The Car Connection Lexus NX Overview
Though the Lexus NX is based on the Toyota RAV4, the NX looks nothing like its corporate sibling. The NX slots below the brand's best-selling RX mid-size crossover.
The NX was the marque's first turbocharged model and its first utility vehicle in this size class. The NX competes in an ever-growing crowded field of compact luxury crossovers that includes the BMW X3, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
MORE: Read our 2016 Lexus NX review
Lexus has gone for a very distinct look with its smallest-ever crossover. As a result, the NX in no way resembles the RAV4 on which it's based, with a pronounced version of the Lexus-family spindle grille on a long-overhanging and sharp front end. The headlights are mounted high and are themselves very short, while slits in the lower fascia house running lamps. The rest of the sheet metal is equally sharply defined, giving the NX an almost angry look, especially when viewed from the front. Flared wheel wells and a fast roofline lead to an ordinary-by-comparison rear view that maintains more of the staid Lexus look we're used to. It has helped usher in a more dramatic look for Lexus models that has also transferred to the new RX.
The NX carries its sporty theme to the interior. It's a much sleeker look than in Lexus SUVs past, with a cozier, more cockpit-like feel. There's a rich mix of materials, perhaps a few too many, with soft surfaces, leather, and metal-look trim mingling with big round gauges; the instruments look to have been pulled from one of Lexus's sporty sedans, simply positioned higher on the dash.
The NX models are sized right in the middle of what the U.S. would consider the compact luxury crossover segment (it might be considered mid-size in Europe), at around 183 inches long, with a wheelbase of more than 106 inches. The sport seats have a rather low hip point compared to those of other crossovers, Lexus notes, which should give it a connected feeling during spirited driving while also helping to increase headroom. The decent rear seating space and long, low cargo area reveals its practical RAV4 roots.
The Lexus NX is offered in two models: the standard NX 200t, with a 235-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a 194-hp NX 300h hybrid that the company expects to make up less than 10 percent of total sales in the U.S. On the other hand, Lexus expects its somewhat exciting F Sport package to be chosen by half of NX customers; it includes a more aggressive grille, unique interior trim, comfortable sport seats, and a tuned suspension. Both powertrains are offered in front- and all-wheel-drive versions, though the all-wheel-drive setup differs by model: The 200t gets a mechanical system that sends engine torque to all four wheels, while the hybrid, similar to Lexus's gas-electric RX, drives the front wheels with the hybrid powertrain and uses a separate, 50-kw (67-hp) electric motor on the rear axle for on-demand all-wheel drive.
The 2015 Lexus NX, which starts below the $35,000 mark, will be the first Lexus to offer wireless charging for mobile devices (using the Qi standard). It also marks the debut of a new generation of the Lexus Remote Touch interface—this one featuring a touchpad, haptic feedback, and scratchpad-like capabilities that lets users trace letters—it's similar to the controllers seen on some Audi and Mercedes-Benz models. Enhanced gauges offer a G sensor and turbo-boost meter (on 200t models), while active-safety features include all-speed dynamic cruise control and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A head-up display is also offered.