There is a sense of aggression to the exterior of the Lexus NX300 (from RM313,888). It is particularly noticeable at the front: the squinting headlights have daring arrow-shaped LED strips beneath them, and the black front grille has an angular, dynamic cutaway to accommodate. It is a sharp, modern look from nose to rear, all the way through the prominent shoulder line, scalloped doors and flared rear wheel arch.
This belies the fact that the interior is eminently sensible. The Lexus NX300 is a good-sized SUV, aiming for the sweet spot which affords plenty of space, but not too bulky or tall as to be unwieldy. There is a meditative sense to the cabin, with clean lines, carefully stitched leather, and no unnecessary elements to intrude upon comfort. The rear seats are a particular treat, roomy enough to fully stretch out and electrically adjustable for reclining or folding down completely – the latter to increase the available cargo space, which is accessible through the hands-free trunk lid (which is also equipped with a foot-operated sensor, should one’s arms be burdened by shopping or children).
At the front, the driver is nestled in a command centre-like setup. There are a fair few buttons on the centre console, beneath the 8-inch display panel, and on the steering wheel, but Lexus as usual have found a way to design them such that they seem to blend into the trim somewhat. The Remote Touch Interface is back (and an exemplar of the functional-but-unobtrusive philosophy), complete with haptic feedback to aid in mid-drive operation.
The engine is a sensible setup as well, a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that puts out a not-insubstantial 235bhp. There is a pleasing growl when it is pushed, but it is always smooth. The power hits the all-wheel-drive system through a 6-speed automatic transmission. It does not pretend to be the sportiest thing under the sun, but is balanced throughout and has a sport mode for a slightly livelier feel.
The NX is home to some sophisticated electronics and driving aids, including cameras and radar sensors. The entire gamut of 21st century features is here: parking assist, advanced safety systems that will intervene with the brakes if necessary, intelligent stability control that keeps corners cleans and tidy, and lane departure and blind spot warnings.
However, the most impressive and directly relevant technological feat must be the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which will automatically adjust to the speed of the vehicle in front and maintain distance. The best thing about this system is that it operates all the way down to 0km/h. This means that the NX will stop and start itself in a traffic jam. Better yet, it synergises beautifully with the Lane Tracing Assist feature; this reads the lines of the road and will nudge the steering wheel to help keep the NX centred in the lane. These are life-changing features in a standstill traffic jam; gone is the stress and tedium and fatigue. Effectively, all the driver has to do is keep one hand on the steering wheel for the occasional correction, and his attention is free to wander. It is a game-changer where quality of life is concerned, particularly for the commuter who has no choice but to negotiate the soul-sucking rush hour traffic. For him, the Lexus NX300 might be the most sensible choice of all.