Buying Used: 2015-2021 Lexus NX Series

The NX started out with the underpinnings of the redesigned Toyota RAV4 and shares the same wheelbase, although engineers insist that 90 per cent of the NX’s hardware is unique.

By Mark Toljagic Wheels.ca

Jul 22, 2021 7 min. read

Article was updated 2 years ago

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Back in the day, automobile luxury was equated with ridiculous size.

Think Don Draper’s 1965 Cadillac Coupe Deville as seen in Mad Men: Don perched on a bench seat as broad as the Queen Mary and peering over a hood as long and flat as Saskatchewan.

That notion was challenged by the late 1970s as Detroit grappled with the energy crisis and took a cutting torch to many of its behemoths. The Lincoln Continental Mark VI had its long overhangs clipped, while the all-new Ford Thunderbird adopted the smaller Torino chassis to establish the automaker’s “personal luxury” cars.

More recently, sport utility vehicles underwent the same sort of metamorphosis, turning what used to be truck-based 4x4s into luxury crossovers ensconced in velvet. The concept migrated to smaller and smaller vehicles as consumers looked for the same posh amenities in a tidier package.

That’s the thinking behind compact luxury crossovers such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK and GLC. Lexus, whose car-based RX 300 got the whole segment rolling back in 1998, joined the party with its compact NX 200t for 2015 and subsequently became a sales success for Toyota’s luxury division, especially in Europe.

The NX started out with the underpinnings of the redesigned Toyota RAV4 and shares the same wheelbase, although engineers insist that 90 per cent of the NX’s hardware is unique. Parked next to the North American favourite RX, it’s 14 cm shorter in length and 5 cm narrower.

2018 Lexus NX

Despite its humble size, the NX’s high quality, luxury-appointed cabin coddles with the best of them. Its front seats are among the most comfortable in its class – although some buyers took issue with the aggressively bolstered front seats that felt narrow and pinched.

“The seats are a bit tighter fit, and at first I experienced hip pain until I got used to the narrowness of these seats,” one owner remarked online. Also, drivers accustomed to sitting bolt upright did not like the headrest jutting forward so much as to be intrusive.

Rear passengers enjoy a generous amount of space, at least compared with most other compact crossovers. But it comes at the cost of cargo space. The NX offers just 17.7 cubic feet (501 litres) of luggage room behind the rear seats, making it less practical than a lot of its rivals.

The high-mounted climate controls are easy to reach, while secondary controls are intuitive. The infotainment controls are less so, however. The standard-display audio system utilizes a knob-and-screen system similar to Mercedes' COMAND system, but most NX models are purchased with navigation that comes fitted with Lexus' Remote Touch interface, which uses a distracting console-mounted touchpad.

“The track pad constantly has you clicking on something you didn't want, only to then have to click your way back, while you are driving,” warns one frustrated owner who found the laptop tech difficult to use. Beyond the infotainment gear, the interior of the NX is a pretty agreeable place to spend time.

Two distinct engines power the NX and define the model designations. The NX 200t is Toyota’s first turbocharged model since the Supra back in the mid-1990s. Rated at 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder is equipped with dual variable valve timing, which allows it to toggle between the common Otto cycle and efficient Atkinson cycle as needed. The twin-scroll turbo engine is tied to the RAV4’s conventional six-speed automatic transmission exclusively.

Toyota couldn’t resist offering a gas-electric hybrid option, found in the NX 300h. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder uses the Atkinson cycle exclusively, sans turbo, which is good for 154 hp and 152 lb-ft of grunt. To help it along there’s a 141-hp AC synchronous electric motor powering the front wheels and a 67-hp rear-wheel motor furnishing a combined power rating of 194 hp, fed by a 1.6-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The hybrid model uses a continuously variable (CVT) automatic tranny.

Both the NX 200t and 300h are all-wheel-drive models (U.S. buyers could order front-drive versions). The popular F Sport package adds unique 18-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires along with a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, additional gauges, special interior trim and an enhanced engine note that is synthesized through the audio system.

The NX earned a mid-cycle refresh for 2018 that included a revised grille and front and rear bumpers, and tweaked taillamps. There’s a retuned suspension underneath, while new standard equipment includes automated emergency braking and power-folding exterior mirrors. Updated controls and infotainment system highlight the interior mods. Lexus also changed the turbos’ badge to NX 300 to better align with the hybrid model, though the turbo four remains unaltered.

For 2020, it received added standard safety equipment via the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, augmenting what was already an impressive array of driver-assist safety aids. A Mark Levinson premium sound system was offered for the first time. Lexus also added Android Auto smartphone integration to accompany Apple CarPlay, which was introduced the year before, oddly without the Android option.

2018 Lexus NX

The 2021 NX represents the last model year of its seven-year run. Dealers will be stocking the redesigned, second-generation NX for 2022 soon.

Driving the NX in turbo or hybrid form is a pleasant enough experience. Like all Lexi, the NX is composed, stable and hushed on the road, living up to its luxury billing. But despite its sporting pretensions, it doesn’t quite keep up with the best compact SUVs from the continent.

The turbocharged NX 300 scoots from zero to 97 km/h in 6.9 seconds, which aligns with the class average. In real life the turbo four feels livelier, with ample torque kicking in shortly after idle speed. Power delivery is linear and predictable, although the NX 300h hybrid exhibits slightly slower acceleration, but considerably better fuel efficiency.

Handling is a little disappointing, given the NX’s higher centre of gravity and propensity to lean in the corners – anyone coming from a BMW X3 or X1 will notice it – but it’s hardly an embarrassment. Steering effort is light around town and doesn’t provide much feedback, but as speed builds the weighting also increases, providing confidence on the highway. The F Sport package features a stiffer suspension, but it still prioritizes comfort over performance.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the NX drive is the 2.0-litre turbo four’s thirst for premium-grade fuel. Turbo engines can be especially sensitive to driver inputs; a lead foot is punished with poor fuel economy and in this instance, it could mean mileage in the low 20s around town, though it does considerably better than 30 mpg (8.5 litres/100 km) on the highway. The NX 300h hybrid actually fares better in the city than the highway, scoring 7.2/7.9 litres/100 km (city/hwy) – and it’s happy with regular gas.


Lexus NX drivers have lots to be thankful for: great features and value for their money compared to the European brands, a luxurious cabin, serene comfort in a small package, secure handling, numerous safety features, availability of an AWD hybrid drivetrain, and Lexus reliability. That last point comes up a lot in owners’ remarks.

“The BMW had a sportier feel, but at the cost of high maintenance, rough riding run-flat tires and expensive repairs. Resale value is excellent and repairs to our last Lexus generally were few and far between, unlike my BMW’s,” wrote one NX pilot who’s had some experience comparing brands.

In terms of letdowns, the NX has a few. Some disliked the infotainment system’s touchpad feature immensely, as noted earlier. Cargo space is compromised by the emphasis on creature comfort – the split-folding rear bench reclines, further cutting into luggage room – and the rear window is small, which restricts the driver’s view out the back. A few drivers noticed some turbo lag and torque steer, in addition to the tepid acceleration, all unbecoming in a premium vehicle.

In terms of mechanical weaknesses, NX owners have had almost no complaints to speak of. A few people have had issues with the air conditioning system failing prematurely. Others had more to say about the infotainment system, calling it unresponsive at times, especially to voice commands while using the GPS. Compatibility with certain smartphones is also an apparent issue.

Beyond that, it’s no surprise the NX has largely met buyers’ expectations. Lexus continues to dominate dependability surveys and owners have come to presume a faultless experience. The made-in-Japan NX continues in that tradition, making it a safe bet as a used-vehicle buy.




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