• 2018 Lexus NX 300h

Road Test: 2018 Lexus NX 300h AWD

Aggressive Styling In A Premium SUV

In its fourth year, the 2018 Lexus NX 300h has proven itself as a comfortable driving, compact crossover utility vehicle, offering best-in-class fuel economy. With all-wheel drive standard, there is much to like about this premium crossover.


The all-wheel drive 2018 Lexus NX 300h is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, the Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive. In a parallel hybrid system, the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together.

2018 Lexus NX 300h

No speed demon, the NX 300h acquits itself well on freeways and country roads

The Lexus system comprises a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that runs on unleaded regular, producing 154 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid portion consists of two electric motor generators (MG 1 and MG2): MG 1 starts the engine and charges the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery, while MG2 drives the wheels and regenerates during braking and coasting, producing 141 hp. The combined Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive system horsepower is 194.

The power gets to all four wheels via an electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission, CVT. The EPA rates the fuel economy at 33 city/30 highway/31 mpg combined. In 359 miles of 70-percent highway/30-percent city driving, Smarticd achieved an average of 29.9 mpg. However, in two 100-mile all-freeway, all-cruise control runs, we averaged 38.2 mpg. This excellent fuel economy is a prime reason to consider buying a NX 300h.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Lexus NX 300h ran smooth, quiet and was not buzzy. Acceleration could have been a better, but adding a turbo might negate the fuel economy numbers. Overall, the NX 300h gets along well for its 4,180 lbs.

The three driver-selectable settings of EV, Eco and Sport offer different driving feels. Eco is where you will want to be for everyday, around-town driving and once up-to-speed on the highway. However, load the NX 300h with five passengers, their gear, and the need for more power will become apparent. This is where being in Sport mode is helpful. No reason struggling to get speed out of the Eco mode when the Sport mode is there waiting to give the oomph you need.

  • EV runs solely on electricity for about a half mile at no more than twenty-five miles per hour.
  • Eco prioritizes fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and reducing the air conditioning output.
  • Sport sharpens the shift points, throttle response and steering feel. Selecting Sport mode will get you to 0–60 between eight and nine seconds. Respectful enough, but certainly not a speed burner.
2018 Lexus NX 300h

File the NX 300h under: “Fuel Economy”

The ride was smooth on the highway and around town, with the electric-assisted power steering providing acceptable road feel. Clean Fleet Report’s NX 300h came with the Premium Package option that included 18-inch wheels and 225/60R Yokohama Geolander tires. The MacPherson struts up front, a double wishbone rear suspension, with stabilizer bars all the way around, made the NX 300h pleasant, easy and confident to drive. Body lean, even on the hardest of corners, was manageable and predictable, but felt heavy at times. Wind noise was low with a respectable 0.34 coefficient of drag (Cd).

Stopping was straight, without fade on repeated stops. The four-wheel power-assisted disc anti-lock brakes, were part of the regenerative braking system that converts kinetic energy into the electricity when applying the brakes or coasting. To complete the stopping suite, the NX adds brake assist, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability control and smart stop technology–all standard equipment.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Premium Package option raised the already nice interior a few notches, starting with very comfortable leather seats. The heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats are eight-way power adjustable; the driver gets memory and power lumbar. There was no challenge finding a comfortable seating position with the power tilt and telescopic steering column, and the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, which had convenient audio and telephone controls. The center armrest’s correct height (with a large storage area) was appreciated, as were the eight cup holders throughout the cabin. However, there were limited storage cubbies for the front occupants.

2018 Lexus NX 300h

The lap of luxury

The interior has a combination of hard and soft plastic on the dash and door panel surfaces.

The dash layout is simple with straight-forward gauges and controls, which are all within easy reach of the driver. The analog gauges have black backgrounds and easy-to-read white letters and numbers.

The NX 300h can seat five with ample rear head and leg room, but two adults would be more comfortable. The leather, rear outboard seats recline, making long road trips pleasant for your passengers. Rear power ports would be nice. Storage is adequate with the rear seat up (including four under-floor storage areas for securing valuables), but expansive when the 60/40 split rear seat is folded to a nearly flat position. Access to the storage area is through a power lift gate, with a convenient low lift-over load height. There is a convenient power port in the far rear.

Smarticd is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. Lexus earned our praise as the upgrade, 10-speaker Lexus Premium Sound System was a bit cumbersome to use until you got use to the pad controller. This package includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen color display that handled navigation, the backup camera, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD cache radio, with CD and MP3. Connectivity includes USB ports with iPod control, aux-in jacks, advanced casual voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone with Siri Eyes Free mode. The audio bundle includes a wide array of features through the Lexus Enform App Suite. The very cool Qi-compatible wireless mobile phone charging is an option.

Other nice interior features are power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors with driver-side memory, dual zone automatic climate control, power moonroof, carpeted floor mats, rear shelf tonneau cover, first aid kit, exterior temperature display, day/night rearview mirror with Homelink and two 12-volt accessory outlets. The optional rain sensing front wipers are a very handy feature.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2018 Lexus NX 300h

The spindle leads the way

Starting with the signature Lexus spindle grille and the L-shaped LED headlights, the NX 300h is distinguishable from its competitors. The hood sweeps up-to the laid-back windshield onto a rail-equipped roof, which also has a shark fin antenna, where the highest point is just behind the front seats. It all ends with a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch glass and window wiper. The shelf-like LED rear tail lights continue the L-shape design cue.

Safety and Convenience

The 2018 NX 300h has a National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) , the highest they provide, which is the same as the 2017 model. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the NX 300h its rating.

Safety and convenience features includes eight air bags, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, tire pressure monitoring system, and the previously mentioned vehicle stability assist, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist. Standard and optional safety technology includes pre-collision braking, intuitive parking assist, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control.

 Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 NX 300h AWD base price is $39,720. Smarticd’s test vehicle had option packages totaling $9,437 for a MSRP of $47,772. All listed prices exclude the $995 delivery processing and handling fee.

2018 Lexus NX 300h

Even the rear seek had a premium feel

The 2018 NX300h AWD comes with these warranties.

  • Basic                                  Four years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain                       Six years/70,000 miles
  • Corrosion/Perforation   Six years/Unlimited miles
  • Hybrid Components       Eight years/100,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance       Four years/Unlimited miles
  • Two Scheduled Services Per Maintenance Schedule
  • Emergency Lodging        100 miles from home

Observations: 2018 Lexus NX 300h AWD

Since its debut in 2014, the NX 300h has surpassed Lexus’ sales forecasts—from throughout the world. The refreshed 2018 Lexus NX 300h needed to have subtle, but noticeable, improvements and changes for the loyal Lexus owner.

2018 Lexus NX 300h

A step up that can reinforce your decision

Lexus describes the NX 300h AWD as a “stylish and spacious compact crossover with excellent fuel economy.” Whether it is the redesigned front fascia, impressive interior room, confident driving pleasure, safety systems or, of course, hybrid technology, the NX 300h AWD offers a step-up into the premium class for discriminating buyers.

But what comes with owning a Lexus that makes it so different from owning a Toyota, the parent company of Lexus? Lexus will tell you it is the owner experience that begins at the dealership and continues through your many years of driving one of its cars.

If you are considering stepping-up to owning a Lexus, congratulations on reaching a certain level of success. The reward for such success is having the finer things in life, which is exactly where Lexus has positioned itself: affordable luxury. When you are researching the right crossover and have determined you deserve a bit more of a premium experience, then go for the NX 300h AWD. You will not be disappointed.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

In order to give you the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Smarticd has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at [email protected].

Our previous road test of the Lexus NX 300h is here.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

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About Author:

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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