Len Ingrassia: Lexus NX a classy alternative

The 2020 Lexus NX is a stylish compact SUV with distinctive features inside and out including an oversized front spindle grille.Photo courtesy Len Ingrassia)

Lexus cars and SUVs have a way of coming on strong featuring new models, feathering consecutive years with the right amount of luxury resulting in consistently high sales.

It has worked every year since the fall of 1989, when the luxury car division of Toyota came on the scene. In the 30 years since, it has become an accomplished and savvy contender.

Nowhere is its success measured more than with its NX crossover. Since 2015, it has established itself as a reliable set of wheels with soft interiors, a posh and quiet ride with stylish looks.

Some European rivals with equal footing and good looks like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC are more powerful though and have better infotainment systems for sure. They also cost more.

• Pros: reliability, refined ride, turbocharged.

• Cons: limited head room, pricey options, annoying touchpad.

The NX lineup includes the base NX300 ($37,895), NX300F Sport ($40,135) and NX300 hybrid ($40,295). The 300 and F Sport variant are powered by a 235-horsepower turbo that will perform well for most consumers.

Our independent testing chalked up a 6.8-second time from 0 to 60 mph, slower than German rivals but adequate for city and highway use. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive fitted in our F Sport tester.

NX styling is unique with sharp creases on side panels and curved scoops on either side of a massive snout grille. Overall, the look is classy.

We’d recommend the F Sport trim for the $2,200 difference because it includes a plethora of upscale items including sport-tuned and available adaptive variable suspension, leatherlike seating, premium LED lighting, active sound control, 18-inch sport wheels and other distinguishing features.

Two-tone interior trim colors are new this year as is the addition of Android Auto connectivity and its safety suite now includes upgraded lane keeping sensitivity and road sign display.

Audiophiles will opt for an available 835-watt, 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system wrapped with 10.3-inch diagonal navigation display for $2,920. Another high-end option is a ($2,865) F Sport package with heated/ventilated front seats, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and power moonroof.

If fuel efficiency is high on your wish list, you can forego the F Sport and, for nearly the same coin, choose the hybrid with all-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission.

It is nearly two seconds slower than the F Sport in the run to 60 mph, but an extra 11 miles per gallon in city driving is your reward for going green. It also accelerates quickly off the line.

Overall, you buy a Lexus NX for its refinement, its whisper quiet cabin, OK performance and its safety equipment, including adaptive cruise control with full stop.

Many rivals offer adaptive cruise but few can deliver the NX’s smooth operation with no jerk stops or false readings. Be certain to compare this feature when cross shopping rivals’ BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Acura RDX and Porsche Macan.

Len Ingrassia is an independent automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

What was reviewed

2020 Lexus NX 300 F Sport

Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, 235 horsepower.

EPA mileage: 22 city, 27 highway, 24 combined.

Assembled: All NX models are manufactured at Toyota Motor Manufacturing facilities in Japan.

Crash test ratings: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the NX 300 to its Top Safety Pick list and earned its highest rating of "Good" in crash protection involving small and moderate overlap frontal impact, side impact, roof strength and whiplash protection from rear collision. Its crash avoidance and mitigation systems also earned a “Superior” rating in front crash protection — vehicle-to-vehicle and in vehicle-to-pedestrian testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the NX 300 a five-star rating overall, its highest safety rating, with four stars for rollover and frontal crash protection and five stars in side collisions.

Warranty: four-year/50,000-mile basic; six-year/70,000-mile powertrain.