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The gap between luxury cars and non-luxury ones is narrowing, as evidenced by models such as the 2020 Toyota RAV4 and the 2020 Lexus NX.  Since Lexus launched the NX over five years ago, Toyota has made the RAV4 more luxury-focused during the same period. We’ve long pondered how these two SUVs compete with each other. But at this point, is it worth upgrading from the RAV4 to the Lexus NX?

Driving the Toyota RAV4 vs. the Lexus NX

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off Road trim driving on dirt trail
2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off Road | Toyota

Even though the RAV4 and the NX blur the lines of luxury, they offer very different driving experiences. The RAV4 features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that creates 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This Toyota provides enough power for most driving situations. Additionally, fuel efficiency is another selling point of the RAV4. 

If you’re just looking for a simple daily driver, then you will probably want to stick with the base RAV4. But if you’re interested in off-roading activities you’ll want to consider the Adventure or TRD Off-Road trims. The cost for the higher trims is at the same price point as the NX, though.

Overall, the RAV4 is a comfortable ride. However, it doesn’t possess the torque needed to move swiftly from a complete stop. Also, the RAV4’s engine gets quite loud. Conversely, the NX is both comfortable and quiet.

A new Lexus NX 300h on display at an auto show
Lexus NX 300h at an auto show | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The NX gets its power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 235 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s not the speediest option in its class, but the NX gets points for being cool and collected. Furthermore, its six-speed automatic makes for a remarkably smooth ride. It’s pretty agile too, but for the sportiest experience, you’ll want to get the F Sport variant. Like the RAV4, the NX is available as a hybrid.

Toyota RAV4 and Lexus NX interior elements

The Lexus NX interior in Roja Red.
Lexus NX interior | Lexus

The NX provides a handsome, spacious cabin. It can seat up to five, and passengers will appreciate its supportive seats. Faux leather upholstery is standard on the NX with genuine leather available as an upgrade. The RAV4 also seats five, and it comes with a cloth interior; you can upgrade with faux leather or leather if you’d like.

In regard to in-car electronics, the RAV4 has a few advantages over the NX. The RAV4 comes with a user-friendly 7-inch touchscreen; the NX has a computer-like interface that can be a little tricky to use. Both SUVs come with Wi-Fi hotspots and satellite radio. However, the RAV4 comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The NX comes with Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto isn’t available at all. On the other hand, both crossovers come with a ton of advanced safety features

Deciding between the RAV4 and the NX

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid compact SUV on display at Brussels Expo
Toyota RAV4 | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Determining whether it’s worth upgrading from the RAV4 to the NX depends on your driving plans and how much you’re willing to pay. The barebones Toyota RAV4 is a good value option with a starting price of $25,950. But the upper-level RAV4 trims and incremental packages easily encroach on the NX’s territory. It makes sense to go with the NX over the RAV4 if you want upscale amenities. The NX has a stronger sense of presence and offers luxury at a bargain.


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