2021 Lexus NX 300 F Sport Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Pulse quickening and snazzy
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
While I was shooting photos for this road test, I posed the front-wheel-drive NX on a steeply angled section of dirt road for some dramatic looking off-road shots. After all, this Lexus is marketed as a sports utility vehicle, capable of performing with the kind of athleticism that definition implies. Still, this patch of dirt was fairly steep, and I had my doubts whether the NX could drive itself up the remainder of the incline when I was done taking pictures. The answer was no. The front driven wheels, shod with street treaded Yokohama Geolander G91 radials (225/60R18) immediately started to slip when I punched the throttle, forcing me to back ignominiously down the incline and drive off over flatter ground. However, off-road enthusiasts needn't despair, because Lexus offers a solution to the traction issue experienced by our $39,610 FWD NX. For an extra $1,400, you can buy an all-wheel-drive version of the NX 300 F Sport that lists for $41,010.
Of course, the above quoted prices merely signify starting points on the Lexus window sticker. By the time our NX 300 had been suitably equipped with $9,580 worth of options, it's as-delivered price had soared to $50,215. Three expensive items constitute the bulk of the pack sticker. Triple-Beam LED Headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System cost $1,515 extra. We had a chance to assess this worth-every-penny upgrade during a pitch black night drive down a pedestrian clogged country lane. If you're after navigational help and super tunes, you'll definitely want to option your NX with the $3,045 Navigation with 10.3 inch multimedia display. The package also adds a 14 speaker Mark Levinson Premium Audio System that soothed us with an endless array of commercial free entertainment from the gratis 3 month SiriusXM satellite radio trial. Finally, $2,365 went to purchase the Premium F Sport Package, which provided heating and ventilation for the front seats, a power moonroof, and valet memory settings for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel.
The heart of the NX is a lively 2.0 liter turbo inline 4, which impels the NX to reach 60mph from a standing start in 7.2 seconds and attain a top speed of 124mph. Engine power drives the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission, with manual control available through paddle shifters or a dedicated gate on the consol- mounted shift stalk. The paddle shifts are connected to a heated F Sport specific steering wheel that is a pleasure to operate. The upper and lower quadrants of the wheel are fitted with perforated black leather coverings. The heating element warms the entire circumference of the wheel, with no dead zones, a real boon on sub-32 degree mornings. The heated seats operate vis miniature switches on the elevated section of the center console. When you are looking for these activation points, you will be forced to take your eyes off the road to operate the switches. In fact, the entire cockpit of the NX seems miniaturized, with a tiny storage bin between the front seats, a small removable hand mirror located atop the transmission tunnel, and a miniature rear window that forces you to rely on the dash screen for visual backup information.
The high point of the NX 300 F Sport is its ultra luxurious interior treatment. The visual wizardry that went into fashioning the super supportive, red-piped, NuLuxe F Sport seats, matching door panels, carpeting, and all black headliner distinguish this version from all lesser models. You can feel your pulse quicken just a tad every time you climb into this diminutive Lexus. The precision of the driving experience is commensurate with the optics. Steering feedback is excellent, all six gears offer well chosen ratios, and the F Sport's aluminum pedals are a cinch to operate thanks to embedded rubber tread ribs. But best of all, the F Sport is competently equipped to handle challenging paved terrain. Lexus has orchestrated a number of significant suspension modifications here: recalibrated, sport-tuned spring, shock and anti-roll bar rates, plus 7.5 x 18J aluminum F Sport wheels. Our test NX was also equipped with Adaptive Variable Suspension, a bargain at $770 because it automatically softens ride quality over potholes and poor pavement.
For 2021, Lexus will also be producing just 1000 Black Line Special Edition versions of the NX 300. These rare items feature color keyed exterior "over fenders," bolstered F Sport seats with blue stitching, plus a brace of fitted hard suitcases created for the Black Line model by Zero Halliburton. This top echelon NX brings carries a base price of $46,810.
2021 LEXUS NX 300 F SPORT
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbocharged, DOHC, 16 Valves with VVT-i
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/28MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $50,215
HYPES: Snazzy Interior, Stable Handling
GRIPES: Miniaturized Interior
STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10