Lexus refines the NX

In Photo: The 2018 NX300 F-Sport edition

Story & photos by Randy S. Peregrino

WHEN a well-known Japanese luxury-car brand regarded for its level of opulence and craftsmanship bestows any amount of enhancement to a particular model, it’s always worth a second look. In the case of the NX platform, Lexus finally brought in the updated version of the luxury compact crossover with several notable elements.

The radical 2-liter turbocharged engine with VVT-i from the previous edition

First things first, the 2018 edition has relinquished its NX200t badge in order to carry the NX300 nameplate across the board. The rest of the enhancements focused more on aesthetics with several remarkable automated upgrades, as well as technical tunings.

Up close, the striking F-Sport variant bears the prominent characteristic that Lexus considers as a fusion of condensed dynamism with edgy solid surfaces. The most prominent feature on the front grille is the Lexus trademark that’s extra-highlighted with polished borders. There are also the new designed LED headlamps, along with the brand’s iconic L-shaped clearance lamps, to match the sharp profiles up front. Even the bumper was given fresh set of mesh-like garnishes along with the additional aluminum finished bumper chin. The equally striking rear end also got several tweaks such as the redesigned tail lamps bearing the F-Sport frame. Moreover, there’s the new lower panel that complements the larger twin pipes with aluminum finished trim as well. As for the athletic stance, the exclusive F-Sport 18-inch alloy wheels in glossy luminous surface are a perfect match.

Distinctly elegant yet sporty and driver-centric cockpit layout, but with notable upgrades

Inside is the same distinctly elegant yet sporty and driver-centric cockpit layout. Nevertheless, Lexus did a great job in putting together premium materials and trims down to the smallest detail to come up with an excellent package for driving pleasure. There are the F-Sport leather seats with Dark Rose color motif integrated with a kind of foaming technology to provide that snug feel and air vents through the perforated portions. Another F-Sport inspiration are the LFA-inspired instrument meters and aluminum pedals. But one of the noticeable changes was the new and wider 10.3-inch head-up display flashing numerous operations, including navigational feature and other connectivity functions. Also, there’s the bigger wireless charging plate for smartphones along with Lexus own touchpad controller.

Lexus’s own track pad controller replaced the old knob

Retained under the hood was the radical 2-liter turbocharged four-banger motor (8AR-FTS) equipped with VVT-i. It dishes out an impressive output of 235 hp between 4,800 and 5,600 rpm, and 350 N-m of maximum torque anywhere from 1,650 to 4,000 rpm. Power is then transferred to all four wheels via the six-speed automatic gearbox (exclusive to the F-Sport).  But keeping the same powertrain doesn’t mean there’s no more room for other improvements to deal with the dynamics. So the suspension system was also augmented by installing the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) in order to provide superior control and handling. It’s even fortified with fine-tuned components to meet the necessities of spirited driving.

Among the long list of safety and convenience elements, the Radar Cruise Control is by far one of the best features. It remarkably enables the vehicle to remain a safe distance from any car in front. The 2018 NX300 F-Sport variant is priced at P3.488 million while the standard variant is valued at P2.998 million.

Behind the wheel

The stunning rear end with enhancements

AFTER an up-close encounter with the stunning NX300 F-Sport luxury compact crossover, it was time to take it for a spin. What’s good about the opportunity to drive a fine vehicle like this is that it opens up your senses to further appreciate what lies beneath the magnificence. Once you step in, the surrounding lavishness begins to emanate while uplifting your excitement. All the necessary adjustments you could think of to find that perfect seating position are all there. But the moment you start rolling is where the excitement arises further. Not even the morning traffic rush could take away the sensation from driving this luxury compact crossover.

By the time we reached the expressway, everything became blissful. The ride was not only smooth but also steady, with very little rebound from road imperfections. Press that right foot and it delivers a linear acceleration. But perhaps the fun part was the Acoustic Sound Control function, which emits an engaging engine note inside the cabin along with the spurt. It may be superficial, but at least the brute force from the motor is actually there. Still, that artificial sound somehow adds savor to rush and even became more fascinating during quick overtakes.

When we tackled the winding terrains inside the Tagaytay Highlands property, the superb handling started to manifest. Imagine, with all the wheels providing traction, the AVS further aided in imparting excellent control and handling, while turning the responsive steering. As a result, maneuvering became a walk in the park while tapping the paddle shifters just for downshifting. Amazingly, we reached the destination already feeling relaxed and enjoyed the cool weather with breathtaking view of the countryside.

 

Image Credits: Randy S. Peregrino