By Eric Peters
The Lexus RX 350 is a very popular luxury crossover SUV — probably because it was the first luxury crossover SUV.
But there’s another Lexus crossover that’s very similar — just a little smaller.
Just not inside.
Or under the hood.
What It Is
The NX is Lexus’ compact-size crossover — relative to the midsize RX 350. Both share similar styling and have about the same space inside for people as well as cargo.
They have similar powertrains, too.
The main difference, then, is that you can pick up a new NX 250 for $39,755; an NX 350 with the same turbocharged four that’s the new standard engine in the 2023 RX 350 lists for $43,515.
That’s with standard all-wheel drive.
A front-wheel-drive ’23 RX 350 stickers for $48,550. With the optional AWD system, the RX 350’s sticker climbs to $50,150.
There are also two hybrid versions of the NX, one — the NX 350h — that recharges itself as you drive and the other — the NX 450h — that can be plugged in to a household outlet to charge it. The NX 350h stickers for $43,105 to start.
The plug-in NX 450h stickers for $57,705 to start.
The NX is the first new Lexus to do away with the previous generation’s mousepad/finger-controller interface, which you used to operate the infotainment system. It has been replaced by a new Lexus Interface that can be operated by voice as well as touch.
About the same size — inside — as the midsize RX 350.
Not the same price as the RX 350.
New optional turbocharged engine (same engine that comes standard in the ’23 RX 350) is much stronger than the previous NX 300’s smaller, much less potent optional engine.
What’s Not So Good
Standard (nonturbocharged) engine in the NX 250 doesn’t pack much of a punch.
Not rated to pull as much as the larger-on-the-outside RX (2,000 pounds max. vs. 3,500 for the RX).
F-Sport handling/cosmetic upgrades not available with the NX 250.
Under The Hood
The only engine you can get in any NX is a 2.4-liter four cylinder, as in the ’23 RX. But you can get it four different ways.
The first way is as it comes in the NX 250, which is without a turbo. This way, it makes 203 horsepower. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic, and you can choose either FWD or (optionally) AWD.
The second way is as it comes in the NX 350, which is with a turbo. This way, it makes 275 horsepower. This one’s also paired with an eight-speed automatic and standard AWD.
How about a third way?
The NX 350h pairs the 2.4-liter engine with electric motors (that power the rear wheels) and a lithium-ion battery that gets recharged as you drive, using the engine as a generator as well as propulsion. The combo produces a total of 239 horsepower and achieves 41 mpg in city driving (37 mpg on the highway).
There’s also a fourth way.
The NX 450h is also a hybrid, but one that can be plugged in so that you don’t have to burn any gas to top off the battery pack. It can also be driven entirely on battery power at normal road speeds for about 36 miles — because it has a more powerful lithium-ion battery pack than the NX 350h.
This version of the NX is also the speediest, getting to 60 in six seconds flat.
On The Road
The new NX 350 dramatically upstages the old NX 300, which offered nothing larger (or stronger) than a 2.0-liter engine that developed 235 horsepower. Equipped with its optional 275 horsepower 2.4 engine, the ’23 NX 350 is nearly one full second quicker to 60, which is a difference you can tell by feel rather than the stopwatch.
The turbo’d engine’s generous torque production is also almost always-at-the-ready in that it is produced at just 1,300 rpm and maintained all the way through 3,600 rpm. The result being a powerful engine that’s also an easygoing one; you generally don’t need to floor it to get the acceleration needed for moving away from a stoplight with alacrity.
However, the base-engined new NX (the NX 250) is slower to 60 because it comes with a less powerful engine than the previous NX 300 came with.
At The Curb
The new NX is still a compact-size crossover as contrasted with the midsize RX 350. The latter is 192.5 inches long vs. 183.5 inches long for the former. But on the inside, the size is almost the same.
In the NX, there’s 41 inches of legroom for the front-seat passengers and 36.1 inches for those sitting in back. In the RX, there’s 41 inches of legroom for those up front and 37.3 inches for those in back.
But it’s behind the seats where the similarities are most striking.
In the compact-size NX, there’s 22.7 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the second row — expandable to 46.9 cubic feet when the second row is folded forward. In the midsize RX, there’s … 29.5 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 46.1 cubic feet with the second row down.
Thoughtful — useful — touches include standard USB power points in both the old and new style. There’s also a 12V power point for the old school, who may still have and wish to use devices powered that way.
The Bottom Line
Now that the RX no longer has what you used to get for the price, maybe paying less for the NX — and getting much the same — makes more sense.
Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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