Lexus NX vs BMW X3

21 Oct, 2014 11:30am

Lexus is looking to conquer the compact SUV class with its new NX 300h hybrid. We see how it fares against BMW’s recently revised X3

Lexus has arrived late to the compact SUV party, but there’s no denying its all-new NX is making a big entrance. Inspired by the head-turning LF-NX concept car, the bold newcomer certainly attracts attention. And with sales of upmarket off-roaders hitting an all-time high, the Japanese brand is hoping that the NX’s outlandish lines prove a big hit.

The NX is equally adventurous under the skin, where it packs an advanced petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain that aims to deliver unrivalled performance and refinement. More importantly, the hi-tech mechanicals promise excellent efficiency. 

With CO2 emissions from 116g/km, the NX will be popular with company car drivers looking for reduced Benefit in Kind bills, while claimed fuel returns of over 50mpg are almost unheard of for a high-riding SUV.

However, the Lexus isn’t the only upmarket off-roader with one eye on the bottom line, because the rugged yet composed BMW X3 has recently been refreshed. With tweaked looks and a revised 2.0-litre diesel engine, the all-wheel-drive car promises to be as desirable as it is cost effective. And that’s not all, because like all BMWs, it should be great to drive and provide class-leading performance.

Lexus NX review

BMW X3 review

So, which of our compact SUVs takes the spoils in this bruising encounter? Read individual reviews by clicking the links above, and read on to find out the verdict...

Head-to-head

Off-road

Both the NX and the X3 get raised ride heights and tough SUV styling cues, but neither is really at home in the rough stuff. Even so, the BMW’s permanent all-wheel-drive transmission and hill descent control make it far more capable than the Lexus, which struggled on our off-road route. The main culprit is the electrically powered rear axle, which doesn’t have enough torque to scrabble up steep inclines.

Gearboxes

On paper, the Lexus’ CVT gearbox promises to maximise performance and efficiency by using its theoretically limitless ratios to always be in the right gear at the right time. Yet in the real world, it can’t match the BMW’s eight-speed auto for response, refinement and control.

Benefit in Kind bills

If you’re looking to slash your company car costs, then the Lexus is a tempting proposition. Not only does it boast CO2 emissions of just 116g/km in its two-wheel-drive guise, it doesn’t attract the three per cent BIK surcharge applied to conventional, diesel-engined rivals.

Verdict

1st place: BMW X3

The X3’s facelift is subtle, but does enough to keep it ahead in this encounter. Rugged looks, a smart cabin and a composed driving experience are real highlights, while the extra room for passengers and loads makes it a more practical choice. It can’t match the Lexus when it comes to low company car costs, but a stronger fuel return, excellent residuals and great-value servicing work in the X3’s financial favour.

2nd place: Lexus NX

Bold looks and extremely competitive Benefit in Kind bills are the new NX’s main calling cards. It’s also beautifully built and loaded with standard equipment. Yet the newcomer is undermined by its lacklustre hybrid powerplant, uninspiring handling and poor fuel economy. And despite its raised ride height and four-wheel-drive layout, the Lexus has extremely limited off-road ability.

Lexus NX vs BMW X3: key specs

BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport Lexus NX 300h Luxury
On the road price/total as tested £38,645/£41,375 £34,495/£37,135
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000) £21,293/55.1% £16,834/48.8%
Depreciation £17,352 £17,661
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,769/£3,538 £1,171/£2,342
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,949/£3,249 £2,416/£4,026
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 31/£459/E/£130 31/£436/D/£110
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service £425 (5yrs 50,000) TBC
Length/wheelbase 4,657/2,810mm 4,630/2,660mm
Height/width 1,678/1,881mm 1,645/1,845mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,995cc 4cyl/2,494cc/105kW elec
Peak power  187/4,000 bhp/rpm 192/5,700 bhp/rpm
Peak torque  400/1,750 Nm/rpm 210/4,200 Nm/rpm
Transmission  8-spd auto/4wd eCVT auto/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 67 litres/run flat 56 litres/space saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down)  550/1,600 litres 475/1,520 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,745/620/2,000kg 1,785/610/1,500kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient  11.9 metres/0.33Cd 11.4 metres/0.33Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (unltd)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers Variable miles (1yr)/153 10,000 miles (1yr)/51
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 10th/22nd 4th/1st
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 88/83/53/71/5 N/A
0-60/30-70mph 8.3/8.2 secs 8.7/8.5 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th  3.4/3.8 secs 3.4 secs (in kickdown)
50-70mph in 5th/6th  7.5/9.1 secs 5.1 secs (in kickdown)
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  130mph/1,750rpm 112mph/2,000rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  46.7/33.3/9.0m 49.2/35.9/9.3m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph 72/46/62/68dB N/A/N/A/62/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 36.8/8.1/542 28.7/6.3/354 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 49.6/56.5/52.3mpg 53.3/55.4/54.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 10.9/12.4/11.5mpl 11.7/12.2/11.9mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 206/138g/km/23% 227/121g/km/17%
Airbags/Isofix/parking sens/camera Six/yes/yes/£330 Eight/yes/yes/yes
Automatic box/stability/cruise control Yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seats Yes/yes/yes Yes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go £645/£1,600/£495 £645/yes/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth £900/yes/yes/yes £995/yes/yes/yes