Here’s a Trivial Pursuit teaser for you. What does the NX in Lexus’ NX 300 sporty sport-ute stand for?
The simple answer would be nothing. Just another alphabet soup of lettering for which Lexus is famed. Everything from UX, to RX, to GX to LX.
Why am I suddenly hearing country crooner George Strait singing about all his Xs livin’ in Texas?
Well you’d be wrong. I am reliably informed – I read it on the Internet so it must be true – that in Lexus parlance, NX stands for ‘Nimble Crossover.’
Which makes for great cocktail conversation. “Hey Earl, I’m likin’ that new Lexus you’re driving.” “Well thank you Wilber, it’s the new Nimble Crossover 300 F Sport”.
Thankfully Lexus doesn’t share with too many people the origins of its NX nomenclature. It’s just plain ol’ NX, which is fine with me.
This factoid should actually be common knowledge considering the NX has been around longer than Betty White. It was first introduced way back in 2014 which, in car years, is Flintstone-era.
And apart from a mild nip, tuck and Botox jab in 2018, the NX has soldiered on pretty much unchanged, despite the market for mid-size crossovers in the $38,000 to $50,000 bracket exploding with shiny, tech-rich newcomers.
These days the slightly wrinkly NX has to lock horns with those new kids on the block, like Mercedes’ terrific new GLB, Cadillac’s XT4, Lincoln’s stylish new Corsair, Infiniti’s Q50, BMW’s X1 and Volvo’s XC40. The list goes on.
But it’s a measure of the excellence of the NX’s original design, engineering and overall concept that it is still a major player in today’s luxury crossover game.
I’ve just spent a week with the sportiest NX in the litter, the $42,000 NX 300 F Sport ($52,500 nicely loaded), and I have to say I came away impressed by its all-round goodness, its athletic character and terrific quality.
While a base NX 300 stickers for a competitive $36,870, it’s the F Sport, with its huge, look-at-me ‘spindle’ grille and Nike ‘whoosh’ headlights, that you’ll want.
The F Sport package gives you slightly stiffer suspension, 18-inch F Sport wheels, new racier front and rear bumpers, and shiny, oversized tailpipes.
But it’s inside where you see more of the F Sport character. You sit in super-comfy, heavily-side-bolstered front sports seats, and hold on to a proper F Sport leather wheel with paddle shifters.
Step up to the Premium F Sport pack – a non-trivial $2,865 – for the power moonroof, heated and vented front seats and rear cross traffic alert warning.
But there’s no more power from the ol’ faithful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder the NX has had since the dawn of time.
That means 235-horsepower and 258 torques, which may not sound like a lot to motivate a 4,000-pound, tall-riding sport-ute. But this little motor has more muscle than Stallone in his Rocky days.
Off the line it sprints like that kangaroo escaping the cops in Fort Lauderdale, and has oodles of mid-range oomph for safe, swift passing or freeway merging.
And if that little four-banger sounds like a throaty Mustang V8 accelerating away, you have to thank the NX’s ASC, short for Active Sound Control.
You’ll either think it cheesy or fun, but what it does is pump some of the engine’s soundtrack through the car’s speakers to enhance and enrich.
I tell you, it sounds pretty terrific when played through the optional Mark Levinson 835-watt, 14-speaker surround sound system.
That tighter suspension definitely gives the NX a sportier feel through the curves. It doesn’t transform it into a sports car, but it reduces body roll and helps the steering feel more precise.
Size wise, the NX offers plenty of space for a mid-size, with a ton of front seat legroom and generous rear-seat knee room. Only the smallish tailgate opening reduces versatility.
For me, Rod Stewart sums it up best: “You wear it well. A little old fashioned but that’s all right”. A Nimble Crossover indeed.