The Lexus NX 300 is one of our favorite compact luxury crossovers here at the Car Pro. It checks all the boxes for style, technology and luxury along with a smooth ride and of course Lexus’ reputation for quality and value. And now for the first time ever, the NX 300 is offered as a hybrid. Plus, it’s even available as a Black Line Special Edition (BLSE), with just 1,000 of the limited production run to go around.
My 2021 NX 300h F Sport Black Line Special Edition test model stands out in Celestial Blue, with color-keyed over fenders and super sharp-looking 18-inch split 10-spoke F Sport wheels with a dark finish. The front end makes no attempt at being discreet with a huge black F Sport grille, with smoked chrome trim. This model has Bi-LED headlights and LED daytime running lights along with LED tail lights. The BLSE adds front fog and cornering lights. The F Sport features lower bumpers along with a larger exhaust opening. It’s topped with aluminum roof rails and new for 2021, power-folding auto-dimming reverse tilt mirrors are now standard across the lineup.
The biggest difference between the NX300 and 300h is the powertrain. The NX 300h’s system delivers 194-horsepower from its hybrid powertrain (a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor). That’s markedly less than the gas model’s 235-horses though it’s not just about the number. A hybrid system should feel more powerful than the horsepower number indicates thanks to a boost from the motor. (Torque is 258 lb.-ft. in the gas only model. Toyota does not give a torque figure for the hybrid in its spec sheet.)
While highway driving felt great, I felt it could have used more off-the-line acceleration in city driving. That’s something hybrids are capable of these days. (Take the new Toyota Venza Car Pro Show host Jerry Reynolds recently reviewed.) The hybrid system is mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters.
As you’d imagine, fuel economy is a benefit of the hybrid powertrain and the NX300h AWD delivers 31 mpg combined as opposed to the gas-only model’s 24 mpg combined (w/AWD). A Hybrid System Indicator and fuel consumption indicator is located in a 4.2-inch TFT screen. You can run it solely on electric EV mode in certain conditions below approximately 35 mph, so don’t expect to use that option often. The system also incorporates regenerative braking, which recharges the battery when you apply the brakes.
The NX 300h F Sport comes with a firmer sport-tuned suspension and front/rear performance dampers which results in a sportier yet comfortable and smooth ride. The NX300 feels great behind the wheel and it’s easy to maneuver. Sport mode makes the drive the most engaging, but don’t expect super tight handling. The 300h comes standard with Lexus’ Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive System with intelligence (AWD-i) system.
The black interior looks and feels terrific, with soft-touch materials and metallic trim along with NuLuxe trim contoured seats, door panels, armrest and center console. The exclusive blue stitching looks great throughout, including on the floor and cargo mats. F Sport features also include a black headliner, aluminum pedals and door scuff plates. The 10-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats are quite comfortable with enhanced F Sport bolsters that provide just the right amount of support.
A heated and perforated, leather-wrapped steering wheel is power tilt and telescopic for 2021. It houses multifunction controls for the 4.2-inch TFT LCD digital driver display, flanked by analog gauges with F SPORT illuminated gauge needles which change to red in Sport Mode.
Lexus always designs user-friendly interiors which means controls are easy to reach. It’s essentially a bi-level center stack. On the top portion you can control the dual-zone climate (or through the multimedia system) as well as the climate seat functions. On the lower portion, you’ll find drive mode select (Eco, Normal, Sport and EV), an electric parking brake and brake hold on the center console along with the leather-wrapped gear shift. It also houses the Lexus Remote Touch interface which controls the multimedia screen. You’ll also get two cup holders and a nicely padded center armrest with more of that blue stitching.
This model is not equipped with the optional Navigation and 10.3-inch multimedia screen, so you’ll see an 8-inch multimedia non-touchscreen atop the dash. I love how not busy it is -- even in the 8-inch version. It also houses a backup camera. The NX is compatible with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. There are two USBs up front. You get voice command but not enhanced Dynamic Voice Command, which is one of my favorite’s in the industry.
While in 2020 the NX became available with an incredible optional 14-speaker Mark Levinson premium sound system, I was surprised it wasn’t part of the Black Line Special Edition. Instead, you get the base 8-speaker system.
There is plenty of headroom in the BLSE with a standard moonroof overhead. The rear seats recline manually to a 60/40 split (power-folding is optional.) The backseat technically seats three but it could be tight for three adults. Back seat passengers get their own air vents, a drop-down console with cup holders and padded armrests. An optional kick sensor tailgate was easy to operate and I found plenty of cargo space in the rear for pet supplies and the blue lined cargo mat looks sharp.
Standard Equipment Options
The F Sport BLSE comes with sport-tuned suspension, heated steering wheel, front fog and cornering lights, premium LED DRL, a black headliner and exterior mirrors, active sound control, aluminum pedals, and exclusive blue interior stitching.
Options include 2 tablet holders, a rear bumper protector, very cool illuminated door sills (every bit worth the $460) and alloy wheel locks.
The NX comes with great driver assist technology. Lexus 2.0+ includes intelligent high beams, low-light pedestrian detection and bicyclist detection technology along with lane trace assist, road sign assist and pre-collision with pedestrian detection and dynamic radar cruise control. Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert are now standard equipment for 2021. The BLSE additionally comes with Park Assist.
What You’ll Pay
This special edition starts from $46,810, roughly $5,000 more than you’ll pay for the gas-only F Sport AWD. With all the options on my test model you’re looking at $49,040. You’ll also get a 2-piece Zero Halliburton Lightweight luggage set with the Black Line Special Edition.
The reliability of the Lexus badge, its residual value, and premium features along with its ride quality make the NX F Sport worth a look if you’re looking for a premium, well-equipped small SUV. Don’t just take my word for it, either. It’s also an SUV recommended by Car Pro Show host Jerry Reynolds over the Mercedes GLA and BMW X1, in terms of overall quality, value and ride. Listen to his recent comments on the Hour 2 of the November 29th Car Pro Show @11:00.
If fuel economy is what you’re after the stylish hybrid is the way to go, but if you want a little more engine oomph in the power department I’d say go for the regular gas model.
2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line Special Edition
- What I liked most: Its looks, interior quality/design and seat comfort.
- What I would change: Upgrade the sound system in the special edition.
- NX 300h F Sport Black Line Special Edition MSRP: Base price $46,810; $49,040 as equipped.
- Fuel Economy: 33 City/30 Highway/31combined.
- Fuel Tank: 14.8 gallons with filler on the driver’s side.
- Dimensions: 182.3” long/ 83.9” (mirrors unfolded) wide/ 64.8” high.
- Weight: 4,180 lbs.
- Maximum Towing: 1,500 lbs.
- Miles When Tested: 9,108.
- Official Color: Celestial Blue GF.
- Spare tire: Compact Spare.
- Final Assembly Point: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan.
- 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line Special Edition in a few words: A compact SUV luxury hybrid sure to win fans with its Lexus style, ride and fuel efficiency.
- Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper with roadside assistance, 6-year/70,000 mile powertrain coverage. 24-hour roadside assistance; 6-year corrosion perforation protection coverage, regardless of mileage.
- Manufacturers website: Lexus