing SUV world.
A plethora of instruments and controls could be intimidating to almost all but the most tech savvy. Patience and determination were the bywords on test here.
The interior facelift in 2018 saw special attention paid to the centre cluster, with the navigation display enlarged to 10.3 inches (from 7in) and the number of switches reduced.
In addition, the button design was modernised and the analogue clock redesigned with increased contrast between the hands and background for ease of viewing. The clock is now linked to GPS, so the time is set automatically. And there’s a CD player.
Seats outback include plenty of room for knees and shoulders, less generous for headroom due to the high-set positioning – the latter good for visibility.
Boot space of 500 litres has the ability to expand to 1545 litres with the rear seat backs folded. An elevated floor, thanks to a space-saver spare underneath, makes it easy loading or unloading heavy objects.
A 4.2-inch TFT full-colour Multi-Information Display top section shows environmental information, such as temperature and time, while the lower section displays frequently checked information such as gear-shift position.
The centre console remote touch pad has an integrated palm rest, making the pad flatter for comfort. A frameless pad has results in an increased operating area, making it easier to pinch-in and pinch-out maps.
A sub-switch calls up a screen with related functions, such as air-conditioning and navigation. The Drive Mode Select switch has been enhanced by adding an L-shaped serration to the rim.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The NX 300 makes use of a turbo-petrol 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder engine. Maximum power of 175 kW is on tap between 4800 and 5600 rpm; maximum torque is 350 Nm from 1650 to 4000 revs.
It’s mated with a six-speed automatic transmission and drives the front wheels to reduce fuel consumption compared with the all-wheel drive variant.
Forsaking the added cost of AWD technology ($4500) and fuel usage, Lexus claims the 2WD fuel consumption to be 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle as opposed to 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres with the part-time all-wheel drive model.
The combination of the active cruise control and LTA technologies are aimed at enhancing safety while the driver remains in control of the vehicle.
Another new safety technology for NX is road sign assist, which displays speed-limit sign information in the multi-information display, reducing the chance of the driver missing signs.
Also newly adopted is parking support brake, which has been added to parking technology applying brakes and limiting power to improve control when parking.
Lexus NX is already equipped with other safety equipment including automatic high beam (Luxury) grade, adaptive high beam (F Sport, Sports Luxury), trailer sway control, reversing camera, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and a tyre pressure warning system.
The test 2WD recorded up to 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres in city stop-and-crawl driving and 6.0 litres under free rein on motorway runs.
The quietness of the NX 300 is matched by the operation of the stop / start engine system, which is one of the least intrusive on the market.
Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts and Sport mode are intended to increase the driving experience.
I’m not a fan of the Lexus touchpad: too twitchy. Switches, buttons and knobs fall much easier to hand.
Relax, in these days of intrusive earbuds, pretentious podcasts and constant connectivity, I defy anybody to climb into the NX 300, sit down, switch on the engine, set off, shut up and not enjoy the sound of silence.
On the earlier odyssey, a detour on a dirt road to a dinosaur museum, near Winton, caused only slight disturbance to occupants’ ride comfort.
There is still work to do with vehicle system accessibility, especially via the troublesome touchpad. However, the updated NX 300 will keep the Lexus customer in the high-born manner to which, over the years, he or she has become accustomed.
AT A GLANCE
Lexus NX 300 Luxury 2WD $55,400
Lexus NX 300h Luxury Hybrid 2WD $57,900
Lexus NX 300 Luxury AWD $59,900
Lexus NX 300h Luxury Hybrid AWD $62,400
Lexus NX 300 F Sport 2WD $61,400
Lexus NX 300h F Sport Hybrid 2WD $63,900
Lexus NX 300 F Sport AWD $65,852
Lexus NX 300h F Sport Hybrid AWD $68,400
Lexus NX 300 Sports Luxury AWD $74,029
Lexus NX 300h Sports Luxury Hybrid AWD $76,900
Premium paint (all grades): $1000
Enhancement packs (Luxury, F Sport):
Moonroof, 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, head-up display, smart key card $6000.
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Lexus dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Lexus NX 300 Luxury 2.0-litre 4cyl turbocharged petrol, 6sp automatic, 4dr SUV)
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders inline
Maximum Power: 175 kW @ 4800-5600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 1650-4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.7 L/100km
DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4640 mm
Wheelbase: 2660 mm
Width: 1845 mm
Height: 1645 mm
Turning Circle: 11.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1860 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Four years / 100,000 kilometres