Arguably Lexus invented the Luxury crossover -- the Lexus RX has been a sales hero since its introduction in 1998. With the popularity of even smaller crossover vehicles taking over sales charts in the past couple of years, Lexus has come to play again, this time with the NX series.
The NX is available in the 200t variant which is what my tester is, equipped with a 2.0L turbo engine, Lexus's first turbo engine application. The NX is also available as a hybrid in the 300h for those wishing to sip even less fuel while still enjoying their SUV.
The NX is reasonably sized. Loosely based off of the Toyota RAV4 it is a very popular size for a crossover while not dipping into the silly sub-compact class or being too much of an overlap of their hugely popular RX. The NX starts at a reasonable sum as well with a starting price just north of $41,000.
Knowing that, I was very impressed when I picked up my tester gleaming in the sun and loaded with technology. Of course the initial honeymoon was over when I realized it was optioned with the F Sport Series 2 package, a package that adds over $12,000 to the base price -- ouch.
Pricing: 2015 Lexus NX 200t
Base Price: $41,450
Options: F Sport Series 2 -- $12,100
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $55,695
It's no secret I'm a Lexus fan. Heck I own two of their vehicles so I guess that automatically labels me. Lexus always seems to walk a fine line of Luxury, modern touches and classic looks while delivering quality and solidity. The NX interior doesn't stray too far from that formula either.
The leather lined dash and centred analog clock provide the luxury and classic feel, while the touchpad interface for the large dash mounted navigation screen gives us a little extra high tech gadgetry that is very 21st century. Some may dislike the location of the display screen and some may complain about the touchpad interface that replaces Lexus' previous love-it-or-hate-it mouse controller. For me the screen is placed well and is easy to read, and while I'm not a huge fan of the touchpad, it works and is intuitive with tactile feedback.
The only thing I don't like about the interior is the location of the start button and the lack of digital clock (at least that I could find). After awhile I'm sure I would get used to the start button mounted so high on the dash, but at first it is a constant hunt when I step in the vehicle. As for the clock -- well I like the looks of that analog clock but I like the precision and quick glance a digital clock provides.
But on to the passenger space itself -- the rear seats are surprisingly roomy with tons of leg and headroom, while the trunk is plenty capable as well -- I was able to fit four tires on end in there, and eight total fairly easily when folding down the rear seats flat as well.
From the driver's perspective the steering wheel is nicely sized and has a good thickness which gives off that luxurious feel on the finger tips. I would like an extending armrest though for my elbow -- us short people are never satisfied with stationary armrests it seems.
The first thing you will most likely notice with the NX 200t is the turbo engine power delivery. Around town with a light touch of throttle the NX easily moves with traffic and never feels sluggish. Typically turbo engines take a while to spool up that turbo and move but Lexus has tuned the NX to deliver power immediately for easy driving.
That said, when you want to move quickly it does take some time for the revs to climb and for the vehicle to lunge forward and use all the power that it has at its disposal. In other words, it seems like Lexus has tuned the engine for smooth, simple power delivery at low speeds, offering better fuel economy while cruising and staying out of boost.
The other engine factor you may notice is how smooth it is at idle and when at redline -- not a trait necessarily associated with turbo four-cylinder engines.
On the suspension front the NX also plays a fine line between sporty and comfortable for the Luxury buyer. It offers a good firm ride that isn't so firm as to alienate buyers. Lexus manages this while providing excellent road holding ability; in fact I was quite surprised how quick one can corner in the NX, it really does feel like a car underneath.
I would rate visibility as good in the NX for the style of vehicle. It has narrow windows and a high rear window that is small as well, but the large side mirrors and seating position seem to make up for some of it as I never feel like I have a hard time seeing traffic when changing lanes.
Of course backing up using the rear window is hopeless like most new crossovers, but I have pretty much migrated to just using rear-view cameras as it seems like every vehicle I drive now has a back-up camera, including my own vehicles.
It is a little louder on the highway than I would expect from a Lexus which is pretty much the only thing about that NX that really disappointed me during my drive. As far as how it rides and drives the NX is exactly what I would expect of a vehicle in this category, with car-like handling and a higher seating position for a better view of the road.
Fuel economy was good for me, but I do drive a lot of highway miles. I averaged 8.8 L/100 km over the week, driving over 700 km -- interestingly the average didn't change much during the week, fluctuating only a few points up to 9.0 L/100 km at one point and seeing as low as 8.6.
Like the RX before it, I think Lexus has hit the mark dead on with their smaller crossover luxury offering. Some may be turned off by the extreme, outgoing front end design but I think it looks great on the NX and the whole vehicle flows cleanly. Perhaps a little on the pricey side, especially when you get into the F Sport packages, making the Acura RDX a strong competitor if price is considered.