The saying goes, you can’t please everyone. That certainly applies to auto manufacturers. Case in point, this week’s tester is the 2021 Lexus NX300h. This luxury compact SUV tries to accomplish a lot with such a small vehicle.
The h means it’s got a hybrid powertrain. But my tester was also the F-Sport black line special edition, meaning it’s trying to be a sporty hybrid. Is there such a thing?
Being a Lexus it’s trying to showcase that it’s more than just an overpriced Toyota. With similarities and the sharing of some aspects of the Toyota RAV4 that’s hard thing for the NX to shake.
And the NX is at the end of its current life cycle with a redesigned new generation coming for the 2022 model year (see video at the end). So, there’s a lot this week’s tester wants to accomplish, but can it check off all those boxes? Not so much. And here’s why.
On looks, the NX300 does look a little long in the tooth. There’s nothing that sets it apart as the NX lacks distinction. It’s handsome enough but there’s no wow factor. I saw a spy photo of the next-gen NX and there’s a lot to like about that. So, perhaps seeing the future of this vehicle tainted my opinion of the current version.
Nevertheless, the steady, consistent, conservative look of this SUV fits the mold of it. It’s meant to be refined and as a hybrid it doesn’t need to be sporty-looking or aggressive, which is good because it’s neither of those things.
The powertrain for the NX300h is as utilitarian as it gets. The 2.5-liter engine also has three electric motor assists and all-wheel drive. That all sounds great, but it amounts to a paltry 194 horsepower. Additionally the continuously variable transmission (CVT) serves its purpose for being full-efficient, but it doesn’t help the cause of making this an exciting vehicle to drive.
If you want calm, efficient and refined, then that’s what the NX300h is. If you’re expecting it to be spry, quick or fun, you’ll be let down.
Inside, the Lexus NX300h accomplishes the mission of differentiating itself from its Toyota counterpart. It’s inaccurate to portray this as a RAV4 with a Lexus badge. It’s much more than that with plenty of niceties and quality touch points not found on a Toyota.
Once again, the focus is on comfort and refinement and for that the NX300h is a success.
Additionally, cargo room is outstanding (especially for a hybrid). There’s 16.8 cubic feet behind the second row and 53.6 cubic feet of total cargo room.
Lexus’ touchpad interface for their infotainment system continues to be an obstacle. It lacks intuition and quite clunky to operate. It would behoove Lexus to eliminate this touchpad from all future upgrades for all of their vehicles. Otherwise, the NX has plenty of technology and integrates with both Apple and Android smart phones.
With the F-Sport Black Line Special Edition package (new for this model year), the NX manages to add some sportiness to this vehicle, both outside and inside. Some of the features of this package include: 18-inch black F-Sport wheels, color-keyed overfenders, blue interior stitching and heated steering wheel. The Black Line Special Edition definitely makes the NX300h more special and without it, this hybrid would be fairly forgettable.
The MSRP of the 2021 Lexus NX300h is $46,810. With destination fee added along with up charges for mud guards, illuminated door sills, and rear bumper protector and my tester had a final price of $48,745.
Any time a vehicle, especially an SUV can get over 30 mpg it’s a good thing and the Lexus NX300h has a rating of 33 mpg/city and 30 mpg/highway. During a week’s worth of mostly suburban driving I averaged just over 31 mpg.
This luxury hybrid SUV falls under the generality of “good enough”. It’s just good enough to be relevant and viable, but it’s certainly a good thing that Lexus is updating it as it’s close to the end of that relevancy as is.