Road Test: 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line Special Edition

Iconic Styling in a Premium Hybrid Compact Crossover

Lexus has spiced-up the 2021 NX 300h by giving it the F Sport treatment. For even more fun and exclusivity, the 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line Special Edition (only 1,000 will be made) takes this proven comfortable driving compact crossover, with best-in-class fuel economy, to new styling and performance levels.


Rising to the top of the premium compact crossover class

The all-wheel drive 2021 NX 300h is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, a parallel hybrid system where the electric motor can power the car by itself for short distances, the gas engine can power the car by itself, or they can power the car together.

The parallel system comprises a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine, a high-voltage battery and two electric motors for a combined 194 horsepower. The power gets to all four wheels via an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters.

The EPA rates the fuel economy at 33 mpg city/30 highway/31 combined. In 1,020 miles on a California road trip, using the all-speed dynamic cruise control as much as possible, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 34.1 mpg. This excellent fuel economy is a prime reason to consider buying a NX 300h. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2021 Lexus NX 300h hybrid system ran smooth and quiet, except when flooring it produced a low roar. Acceleration, 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds in Sport mode, was only acceptable for moving along its 4,180 pounds. The F Sport comes with active sound control, which is controlled by a wheel marked ASC. It allows the engine sound to be enhanced and creates gear shifts so the CVT (which has no gears) sounds like a standard automatic transmission. When in Sport mode, turning up ASC gives a bit more sporty sensation with sounds coming through the speakers. It is fun to play with, but if left in the base setting the NX 300h F Sport sounds just fine.

Great fuel economy, acceptable power

The driver-selectable settings of EV, Eco, Normal and Sport offer different driving feels. Eco is where you will want to be for every day, around-town driving and when up to speed on the highway. However, load the NX 300h with five passengers plus their gear, and the need for more power will become apparent. This is where being in Sport mode is helpful. No reason trying to get speed out of the Eco mode when the Sport mode is there waiting to give the oomph you need.

EV runs solely on electricity for about a half mile at no more than 25 miles per hour
Eco prioritizes fuel economy by optimizing throttle response
Sport sharpens the shift points, throttle response and steering feel
Normal is the compromise between Eco and Sport

That two-ton weight made for a smooth highway ride with the electric-assisted power steering providing good road feel and feedback. Clean Fleet Report’s NX 300h came with the F Sport package that included 18-inch black chrome wheels and 225/60 Yokohama Geolander all-season tires. The MacPherson struts up front, a double wishbone rear suspension with stabilizer bars all the way around, made the NX 300h pleasant, easy and confident to drive. The AWD kept body lean, even on the hardest of corners, manageable and predictable. Wind noise was low with a respectable 0.34 Coefficient of Drag (Cd).

Stopping was straight without fade on repeated stops. The four-wheel power-assisted disc anti-lock brakes are part of the regenerative charging system that converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. Completing the stopping suite was brake assist, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability control and smart stop technology–all standard equipment.

Interior Small Details

Moving up a notch from the top-of-the-class

The F Sport Black Line on the NX 300h raised the already nice interior a few notches, providing small details that added up to a comfortable place to spend time on our long California road trip– Dana Point-to-Half Moon Bay and back–where we amassed 1,020 miles. The ability to get comfortable is crucial, and the power adjustable (10-way driver/eight-way passenger) heated and ventilated seats were a great place to start. Covered in black NuLuxe, a man-made synthetic leather, and with blue top stitching, the seats, dash, door panels and steering wheel had an excellent look and feel. Even the black leather key fob and Lexus embroidered floor mats had matching blue stitching. Remember, it is the small details that move a car up to premium.

There was no challenge finding a comfortable seating position with the power tilt and telescopic steering column, and the heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, which had convenient audio and telephone controls. The center armrest had the correct height and a large storage area, which was lined in felt, and included a removable hand mirror. There are eight cup holders throughout the cabin, but the door pockets are small and can at most handle a small water bottle. The dash layout is simple with straight-forward gauges and controls, which are all within easy reach of the driver. The analog gauges have black backgrounds and easy-to-read white letters and numbers.

The NX 300h can seat five with ample rear head and leg room, but two adults would be more comfortable for long distances. The rear outboard seats recline and are fed with air vents. Storage is adequate with the rear seat up but expansive when the 60/40 rear seat is folded to a nearly flat position. Access to the cargo area, with tie downs, lights, a first aid kit and under-floor compartments, is through a power lift gate. The convenient low lift-over load height has a chrome plate to protect when sliding items in and out of the rear.

