The dramatic lines on the Lexus NX keep it a compelling rival to pint-size luxury SUVs from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but it could be more spacious. The 2020 Lexus NX is a stylish five-seat crossover SUV that slots in size-wise between most of its rivals. The 2020 NX can be had in base, F Sport, and Luxury trim levels, with most versions available with either turbo-4 or thrifty hybrid power. The 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 is energetic but eco-friendly NX 300h that averages upward of 30 mpg combined.
The NX sports stylish lines, especially in polarizing F Sport trim that adds an even larger grille and upsized wheels. The F Sport also has a buttoned-down suspension that gives it better handling, though no version of this Lexus crossover SUV is ready for a race track. Instead, it makes a great runabout for those who don’t need lots of rear-seat space. The front seats are well-sculpted on all versions and offer good support. Cargo space is just average, owing to the short wheelbase, though the 55 cubic feet with the rear seat folded is an advantage over similar sedans.
The 2020 Lexus NX wears its rakish lines better than many competitors vehicles. It’s hard to believe the 2020 Lexus NX is based on a design that bowed half a decade ago. Its looks have aged better than we would have predicted back then, and give it points for its interior and exterior styling. The NX discards curves for avant-garde lines from every viewing angle, and they are all angles, as there is no effort here to be swoopy. The NX wears a smaller version of the automaker’s now-signature “spindle” grille that works well, better so than in many competitors models. The 2020 NX F Sport builds upon that with an upsized grille, bigger wheels, and a body kit that’s just right. A new Black Line trim package this year adds predictable blacked-out chrome trim, plus intriguing bronze finishes. Like the rest of the NX, it’s a statement, and one we’d consider.
Two versions of the 2020 Lexus NX provide modest driving excitement. The base NX 300, which used to be called NX 200t, makes use of a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 235 hp. It shuttles power to the front or all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The optional all-wheel-drive system is meant for snowy days, not foraging in the woods. The turbo-4 provides brisk acceleration, but it isn’t as refined as we’ve come to expect from other Lexus engines. The turbocharger can be a little lifeless at low speeds and then to life with vigor.
Borrowing bits from Toyota’s hybrids, the NX 300h pairs a 2.5-liter inline-4 with two electric motors and a battery pack. One of the electric motors powers the rear wheels, meaning every NX 300h is all-wheel drive. An electronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) handles power delivery and helps give the NX 300h smooth, confident acceleration, even if it’s not going to outrun most V-6 family sedans. The hybrid powertrain can be kept in electric mode at low speeds when battery charge is sufficient for short distances.
The NX F Sport package adds sporty looks and bigger wheels, but no major functional changes aside from a slightly stiffer suspension and a Sport+ mode that pipes some augmented underhood rumble into the cabin and holds gears longer. F Sport or not, the NX has good, light steering and limited body lean for a small crossover SUV. The optional adaptive suspension on the F Sport improves its ride and may be worth the extra cost to many drivers. The NX is rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds with proper trailering equipment.
The 2020 Lexus NX has average crossover SUV fuel economy in standard form, or a thrifty one as a hybrid. One won’t pass up a chance for a refill, while the other can go a few extra miles. The base front-drive NX 300 is pegged at 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 25 combined. Adding all-wheel drive nicks the combined figure by 1 mpg to 24 mpg, while the F Sport’s bigger wheels impact the highway figure by another 1 mpg. The NX 300h, however, sips at a rate of just 33/30/31 mpg. According to the EPA, the NX 300h will cost about $750 less to fill up annually, which essentially cancels out the premium Lexus charges for the hybrid version. We averaged 24.1 in a week of mixed driving with our gas-only F Sport, better than the EPA numbers.
The 2020 Lexus NX boasts a good crash-test record and will do its best to keep you out of a collision with its standard collision-avoidance tech. Should one happen, federal and independent testers have given the small Lexus crossover SUV good marks. Every 2020 NX is built with adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The IIHS awarded the 2020 NX a Top Safety Pick+ award, while the NHTSA scored the crossover SUV at five stars overall with four stars in the frontal collision test and four stars in the calculated rollover measurement. However, the sloping roof and wide pillars make for subpar over-the-shoulder outward vision, only slightly offset by the optional surround-view camera system.
Inside, the NX has a symmetrical dash with a display that rests tablet-like atop the center stack. Buttons are organized neatly below. Splashes of colorful trim scattered among the more mundane hues on most versions keep the interior from looking low-buck, too. Bright red and tan leathers look best, as the dark shades accent the NX’s already cramped interior. The standard 8.0-inch screen is bright, and the optional 10.3-inch display is even better, but they’re both stuck with a controller that’s annoying at best. At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard.
The 2020 Lexus NX lives up to the automaker’s luxury mission for front-seat passengers, but rear-seat riders may not be thrilled. For the most part, the 2020 Lexus NX delivers the premium, upscale feel we’ve come to expect from the automaker’s cars, at least for drivers, passengers, and cargo. The short wheelbase means that while front-seat passengers in the 2020 NX have comfortable, multi-adjustable thrones wrapped in either synthetic or real leather, but rear-seat riders make do with less space. The NX has 36.1 inches of leg room, but the sloping roof line does little to help rear-seat head room. NX F Sport versions have even better front seats with more bolstering and adjustment than the stock setup. Cargo space is low for the class at around 55 cubic feet with the second row folded flat and just 18 cubes with it upright, a figure more akin to sedans than crossovers. Style has a price.
Every 2020 Lexus NX is equipped with a good deal of useful features. The 2020 NX comes in two basic flavors, NX 300 and NX 300h, that are largely equipped the same, although only the base gas-only version can be had with front-wheel drive. The lineup starts at about $38,000, which buys active safety tech, power-adjustable front seats wrapped in synthetic leather, an 8.0-inch display, power-folding exterior mirrors, and keyless ignition. Most NXs on dealer lots probably have either F Sport trim or Luxury trim, which add a few goodies and elevate the price. We think the Luxury trim is the smartest buy. For around $45,000, it nets leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, and a few more items, and it buys access to additional extra-cost options such as a surround-view camera system, a power liftgate, and Mark Levinson audio. The NX hybrid costs about $900 more than the base engine.
The Lexus NX delights in uncommon ways among a sea of small crossover competition. While competitors have chosen to go bigger over time and prioritize off-road ability, Lexus has smartly chosen to make the NX’s styling it’s standout feature, and it works. Add to that refined driving dynamics, legendary Lexus comfort and quality, and class leading fuel economy; and it quickly becomes clear why the Lexus NX is a great contender.
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