Lexus NX: Surpassing newer competition

Lexus NX F-Sport

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

It’s a shame that this 2018 model is already passé (Lexus revealed the second-generation model in June 2021) because I’d daresay it’s still probably the best crossover in the country. Here’s why.

Taking after its slightly bigger RX sibling, the design of the NX is hard to miss. The spindle grille dominates its façade and hands-down, is its most attractive feature. On either side are three-eye bi-beam LED headlamps (with auto-levelling system) and a couple of sharp, check-shaped DRLs.

Its highly angular shape continues along the sides with a very expressive rocker panel and its sinewy rear fenders.

The tail is where it gets just a little bit plain. There are still plenty of grooves to create texture but the edges are rounder and softer, and the taillamp styling is a lot simpler.

Roof rails are exclusive to the F-Sport along with the front and rear bumpers, headlamp washers, the door mirrors, front fender emblems, a power tailgate, and the 18-inch aluminum wheels.

The whole thing automatically elicits a ‘wow’ factor. My neighbor whose garage is chockful of SUVs immediately commented, “that’s one amazing machine” without even having test-driven it yet.

For a crossover designed so magnificently, the key fob is actually a letdown. Save for the logo on the backside, it’s plain – like that of a RAV4’s (with whom it shares some parts with). Maybe I’m asking too much but since Lexus has set the bar so high, there will be some high expectations.

Because of the low-slung roof, the headroom isn’t pretty high, which makes the interior feel small, but with what you get inside, you’ll easily forget how compact of a cabin it is.

The red leather on the seats and door panel trim are gorgeous (and are F-Sport exclusives) – first because they look (and feel) totally genuine and second, because it’s so meticulously curated to match the grey swatches on the seats.

Just like the vehicle’s nose, the cockpit is also angular and thoughtfully crafted. It could actually do without the few silver trims and still look elegant. The various front surfaces are all padded and the few that are leather display visible red stitching.

It goes old-school with analog gauges and that trademark Lexus clock but it has a fancy multi-information display (MID) and a 10.3-inch electro multi-vision display that uses a remote touch interface by the gear shifter for controls. Audio is pumped out to a 10-speaker sound system.

I especially liked how Lexus redesigned the toggle switches of the climate control system. In order to fit the layout, they were miniaturized, which makes them quite cute and unique to the segment.

Other F-Sport exclusives in the cabin include a three-memory system for the eight-way power adjustable ventilated seats, power lumbar support (driver’s seat), aluminum pedals, and scuff plates.

There’s no way to overstate how good it is to hold a perfectly-sized steering wheel. The diameter is neither too big or small and the grip made me feel like I was wired into the NX.

Despite the space constrictions, it’s homey in the cabin. Seats are so comfortable and snug, and the overall dark theme is both classy and sporty. Cargo area, due to the tonneau cover, will only hold several carry-on-sized luggage. The only thing I wish it had was a wireless charger.

It’s powered by the brand’s first-ever (twin-scroll) turbocharged engine, a 2.0L that uses both Otto and Atkinson cycles depending on the speed and throttle input. I won’t bother you with the technical stuff but it goes without saying that this has more power than the hybrid variant at 235-PS and 350-Nm of torque.

The drive is so good, Lexus should’ve just scrapped the Eco mode because retarding all that power just isn’t fun. I only stayed in Normal and Sport the entire time. The former is an appetizer with relatively good response but the latter is its best state. The MID turns red, revs are bumped up just a touch, response is ultra-sensitive and cat quick.

The takeoffs are exhilarating because the boost is carefully synced to the six-speed AT, eliminating any shift shock. To get the best fuel economy, the turbocharger delivers only the boost pressure needed to increase torque every single time. And the exhaust notes are the best I’ve ever heard in a crossover, ever.

Handling is terrific. The faster it gets, the lighter the steering feedback is, which makes it easier to slither in gaps at highway speed. Because it’s so small and with its quick acceleration, it can also comfortably maneuver around city traffic.

This is the best time I’ve had in a crossover, period. It doesn’t look as small as it should be but it sure feels that way because of the excellent power-to-weight ratio (even if it weighs 1.735 tons due to the all-wheel drive layout). Comfort is second to none and in my limited seat time, I picked up 8.1 km/l.

Lexus has built a reputation that far precedes its products, fortunately for them, each vehicle has lived up to it and more. The all-new NX could be just around the corner but with the way this ‘old’ one performs, you’re guaranteed to get your P3.718 million’s worth.