Lexus practically invented the luxury SUV category when it introduced the RX more than two decades ago, leading sales in the segment year after year. As the car grew in popularity, Lexus debuted the NX crossover in 2014, just in time to quench growing market and consumer thirst for luxury CUVs. It also leveraged Toyota’s dominance in hybrid powertrains to offer the NX 300h variant. Since the introduction of the NX six years ago, there’s now much more competition, particularly among German rivals Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Even so, the 2020 Lexus NX 300h remains a formidable luxury crossover, offering the best fuel economy in the segment, top safety features, and the automaker’s legendary reliability.
Features, Pricing, and Design
The 2020 Lexus NX 300h is the tallest and most SUV-like five-seat compact luxury hybrid crossover in its class. It comes in two trims, both of which are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and electric drive motor combined with a two-speed continually variable transmission with sequential shifting to supply 194hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque.
While perhaps showing its age, the exterior styling is distinctive and the interior lives up to the Lexus brand of refined elegance, with plenty of space for people to comfortably travel.
The base NX 300h starts at $39,070 and includes 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and foglights, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, keyless ignition and entry, power-folding mirrors, a rearview camera, and power-adjustable front seats clad in NuLuxe simulated leather. Standard multimedia features include an 8-inch display with a touch pad interface, two USB ports, Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a three-month SiriusXM trial, a three-month 4GB Wi-Fi hotspot subscription, a one-year Enform Remote access trial subscription with smartwatch and Alexa integration, and an eight-speaker sound system.
The NX 300h Luxury trim starts at $46,160. It adds a power tilt and telescoping steering column with a heated steering wheel, perforated leather-trimmed seats, Linear Black Shadow wood trim, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Active Cornering Assist, a new brake-based torque-vectoring system, and Lexus’ Enform Safety Connect telematics system are standard, along with Lexus’ Safety System+ 2.0 that provides pedestrian detection with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Added in 2020 are road sign recognition and an improved lane-centering system.
Aside from a power-adjustable steering column and a new Cadmium Orange color, Lexus has made few changes to the styling and keeps the powertrain from the 2019 model. The 4.2-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster can be customized and presents performance data.
Lexus offers three upgrade packages for the NX 300h. The Comfort package costs $980 and provides heated and ventilated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, and auto-dimming side mirrors. The Navigation package is $1,860 and comes with a 10.3-inch display, a three-year Lexus dynamic navigation subscription, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and the option to add a 10-channel Mark Levinson audio system for $1,060. The $3,270 Premium package includes the Comfort package items plus a sunroof, driver seat memory functions, 18-inch wheels, and enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn signals. Other extra-cost add-ons include a hands-free liftgate, parking sensors, adaptive headlights, a heated steering wheel, and power-folding rear seats.
We drove the Lexus NX 300h decked out in the Matador Red Mica exterior. Added to the base trim was a panoramic-view camera, a rearview mirror with HomeLink garage opener, the Premium and full Navigation Packages, parking assist with auto braking, a power liftgate with kick sensor, and a heated leather steering wheel. With a destination charge of $1,025, the base price jumped to $50,343 on the final sticker.
Interface and Connectivity
The base trim NX 300h includes an 8-inch display, and the Luxury trim adds a larger 10.3-inch split screen display. Both trims include Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot, HD Radio, eight speakers, and have Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Living up to Lexus’ reputation, the NX 300h provides a comfortable, elegant, and quiet ride inside the cabin, which is an ideal setting for the Mark Levinson speaker system. The voice-activated navigation system offers real-time traffic and weather information, 3D city views, and simulated views of approaching highway junctions. It also highlights nearby gas stations when you run low on fuel.
We found the large display layout and design easy to learn. However, the remote touch pad controller is distracting to use while driving, even when switching between screens or choosing a radio station. It requires you to align a glowing orange cursor on the screen with your finger on a matte black pad on the center console, out of the sight line of the driver.
Since we review many vehicles each year, we evaluate user experience based on how intuitively we can adapt to a new interface. Lexus thought smartphone-like ergonomics would transfer to the touch pad, but we found it a bit difficult to align your finger flicks and presses with the screen on the dash.
The all-wheel-drive NX 300h uses Lexus’ E-Four system to run the rear wheels with a second electric motor. Between the powertrain and regenerative braking, it provides best-in-class fuel efficiency at an estimated 31mph combined.
Driving in town, the NX 300h provides responsive steering and the parking assist comes in handy in crowded urban areas. When heading up mountain roads and taking on sharp curves, the car feels top-heavy. And while we appreciate the fewer trips to the pump, the hybrid powertrain’s acceleration on the highway feels sedate compared with others in its class.
We headed to the mountains in the NX 300h and found the cargo area behind the rear seats and the sloping roofline made our snow gear a tight fit. The 60/40 split seats don’t lay flat, making carrying equipment less convenient. If interior room outweighs fuel efficiency on your priority list, the Audi Q5 has more interior and cargo space than the Lexus.
With competition from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz heating up, Lexus will need to up its NX game in terms of performance and styling to remain competitive in the future. For now, however, the 2020 Lexus NX 300h remains a top option in the luxury CUV segment. And if you’re looking for best-in-class safety and fuel efficiency, it’s a no-brainer.