You just never know with us automotive journalists. Sometimes we’re reviewing vehicles in the calendar year before the model year (reviewed a couple of 2020s in 2019), and sometimes, though more rarely, we might review a model the year after.
In my case, I didn’t get the keys to the 2019 Lexus NX 300 until right around the time the 2020 models were hitting showroom floors, so I held off publishing my review until I could learn more about the newer model.
Now I’m ready.
If you’re familiar with the NX, you may know it is a compact SUV, or a “crossover”, introduced into the Lexus family in 2014. It’s the upscale cousin of the Toyota RAV4. In some cases, it’s difficult to tell the difference between Toyota and Lexus cousins, primarily because Toyotas are becoming increasingly more luxurious in the top trims. However, being familiar with several models of RAV4, as nice as they are, the NX is nicer.
First, you’ll notice the exterior styling is impressive. Ours was Eminent White, which is a beautiful, pearly shade. It’s aggressively styled at the front in typical Lexus form, but more so in a sporty way than in a track-ready way. And this is not false advertising, considering that this NX had a two-liter turbo pushing out 235 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque with only four cylinders. Oh, and it is an all-wheel drive, meaning it is a true crossover SUV by the purest standards.
Inside, it’s gorgeous. You’ve got the dark doors and footwells contrasting with the creamy leather seats, and those seats were heated and ventilated up front in the copy we tested. It’s a super-comfortable ride, even for a large person like me.
Here goes with a lot of what we loved about the interior. The start/stop button is conveniently located higher on the dash, so you can actually see it. Telephone controls are on the steering wheel, and the call log is on the 4.2-inch display in the gauge cluster straight ahead of the driver. You’ve got an analog-looking clock with real hands for the classic feel, even though it is digitally automated for precision. It still has a CD player on top of all the other high-end sound system stuff you’ll expect in a luxury ride.
The center console is logical, making good use of every inch. Included here is a small phone cubby, which we liked. We liked the hidden compartment under a wrist rest as well, but we found it strange that, when you pop up the wrist rest, it has a mirror on the underside. None of us could figure out why that was there. It lifts out freely, so you have a compact mirror in your hand, but why? We had never seen that before.
What we didn’t like about the interior was the touchpad to control the 10.3-inch infotainment system. This cabin is small enough to have a touchscreen display, and I have yet to find one person who likes these touchy touchpads. Nix ‘em, Lexus, at least for these smaller vehicles. I don’t even like them in the sedans.
Back outside the vehicle, the exterior door handle illumination is exquisite. It adds to the charm of walking that special someone to the passenger door, and it welcomes the driver into a very driver-centric space.
I just mentioned that this is a powerful, little SUV, but I didn’t particularly like the way it handled while accelerating quickly in sport mode. It seemed cumbersome on those occasions, but otherwise it was a dream to drive.
The NX 300 we texted stickered at just over $50K, but good luck finding any more of these new 2019s. You’re looking at 2020s on the new car lots these days, but perhaps you might consider glancing over at the used car side. We’re seeing used 2019s in the Atlanta area going for around $40K and less, and 2018s around $30K. That’s a huge savings on what will still be a great vehicle.
If you’re going for used, further advice would be to check first on the Lexus lots, because you’ll be able to buy from the Certified Pre-Owned inventory, which offers new-car peace of mind at used-car prices.
Still thinking about the 2020 NX 300? That’s fine, and there are many benefits to buying brand-new, but we’re hearing there are very few differences between the 2019 and the 2020, and most people won’t know it’s not the latest one unless you tell them.