2015 Lexus NX 200t F SportPosted on May 18th, 2015
Compact crossover with the heart of a sports car
By Nina Russin
The newest member of Lexus’ crossover family, the compact NX, is a radical departure from cars such as the RX that preceded it. From its aggressively styled front end to the new turbocharged two-liter block under the hood, the NX is a more youthful, sporty alternative to conservative models it shares its badge with.
Lexus’ first turbocharged engine develops up to 258 foot-pounds of peak torque as low as 1650 rpm for powerful acceleration off the line. Turbocharging vastly reduces parasitic power loss at altitude, making the NX a good choice for buyers living in mountainous regions of the country. The engine comes mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with large overdrive gears to stretch gas mileage on the highway.
The F Sport package adds a sport-tuned independent suspension, unique interior trim, a unique steering wheel with Formula-style paddle shifters, 18-inch rims with all-season tires, LED daytime running lamps and fog lamps.
Base price is $37,980. Options include Qi wireless charging, navigation, power moonroof, blind spot monitoring, part assist, heated front seats and steering wheel, ten-way power driver’s seat and a power tailgate. Final MSRP including the $925 destination charge is $45,313.
Test drive in the Midwest
This past week I drove the NX on a road trip in northern Wisconsin as part of the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s annual Spring Rally. Spring in the Midwest can mean balmy weather one day and slate gray skies with cold temperatures the next. During my two-day test drive the weather changed from pouring rain to bitter cold with strong winds, followed by a bit of clearing but below-average temperatures.
A cold front that passed through on the first day depositing a good amount of rain, making Milwaukee’s Friday night rush hour an even bigger mess than usual.
Spring is also construction season in Wisconsin, so orange barrels were everywhere, forcing drivers to share lanes and worsening the congestion. Situations like this make drivers appreciate luxury cars for their active safety features and premium infotainment. Granted, I had to sit in traffic just as long as the cars around me, but I had my pick of satellite radio stations to pass the time with.
I also appreciated standard Lexus Enform, enabling drivers to contact a remote concierge service that can download directions and reroute around bad traffic. Rather than stopping on the side of the road to program the navigation system, the driver pushes a button on the center console to initiate the phone call and the operator on the other end does the rest.
Once up to speed I had the chance to enjoy the new turbocharged engine. Akio Toyoda, current CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation and grandson of the company founder, is a driving enthusiast. When he took the reins as CEO he promised to bring passion back into Toyota’s product lineup. The new NX is a manifestation of that passion, with its responsive powertrain and bold styling.
Because the engine is small and therefore relatively light the front-to-rear weight balance of the car is quite good for a front-wheel drive platform. The car does not feel nose-heavy. The engine’s long, flat torque curve that begins at off idle makes it easy to move to the front of freeway entrance ramps and pass slower vehicles once on the highway.
Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The active safety feature makes it much easier to weave through dense rush-hour traffic. A standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse to eliminate blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass.
A drive mode select feature enables the driver to vary throttle response and steering weight to his liking. Eco mode keeps the transmission in higher gears to extend gas mileage while sport mode increases steering weight, adds a more aggressive throttle map and makes the transmission hold onto the gears longer.
The sport-tuned independent suspension on the F Sport model is on the stiff side. I felt the uneven road surfaces in construction areas more than I would have in the standard NX. The advantage is a flatter chassis when the driver decides to take on a winding two-lane rural road. The suspension consists of MacPherson struts in the front and a compact double wishbone setup in back to maximize cargo space.
Engineers optimized torsional rigidity throughout the chassis through the use of high strength steel and by adding additional welds in key areas. The result is better response from the electric power steering system than in former Lexus products. On-center response is still softer than some German competitors, but it is a big leap forward for the brand.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing engine and wind noise intrusion to the interior. There is some road noise from the larger tires that come with the F Sport package but passengers should have no problems conversing or enjoying the audio system.
Keyless entry and start on the test car enables the driver to open the car and fire the ignition without fumbling for the key fob. Driver’s seat memory settings enable multiple family members to share the driving.
A touchpad device on the center console controls all infotainment settings. It should be intuitive to operate for anyone familiar with PC touchpads. I found the driver’s seat adjustments easy to operate and offering plenty of lower lumbar support for longer road trips.
The optional power liftgate makes it easier to load large items in back. Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for larger items. They also recline to keep rear passengers comfortable on long trips.
The Lexus NX comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, whiplash resistant front seats, daytime running lamps, a rear backup camera, tire pressure monitoring and Lexus Enform with automatic collision notification.
The newest member of its crossover family is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish compact crossover with an excellent powertrain and high level of standard safety features.
Dislike: Sport-tuned suspension feels harsh on rough road surfaces.
Model: NX 2.0t F Sport
Base price: $37,980
As tested: $45,313
Horsepower: 235 Hp @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 1650 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 22/27 mpg city/highway
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