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What makes a standout luxury SUV? Is it power, athleticism, safety, or comfort? Few models excel in all of these characteristics. However, the 2021 Lexus NX and the 2021 Volvo XC40 come close.

These models prove that a luxury SUV doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But which one is the right model for you? The answer may surprise you, as it’s not the one that jumps off the page when looking at the spec chart.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what the XC40 and the NX have to offer.

The designs of the 2021 Volvo XC40 and 2021 Lexus NX tell a story

A blue 2020 Volvo XC40 Inscription driving down a city street
The 2020 Volvo XC40 in action | Volvo

Take a glance at the silhouettes of the XC40 and the NX. You’ll immediately notice a stark contrast.

The XC40 displays a bold look and a confident stance. Meanwhile, the NX is more conservative yet refined. These design cues aren’t misleading, as both models perform as expected.

Volvo is famous for making ultra-safe vehicles, going to great lengths to ensure the protection of its consumers. The 2021 Volvo XC40 is no exception, as it earned Top Safety Pick + designation from the IIHS.

However, that’s surprisingly not where the XC40 holds its biggest advantage, as the 2021 Lexus NX also earned the same IIHS honor.

Instead, the Swedish automaker went full throttle with its technology offerings on the 2021 Volvo XC40. Its available Pilot Assist system gives you access to semi-autonomous driving. This feature utilizes an advanced adaptive cruise control system with steering assistance to ease the burden of driving while providing peace of mind.

Additionally, shoppers can also purchase an all-electric version of Volvo’s small luxury SUV – the XC40 Recharge. This model isn’t just eco-conscious; it’s also incredibly fun to drive.

The Lexus NX doesn’t offer the same level of innovation. Unfortunately, a hybrid variant is the most interesting form of this model.

The 2021 Lexus NX is powerful but not all that exciting to drive

A silver 2021 Lexus NX 300 parked next to the oceanside
The 2021 Lexus NX 300 on display | Lexus

There’s power in numbers, but it isn’t everything. The NX is proof of this assessment. Its 255-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine packs a punch, but the luxury SUV lacks the agility to liven up the driving experience.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Volvo XC40 isn’t the most thrilling option on the road, either. However, its powertrain has other benefits that help give it the edge over its rivals.

 Volvo offers a choice of two gas-powered engine options for the 2021 XC40. However, neither one is incredibly potent. Its standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder only makes 187 hp, while the upgraded powerplant kicks out 248 hp.

Most drivers won’t notice the power reduction, as the 2021 Volvo XC40 is still quite lively. Plus, it offers noticeable fuel savings. The EPA estimates that the XC40 achieves 32 MPG on the highway, while the NX only gets 28 MPG.

The 2021 Volvo XC40 narrowly beats its competitor

These luxury SUVs nearly finish neck and neck. However, one factor truly sets the 2021 Volvo XC40 apart from the 2021 Lexus NX – the price.

Volvo set the starting MSRP for the 2021 XC40 Momentum at just $33,700. Meanwhile, the NX 300 costs $37,610, and Lexus doesn’t deliver enough extras to make it worth the higher cost.

So, unless the 2021 Lexus NX’s sleek style and more potent engine speak to you, the 2021 Volvo XC40 is the smarter buy.


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