Lexus NX 300 Review – like a glove

Lexus NX 300 Review New Zealand

Gloves are amazing items. They have a history that’s as long as your arm and as a garment, have (pardon the pun), their fingers in a lot of pies. They have arguably been referenced back hundreds of years BC to Homer’s Odyssey and the History of Herodotus, and quite probably further, as I personally feel they would have kept caveman’s digits warm during the ice age. Gloves, Mitt’s, Mittens and Gauntlets (whatever you choose to call them), have been manufactured in everything from rubber and steel to wool, fur and leather, their versatility is vast and the common or garden glove can be seen quite literally on hands everywhere, from tradespeople to fashionista’s, astronauts to well, gardeners. In summation, gloves offer comfort, support, warmth and sometimes even fear (think customs officers), but I guess the big question you may have right now is, where is this all leading? Well the moment I sank my behind in the driver’s seat of the new Lexus NX 300 F Sport, I couldn’t help but think that it fitted like a glove.

The Lexus NX 300 is a compact (although not exactly) luxury SUV. With four models on offer, It’s proven to be a very successful vehicle for Lexus NZ and actually provided 25% of their total model sales in 2016 with half of those being hybrids, so it’s importance is fairly obvious – so how do they improve it?

The NX 300’s looks are as dramatic as the rest of their current range (well maybe not as much as the LC 500), with a multitude of sharp, shadow-inducing lines, however Lexus has taken a softer approach to the SUV’s nose with the spindle grille and front bumper blending in to the flow of the vehicle far more seamlessly. Since I had the F Sport to play with, the headlights were three low beam LEDs and it had an individual LED for the new adaptive high beam system with some attention-getting, sequential turn indicators. Round the back, chromed exhaust tips merge with the bumper that has been widened and the taillights have been elongated to offer an overall, gruntier, more masculine appeal.

The door handles sense your approach and welcomes you with a gentle glow (obviously more apparent at night), and from then on in, you’re embraced by Lexus luxury and in my ‘F Sport’ case, sporty leather redness. From door card to the centre console, virtually all the trim has contrast red stitching while chrome accents surround vital markers (such as the start/stop button) and Lexus has also added a ‘scale’ effect to some of the larger trim statements. In Lexus speak, the cabin offers ‘Flare Red leather accented upholstery along with the Naguri style aluminium’, so now you know. The infotainment screen has been increased to 10.3” and can be controlled by steering wheel buttons or the ‘polarising’ Lexus touchpad. Then there’s that driving seat. Now I know we are all different shapes and sizes but for me, slipping into the NX’s control seat was how I assumed a baseball would feel being completely cosseted inside a high-quality leather Akadema ProSoft series Catchers Mitt – it immediately felt right.

From then on, it was a simply a case of getting better acquainted with the new refinements of this luxury SUV. The cabin is filled with driver’s aids and safety, with nearly all of it within arm’s reach. It has plenty room for rear passengers and ample stowage cubicles, that are good sized and practical (especially as this is a compact SUV) and I even discovered a mirror hidden under the leather top on one of these storage areas – just so you can see how good you look in this NX 300 I guess.

Underfoot power comes via a two-litre turbo engine which has peak outputs of 175 kW and 350 Nm of torque, all through a six-speed automatic gearbox, it feels sweet on a run but slightly lumpy in heavy traffic (I may have been in Sport+ though), either way, in hindsight I should have used the  SUNA traffic avoidance information – doh. The NX300 F Sport comes with driving modes that range from Eco to Sport+ but also gives you a custom drive mode option (powertrain, steering, air conditioning, and suspension settings) that allows this SUV to ‘fit you’ even better. Behind the scenes, the adaptable variable suspension now has continuously variable control, featuring 650 levels of damping that can automatically adapt to changing conditions – which sound very fancy, but all you need to know is that the ride feels strong and confident with great ‘turn in’ ability.

As usual, the vehicle became the family chariot for the week’s review and it fitted in nicely. It was good to know that the Lexus Safety System + was watching over us, (pre-crash safety with autonomous emergency braking for vehicles and pedestrians, lane departure alert with steering assist and vehicle sway warning systems, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control etc), but just as important, the Cobalt blue SUV made the neighbours curtains twitch more than once.

The Lexus NX 300 is maturing and very much finding its feet. The softening design flow combined with a lower centre of gravity I feel, offers a much greater kerb appeal and the sweet scent of leather inside never fails to excite the luxury senses. Of course, it’s not an overtly apparent sports car but it offers up a fair amount of fun when wanted (I’d look to make a beeline for it at a Lexus Summer of Performance event) all while being quite the family town and country vehicle. I can happily say, that for a small family or upwardly mobile couple, it would certainly fit like a glove.

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