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2021 Lexus NX Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 6.7

The 2021 Lexus NX is on the softer side of the performance spectrum. The NX rides comfortably over rough pavement, its four-cylinder engine supplies adequate power for everyday driving, and it returns decent fuel economy for a small SUV. The NX’s handling is composed but not very exciting.

  • "The focus of the 2021 Lexus NX 300 is more on comfort than excitement. Even the F-Sport, with its firmer suspension and sport bucket seats, doesn’t really convince. That’s not to say the NX handles poorly or lacks credible feedback from the steering and brakes. It’s just a more relaxed conveyance that most luxury buyers will appreciate." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The transmission provides seamless shifts in normal driving conditions, and the smooth engine virtually disappears from your awareness." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "The crossover's steering is lively and holds the road well, giving it confident handling. Both variants of the NX, however, are a bit heavy, so regardless of the engine choice, neither will be a rocket in a straight line compared to the competition." -- Motor Trend (2018)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: six-speed automatic

The engine in this Lexus feels plucky, and it shuttles the NX around briskly. Accelerating from zero to 60 mph takes about seven seconds, which is OK for this segment. The transmission operates smoothly for the most part. Some critics say the engine sounds gruff at higher rpm though.

  • "The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is both lively and fuel-efficient, although some uncharacteristic coarseness can be heard when worked hard." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "For performance and driver engagement, the NX 300 comes up as merely average among small luxury SUVs. The engine is smooth and has good low-end power. But with a 0-60 mph acceleration of 7.3 seconds, it's marginally slower than rivals." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "The 300 comes with Lexus's first four-cylinder turbo – a well-integrated … engine that delivers a linear power delivery that's for the most part, smooth and refined. It does an admirable job, so long as you don't expect a lush and creamy V6 experience." -- Consumer Reports (2018)

MPG Estimates

The Lexus NX returns an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, which is slightly better than average for the class. This rating falls to 22/27 mpg for the F Sport model.

For even better fuel economy, you might want to check out the Lexus NX Hybrid, which we review separately.

Handling and Braking

The Lexus NX provides a comfortable ride even when driving over rough and uneven pavement. The SUV feels composed and surefooted on the open road, but not to a sporty extent, due largely to its lightly weighted steering and moderate body lean around turns.

  • "Steering effort is appropriate and precise, but there's little feedback for the driver. When cornering, there's a good amount of body roll, but the NX is still reasonably predictable and poised." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "The NX provides a confident and secure driving experience, but it's far from the sporty end of the spectrum. The F Sport adds some zest, but the ride can be a bit firm unless you opt for the adaptive suspension. In any case, competitors such as the Acura RDX, the BMW X1 and the surprisingly luxurious Mazda CX-5 offer a more memorable driving experience." -- Autotrader (2020)
  • "The accent is on comfort rather than handling, with light and rather numb steering." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)
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2021 Lexus NX

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