TEST DRIVING the 2021 LEXUS NX – 300F Sport

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While Lexus has been spending lots of effort (and money) revamping its lineup, its NX crossover continues to look, drive, and feel the same as it did when it first launched all the way back in 2014. As of the time of this writing, Lexus has stated that it plans to continue selling the NX as-is for the foreseeable future.

On one hand, this seems to be a bad idea. The luxury segment thrives on the new, and continuing to offer an aged platform doesn’t exactly get luxury intenders into the showroom. On the other hand, Lexus has proven the value of slow, methodical change. And people who buy a Lexus buy it because they know it will simply work.

We’ve had a few NX press vehicles on loan from Lexus, and this time we’re driving the 2021 Lexus NX 300 F-Sport. It’s the “sporty” Lexus crossover, and by “sporty” we mean that it’s just a normal NX with some flashy exterior cosmetic bits inside and out. The grille is a bit more aggressive, the chin spoiler is a bit larger so that it will sit lower, and it can be had with some flashy red seats.

Speaking of the interior, the NX 300 F-Sport gets Active Sound Control, which pumps a fake engine sound through the speakers. It also comes with a gauge cluster that, as Lexus likes to proclaim, is inspired by the LF-A supercar. Keep in mind that the LF-A started production in 2010, so we’re not quite sure that counts as a “hot” or “new” feature.

But our bits of snark aside, if we’re being objective, there are few flaws to be found with the NX.

Mechanically, it’s a Toyota. So while it may not be the zestiest of drives, the oily bits are dead reliable. And should something go wrong, you’ll be paying Toyota prices to get things fixed.

Under the hood of all gas-powered Lexus NX 300s sits a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, rated here at 235 horsepower. Not a great number, but not too bad, either. Thanks to that turbocharger, torque numbers are a bit better, with 258 lb-ft of twist available from 1650-4000 rpm. In a world where everything is shifting to CVT, we’re grateful that the NX 300 still uses a smooth-shifting auto with six real gears. It all makes for a powertrain that never feels as if it’s wanting for anything during our normal driving, even if it’s not the sportiest thing out there.

Even with its unique suspension tuning, the ride of the NX 300 F-Sport is geared more towards comfort than outright handling. If you want a crossover built to dominate the Nurburgring, look elsewhere. If you want something that does a nice job of soaking up bumps while feeling poised in the twisty stuff, the NX is here for you.

Compared to stablemates like the UX or IS, the interior of the NX decidedly feels very last-gen. Lexus is taking a more minimal approach with its interiors these days, and the NX still boasts lots of contrasting surfaces and shapes. But if you don’t mind a few extra, tactile buttons, the NX is a very nice place to be. Despite its small-ish exterior footprint, there’s plenty of room for all passengers – even taller passengers will find a generous amount of head and legroom in the rear. And despite the design being over six years old, we still find the driver’s seat of the NX to be one of the most comfortable we’ve ever sat in. The way it meets the contours of our body, and its perfect amount of give, makes it feel as if it were tailored just to us. It’s not hyperbole when we say that this seat alone makes the NX one of our all-time favorite vehicles. It’s just that good.

The Lexus NX 300 F-Sport is the embodiment of the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” It’s a vehicle that’s not exceptional at any one thing; but it does so many things so incredibly well, it remains our go-to answer when people ask us what kind of car they should buy. And as long as Lexus doesn’t change the NX, we can’t see ourselves changing our answer.

Justin Kaehler
Justin Kaehler is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer, and auto enthusiast who has been sharing his passion for cars for over 15 years.