Lexus NX 350 F-Sport — A just-right-size luxury crossover

By Jim Meachen

(July 16, 2023) The compact Lexus NX crossover arrived in 2015 filling the segment vacated by the popular RX in the Lexus lineup. The RX was of compact size when it was introduced in 1998, but has deserted the segment through five iterations, growing into a mid-sized luxury SUV.

Since the 1998 original, the RX has gained 12 inches in length with a 9-inch longer wheelbase. The NX has filled the compact space quite nicely only 3 inches longer than the original RX — with a 106-inch wheelbase — entering its second generation for the 2022 model year. The 2023 NX 350 we drove for this review carries on without any changes from last-year's second-generation total makeover.

Last year we drove the brand's first plug-in hybrid, the 450h+, with up to 37 miles of all-electric range. It's a compelling vehicle that commands a hefty pricetag. Our test 450h+ carried a bottom line of $61,170.

This time around we tested the NX 350 model, the nameplate's volume leader and the second-best selling Lexus in its portfolio of vehicles. It’s powered by a turbocharged 275-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Lexus quotes a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds, a tick quicker than the outgoing model, and a combined EPA fuel estimate of 25 MPG. Premium fuel is required, and all-wheel drive is standard for the NX 350 model.

The NX lineup consists of no less than four different powertrains — the NX 250 with 203 horsepower from a 2.5-liter four cylinder, the NX 350 with a turbocharged 2.4-liter four cylinder, a standard 350h hybrid with 239 horsepower, and the aforementioned plug-in 450h+ hybrid with 302 horsepower.

Our NX 350 in F-Sport Handling trim offered comfortable performance, more than adequate for merging into the fast lane and for passing slower-moving traffic on a two-lane road. While the handling moniker might be a bit overstated, our NX 350 will not be embarrassed taking back-road corners hard and fast. It certainly is enough performance for the typical Lexus buyer who, we think, is looking for an all-around comfortable luxury package.

Inside, the cabin is significantly improved from the first generation with a more updated modern look and classier, more expensive materials. There’s also slightly more back seat passenger room and new optional heated seats. New ambient interior lighting with a choice of 64 different color options is part of the 2023 package, and our test NX was trimmed with attractive black open-pore matte finished wood trim.

On the road the new NX has noticeably improved driving dynamics compared to the outgoing model. Most Lexus models deliver a ride that’s soft and floaty, however the NX is not. The suspension feels firmer than you might expect and there’s more road feel coming up through the steering wheel.

At first glance the 2023 NX might not look significantly different than the first generation, but under the freshened exterior skin, there are huge changes including an extensive array of new safety technology, and the first application of Lexus’ new interface that replaces the unloved and frustrating vehicle operating trackpad.

A console mounted dial is used to select from Normal, Eco and Sport drive modes and they do make a noticeable difference especially when turning to Sport+. There’s plenty of passing power with good grunt overtaking an eighteen-wheeler on a two-lane road. Bottom line, there’s some sportiness to its driving character, not in the class of the BMW X3, Porsche Macan or new Genesis GV70, but still extremely capable with satisfactory engine performance for most all driving situations.

The cabin is pleasantly quiet, not LS sedan quiet, but appropriately muted. For the first time there are some upgrades offered such as a head-up display and a panoramic sunroof making road trips even more pleasurable. Adding to that enjoyment is the new infotainment controls that are far more attractive and easier to use compared to the previous system with its frustrating operation that distracted the driver. And if you do need help, just say "Hey, Lexus."

Base models come with a 9.8-inch infotainment display while high-end trims such as our 350 F-Sport get a large 14.0-inch unit. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard and work via a wireless connection; a wireless smartphone charging pad is optional. A 10-speaker stereo system is standard and comes with a free trial of Amazon Music. A 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo system is optional on models equipped with the Premium or Luxury packages.

Prices start at $40,205 for the NX 250, and NX 350 prices start at $43,965. Hybrid prices start at $43,865 for the NX 350h and $58,655 for the NX 450h+.

Our NX 350 F-Sport carried a base price of $48,615 and an as-tested price of $55,235 with several options including the $2,200 F-Sport Handling package that includes the 14-inch touchscreen and the "Hey Lexus" Intelligent Assistant.

Overall, after having continually complained about the Lexus operating controls and touchpad system in the past, we must now say the new setup on this NX is generally and thankfully better especially the new and 14-inch touchscreen that works masterfully.

While pure driving enthusiasts who engage in a sporty driving dynamic will most likely opt for a BMW, Mercedes AMG or Porsche Macan, those who are looking for a value priced, compact luxury SUV with excellent reliability and resale value along with roomy, comfortable seating for four, the new NX could easily be your next vehicle. 

Ted Biederman contributed to this review

2023 Lexus NX 350 F-Sport


Base price: $43,965; as driven, $55,235
Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 275 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 317 pound-feet @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Length: 183.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,035 pounds
Luggage capacity: 22.7 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 46.9 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 22 city, 28 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 6.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Acure RDX, Genesis GV70, Mercedes-Benz GLC

The Good
• Four powertrain choices
• Many standard tech features
• Handsomely appointed interior

The Bad
• Could use some more horsepower

The Ugly
• Less cargo space than most competitors