The Lexus NX 300 starts from about $60,000 drive-away. Pictured in F-Sport specification.
The Lexus NX 300 starts from about $60,000 drive-away. Pictured in F-Sport specification.

Can’t go on holiday ... time for a new luxury car

During the initial phase of the coronavirus crisis, car dealerships were ghost towns.

Virtually all shopping, big and small, was banished. But as people emerged from forced hibernation, they came with new motivation.

Luxury carmakers saw an immediate surge. No expensive overseas holidays this year, why not buy a new car?

BMW and Mercedes-Benz sales climbed about 30 per cent compared to the same time last year, while Audi nearly doubled its figures on June 2019.

Lexus sold more than 1500 vehicles last month — an increase of 60 per cent on the same time last year. Leading the way for the Japanese luxury marque was the NX mid-size SUV. The brand’s biggest seller went gangbusters and it remains Lexus’ most popular vehicle. Priced from about $60,000 drive-away, German rivals struggle to match standard features levels for the same coin.

The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller and starts from about $60,000 drive-away.
The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller and starts from about $60,000 drive-away.

VALUE

Some luxury car brands have an optional gear list rivalling War and Peace. Not Lexus.

Savvy buyers can be content in the base model without being reminded daily that they skimped on equipment. Basic inclusions are power tailgate, 18-inch alloys, keyless entry with push button start, 10-speaker stereo with digital radio) including a DVD/CD player) connected to a central 10.3-inch colour screen, man-made leather trim, dual-zone aircon, along with heated and power-operated front seats.

The only enhancement available on this variant is a $2575 sunroof.

Black is a no-cost external colour option, while white, grey, titanium, graphite black, deep red, bronze and blue add $1500.

Lexus owners automatically become part of the Encore program, which includes exclusive experiences and events — including drive and golf days, dinners as well as hotel stays. Strangely it only lasts for three years, while the warranty of the vehicle is four years (unlimited kilometres).

Capped price servicing is the least expensive than all luxury offerings, starting at $495 for each of the first three return visits to the dealer due annually or every 15,000km. Loan cars are also free as part of the Encore deal.

Basic inclusions are power tailgate, 18-inch alloys, keyless entry with push button start, 10-speaker stereo with digital radio) including a DVD/CD player) connected to a central 10.3-inch colour screen and man-made leather trim.
Basic inclusions are power tailgate, 18-inch alloys, keyless entry with push button start, 10-speaker stereo with digital radio) including a DVD/CD player) connected to a central 10.3-inch colour screen and man-made leather trim.

SAFETY

Updates last year enabled the automatic emergency braking system, which can slam on the anchors if the driver fails to act quick enough, to also scan for cyclists and pedestrians during the day and night.

Also upgraded was lane tracing assist which works in tandem with active cruise control that can keep the NX away from other vehicles and in its lane if attention wanders. Other inclusions are trailer sway control, speed sign recognition, rear cross traffic alert (which doesn’t work in conjunction with AEB like some other manufacturers), and while there is a reversing camera and sensors at the rear, there are sensors on the front.

The mid-size Lexus NX has room for five.
The mid-size Lexus NX has room for five.

COMFORT

There’s a simple way to really annoy Lexus owners: call their vehicles a flash Toyota. In essence it’s true, but the craftsmanship, fit and finish takes a hefty leap forward with Lexus.

Insulated from road intrusions, the NX cabin is quiet and delivers the refinement expected of a luxury vehicle.

While launched about five years ago, the SUV’s set-up has quickly dated. There’s a range of buttons and toggles across the dash with equipment at a range of angles which collectively looks like a successful game of Tetris.

Another issue is the Lexus touchpad. This is the next iteration after the mouse-style controller, and it’s equally as bad, maybe worse. The operation takes your attention off the road as the menus can be difficult to navigate.

Luckily smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard to ease the pain. Lexus needs to fall on its touchpad sword and find a new solution.

Yet for the remainder of the cabin there is ample commonsense and practicality: dual cup holders front and back, good seats with the back pew having a long cushion base, bottle holders in the doors, and an expansive boot with rear seats which fold 60-40.

The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller.
The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller.

DRIVING

Sprightly off the line, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers surprising speed. Partnered to a six-speed auto, the pairing works well, but there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel for those who like to take manual-style control.

Offering more body control and feel than some of its stablemates – Lexus vehicles are super soft and cosseting – the NX can handle a bend without feeling like it’s about to topple.

The 0–100km/h sprint can be managed in a swift 7.1 seconds and the console dial enables the driver to shift between Eco, Normal and Sport modes. That simply changes acceleration response and steering feel, so don’t expect the latter mood to rival a sports car.

Courtesy of some longer highway travels, fuel consumption was close to the official figure of just below eight litres for every 100km using premium unleaded.

The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller.
The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller.

HEAD SAYS

Brand prestige and an enviable reputation for reliability and quality come in a good-value package that can cater for the family needs.

HEART SAYS

Sharp angles and Japanese precision get my blood pumping. Even the base model feels special, even if some of the functions are dated.

The Lexus NX 300.
The Lexus NX 300.

ALTERNATIVES

VOLVO XC60 MOMENTUM $65,710 D/A

That price is with a $5000 cashback. The XC60 offers brilliant internal design, smooth external lines and is a great performer, powered by a 187kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl AWD. Now comes with a five-year unlimited km warranty.

MERCEDES-BENZ GLC 200 $73,385 D/A

Also boasting Euro good looks inside and out, while under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl, good for 145kW/320Nm RWD. Good drive and equally as quick off the mark as the NX. Also has a five-year warranty, and is the genre’s biggest seller.

The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller.
The Lexus NX is the brand's biggest seller.

VERDICT

It’s called luxury for good reason. Well equipped and a chunk of cash less expensive than German rivals, the NX is a comfortable cruiser backed by the best reliability and longevity reputation in the business.

LEXUS NX 300 LUXURY

PRICE $60,650 drive-away (cheap in luxury realm)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 4yr unlim’ km w’ty (bit short); $1485 3yrs (good)

ENGINE 2.0-litre 175kW/350Nm turbo FWD (punchy)

SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, radar cruise, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, auto high beam (solid)

THIRST 7.7L/100km (on par)

SPARE Space-saver (not great)

BOOT 500 litres/ 1545 (fine)



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