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The NX wants to be a sports car—you can tell by its chiseled body and angle-eyed glare—but don’t be fooled: Underneath, it’s a softy. F Sport models get a stiffer suspension, but that fails to truly sharpen the handling. A 235-hp 2.0-liter turbo four and six-speed automatic are standard; the available hybrid model returned just 27 mpg in our testing. Front-drive is standard on both models; all-wheel drive is optional. Features like a well-appointed cabin and comfy seats keep the NX in the hunt.
Within a given model lineup, plotting each trim level’s price against the return for that investment typically yields a rising curve. Spend more money, get the better version of a car. But if you run this cost/benefit study on the Lexus NX family, we’re not so sure the graph follows so rosy an arc.
The hierarchy starts out with the base front-wheel-drive NX200t; it comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, standout styling (it’s not boring!), and Lexus-like interior trappings. Add all-wheel drive to the mix for all-weather traction, some packages here and there to really flesh it out, and each upgrade nets the NX a benefit commensurate with the increase in price.
Riding on tires of identical size to those used on the front-drive NX300h, the AWD NX300h managed an identical 0.77 g around the skidpad, but its extra weight manifests in a 12-foot-longer stop from 70 mph. Numbers aside, the NX300h feels heavy, and its suspension feels imprecise. The ride is okay, albeit on the firmer side of comfort, but that starch fails to keep the NX300h’s body roll in check, and the lifeless, video-game-like steering might as well be connected to a different car’s front tires. This is all to say that the NX300h is not, as you have probably already surmised, a sports car or even a sporty crossover. It’s worth pointing out these dynamic shortcomings because they come with no commensurate upside at the pump. It is fairly typical for a four-wheel-drive version of a car to be less efficient than its two-wheel-drive counterpart, and opting for the all-wheel-drive NX300h chops 2 mpg from the city figure and 1 mpg from the highway number relative to a front-drive model, for a 33/30 mpg rating. We saw 27 mpg over several hundred test miles.