Lexus earned our praise by having volume and channel knobs for the 10-speaker Lexus Premium Sound System. The pad controller had a learning curve, but did come in handy occasionally when navigating the 8.0-inch color display, which handled navigation, the backup camera, SiriusXM (90-day all-access trial) and the AM/FM/HD cache radio. There is even a CD player. Connectivity includes USB/iPod control, advanced casual voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa and hands-free telephone with Siri Eyes Free mode. The audio bundle includes a wide array of features through the Lexus Enform app suite which includes 4GB WiFi for a 90 day trial.

Other nice interior features are one-touch power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors with driver-side memory and reverse tilt, wireless mobile phone charging, dual zone automatic climate control, power moonroof, rear shelf tonneau cover, exterior temperature display, day/night rearview mirror with HomeLink and aluminum pedals.

A special perk that comes with the NX 300h F Sport Black Line is a two-piece luggage set from Zero Halliburton. Very cool.

Classic Lexus Exterior

Lexus leads with its style up front

The 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line is distinguished by a honeycomb grille trimmed in black chrome, functional air inlets, fog lights and cornering lamps on the lower fascia, and triple-beam LED headlights with the distinctive L-shape design. The hood sweeps up-to the laid-back windshield onto a rail-equipped roof with a shark fin antenna, where the highest point is just behind the front seats. Look for the subtle F Sport badge on the front fenders and lift gate, and Hybrid on the rear doors. The color-keyed fender extensions are an F Sport feature that looked great.

It all ends with a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch glass and window wiper. The shelf-like LED rear tail lights continue the L-shape design cue, and end with F Sport unique larger exhaust ports. The Lexus emblem on the grille is blue, which tells everyone this NX 300 is electrified.

Safety and Convenience

The 2021 NX 300h has a National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5 Star government safety rating, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the NX 300h its Top Safety Pick+ rating. These are the top ratings from each testing organization.

Safety and convenience comes via the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0. Features include eight air bags, remote keyless entry, a theft deterrent system, tire pressure monitoring system, stability assist and traction control. Standard and optional safety technology includes pre-collision braking, intuitive parking assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control. The Lexus Enform Safety Connect allows for emergency help to be summoned with the push of a button.

Pricing and Warranties

1,000 miles and no complaints

The 2021 Lexus NX 300h AWD comes in three trims, with these base prices that include the $1,025 delivery processing and handling fee.

Base                                     $41,185
Luxury                                 $47,635
F Sport Black Line            $47,935

The 2021 NX 300h AWD comes with these warranties.

Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
Hybrid Components – Eight years/100,000 miles
Corrosion/Perforation – Six years/Unlimited miles
Roadside Assistance – Four years/Unlimited miles
Two Free Scheduled Services – Per Maintenance Schedule

Observations: 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line Special Edition

Comfortable, fuel efficient, a solid on-road feel and distinctive styling–traits that make the 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black Line possibly the best compact premium crossover. This particular version will only have 1,000 built for America, making searching one out worth the effort.

Debuted in 2014 and refreshed 2018, the NX 300h needed one last boost before the all-new NX 350h Hybrid and 450h Plug-in Hybrid come out in 2022. The enhancements from the F Sport treatment take it up one notch to Black Line Special Edition status. These subtle, but noticeable, improvements and changes will be appreciated by loyal Lexus owners.

Only a few of these out there

Lexus describes the NX 300h AWD as a “stylish and spacious compact crossover with excellent fuel economy.” Whether it is the redesigned front fascia, impressive interior room, confident driving pleasure, safety systems or, of course, hybrid technology, the NX 300h offers a step-up into the premium class for discriminating buyers.

But what comes with owning a Lexus that makes it so different from owning a Toyota, the parent company of Lexus? Lexus will tell you it is the owner experience, where they consider you a guest at one of their dealerships, and continues through your many years of driving one of their cars.

If you are looking for a premium compact crossover, then visit your Lexus dealer and take a test drive. You will not be disappointed.

Story and photos by John Faulkner

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Interview: Toyota & Lexus Autonomous Driving Advances

Road Test: 2019 Lexus RC 300

Road Test: 2019 Lexus LS 500h

Comparison Test: 2019 Lexus UX 200 & 250h Hybrid


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at

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