2018 Lexus NX: A bit angrier, a bit more comfortable

Some midcycle refreshes are incredibly intensive, almost like a new generation. Others are a bit subtler, and the 2018 Lexus NX falls into the latter category.

Unveiled at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show, the 2018 NX features some slight changes to Lexus' littlest utility vehicle. The nose looks a little smoother, thanks to a revised front bumper and upper grille. New headlamps look similar to the units in the all-new LC flagship coupe.

Out back, there's a new lower rear bumper that borrows elements from Lexus' love-it-or-hate-it "spindle" front grille design. The taillights are a bit longer, and the exhaust tips are larger and better integrated into the rear bumper.

Inside, the infotainment screen grows from 7.0 inches to 10.3, and the touchpad that controls it has grown. The climate control panel is no longer a mess of buttons -- now, four sliders present a cleaner and more straightforward design. New sound deadening in the body should help improve cabin noise, too.

In terms of technological updates, the wireless phone charger is now bigger to support bigger phones. The USB ports have higher amperages for faster charging, and the infotainment A new, hands-free rear hatch can be opened or closed with a wave of a foot under the rear bumper cover.

The NX also picks up adaptive suspension, which, alongside changes to the shock absorbers, springs and sway bars, should improve handling without removing Lexus' hallmark smooth driving.

Both NX variants also now come standard with Lexus Safety System +, a suite of active and passive driver aids that includes forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and auto high beams. So it'll provide better road illumination, follow the traffic ahead and, even if you still somehow end up in trouble, automatically brake for you.

As before, two models are available. The NX 300 (née NX 200t) sports the same 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 as before, while the NX 300h mates a 2.5-liter I4 to a pair of electric motors, boosting both fuel economy and output. Both trims still have a silly in-car speaker that reproduces the engine note, but like before, I believe you can still turn it off.

Physical switchgear is always nice, but a simplified and more sensible layout with fewer switches is even nicer.

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