And now, for something completely different (well for Lexus anyway).
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Yeah, this is new. Lexus stretched the NX’s lines taut over its fenders and haunches. All angles are pulled back, and the effect is a smooth, rakish mix of angles, bulges and wicked creases. The front end is aggressive, even more so in my review vehicle thanks to the F Sport version of the infamous spindle grille – it’s love it or hate it and a blingy chin spoiler. The rear end really accentuates the tail light pods, and from some angles, the vehicle’s shape really draws your eyes in to those back corners.
Yes, there are LEDs everywhere – head lights (low and high beams), driving lights, fog lights and tail lights. The 18-inch rims are very nice and wear surprisingly conservative 225/60-sized tires. They’re a perfect fit for the styling, in my opinion.
Inside, you’ll find a good amount of head room in a cockpit that is nicely style – but boy oh boy do things get busy. I’ll get back to that. very nice materials throughout – every surface is soft-touch, with lovely textures and plenty of stitching. Fit and finish as well as overall build quality seem impeccable as one would expect from a Lexus.
The beautiful F Sport seats, heated and power-adjustable, look like they should be in a sports car with their sculpting and contrasting stitching. But they don’t just look great – they’re extraordinarily comfortable and well-bolstered, making for a nearly perfect throne from which to conduct your business behind the wheel.
Lexus gives the NX a screen that juts out of the dash – it’s nice to look at but I found it was susceptible to glare on a few occasions. It handles all the main functions – sound system (which sounds spectacular), phone and navigation. There’s a new remote touch interface which is essentially like a laptop’s touchpad but with haptic feedback. It works pretty well.
When I said things get a little busy, I wasn’t kidding. I think I actually found out where all the missing Acura ergonomics engineers fled to – they’re at Lexus. I say this because between the dash, steering wheel, centre console and driver’s door, you will find 79 buttons, knobs and switches. I counted ’em. That’s a bit crazy.
The NX has a push-start ignition and smart keyless entry and there’s a tilt/slide sunroof overhead. The suite of driver assistance technology is pretty darn complete – blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, pre-collision system, dynamic radar cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, heads-up display, a backup camera and parking sensors.
This option package nets you plenty of F Sport specific goodies, like scuff plates, aluminum pedals, a fantastic steering wheel and an F Sport shift knob – hey, there’s even a G-force meter for when you take your NX to the track. Haha – yeah right!
The rear passengers (at least the two outboard ones) get very comfortable seats that recline, as well as plenty of head and leg room. Unfortunately, as is almost always the case, the middle position is narrow, raised and hard, making it less than ideal for adults. The centre console also comes back quite far, which eats into the leg and foot room in the middle.
Our three kids were very happy with the space back there, and there are two sets of LATCH anchors for kids’ seats. Not much else going on back there, but you do get some adjustable air vents and a 120V household plug – something that should be in every vehicle.
There’s enough space around the cabin for your stuff, including a large area under the armrest lid (where you’ll find USB, auxiliary and 12V plugs)
While the 500 litre trunk is a nice size, it’s definitely on the smallish side compared to other vehicles this size – for example, it’s less than half of that you’ll find in the Honda CR-V. It has a power lift gate and a comfortable load floor height. You can fold the rear seats down in a 60/40 split and you’ll have access to triple the cargo space (1545 litres).
Under the Hood
Here’s something else that’s new. Lexus’ first turbo! They’ve went with what seems to be the most common displacement in the industry right now – it’s a 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo-charged 4-cylinder, and it puts out 235 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque. Respectable numbers but not mind-blowing.
Lexus pairs the all-new engine with a not-new-at-all 6-speed automatic, a strangely old-school choice for a vehicle that should have got the newest of the new in every category – especially since Lexus has an 8-speed automatic in its parts bins. Of course it has full-time all-wheel drive as well.
Fuel economy is decent. Lexus rates it at 10.8 L/100 km (22 US mpg) in the city and 8.8 L/100 km (27 US mpg) on the highway. We ended up with a respectable average of 10.9 L/100 km (22 US mpg) after a week of driving with a slightly heavier-than-usual foot in mostly city-based commuting. I can live with that.
While the NX has enough power, it felt a bit sluggish off the line. It’s especially soft in response to a full-throttle launch. I expected a bit more of a kick in the pants, but it’s just smooth, smooth, smooth. The power is delivered in a very linear fashion. Also, the transmission isn’t as quick as I’d hoped. It’s standard-fare Lexus, which is to say buttery smooth, but it’s also a bit lazy and slow to shift. It’s never eager to downshift, and that makes moving this 4050 pound (1755 kg) crossover a bit tedious at times. Gears can be shifted manually using either the paddle shifters or the gear selector.
You can choose your drive mode (from Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+), and while they don’t completely transform the car, you will notice a difference in throttle response, shifting patterns and the ride stiffness. I wish the Sport modes would hang on to gears longer – the same quibble I had with a much sportier offering from Lexus, the RC coupe.
Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), the ride is definitely firmer than you’d expect from a Lexus SUV/crossover, but I’d call it sporty – it is still very comfortable. The pay-off here is that, for a tall vehicle, the handling is better than you’d expect. Yes, there’s some body roll and it understeers like a sunuvagun when you push it into corners hard, but overall, it’s pretty impressive for a vehicle of this size, heft and height. It drives much like an all-wheel drive car, which is basically what it is underneath.
Visibility out of the front and sides is very good, but there’s a constricted view out of the back and the substantial rear pillars make shoulder checking a pain, especially on the right side. If you care, the NX200t can tow 2000 pounds.
Behind the wrist rest for the remote touch trackpad is a little indented panel with a pull strap. It took me a minute to figure it out, but there’s a hidden compartment under that panel, which lifts out. And perhaps in a mildly sexist nod to its intended demographic for this car, there’s what I can only described as a make-up mirror on the back of the panel. Kinda funny!
Lexus includes a a qi wireless charging mat underneath the armrest lid for phones that are set up for that. Pretty awesome step into the future of charging devices and a “Screw you!” to the hassle of cables.
I liked the NX, and it has quite a lot to offer. A reasonable base price for a well-equipped vehicle and the ability to step through a number of option levels, the pinnacle of which is the one I was reviewing.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was off the charts. Somehow the NX resonated with her on almost every level. She thought it looked great, drove great and had everything she’d want in a vehicle. I can say with confidence that she absolutely loved it – because those are her words.
Lexus certainly goes down a new road with the NX’s styling and small turbocharged engine. Overall, it does almost everything well and so that makes it a successful foray into the mid-size luxury crossover category. I’d want to see a significant reduction in buttons and switchgear on the dash, an 8-speed automatic, and perhaps a little harder edge to the car when you put it into Sport+ mode. But hey, it’s a Lexus, and it’s gotta be tough to break out of that shell. Let’s be honest though – it’s not the worst shell to be stuck in. The NX is a great ride.
Pricing: 2015 Lexus NX200t
Base price: $41,450
Options: $12,100 F Sport Series 2 package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $55,645
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lexus Canada.
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