2015 Lexus NX 200t F SportPosted on March 6th, 2015
Compact luxury crossover is styled to stand out
By Nina Russin
Although the addition of a compact crossover to the Lexus lineup came as no surprise, the car itself is a radical departure from the brand’s other models. When Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company founder, took the reigns as CEO, he promised to revolutionize the brand with his own passion for driving.
To his credit, he has delivered in every sense of the word, with a new generation of Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles that are youthful, stylish and fun to drive. The new Lexus NX comes straight from the heart, with a bold, sensuous exterior, driver-focused cockpit, and new turbocharged engine combining exceptional power and fuel economy.
Buyers can choose from two available powertrains, front or all-wheel drive, giving the NX broad-based appeal. The two-liter turbocharged engine delivers 235 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid model combines a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle gasoline engine with electric motors to mimic the power of a conventional V-6 engine.
The all-wheel drive version uses a separate electric motor to drive the rear axle when needed. The continuously variable automatic transmission has a new kick-down feature to better mimic the performance of a traditional step unit.
The test car is the front-wheel drive NX 200t F Sport priced from $36,550. Options include Qi wireless charging, F Sport comfort package that adds a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and ten-way power driver’s seat, 18-inch F Sport wheels with summer performance tires, navigation with Lexus Enform and premium audio, blind spot monitoring, intuitive park assist, power liftgate, power moonroof and cargo mats, bringing the final MSRP to $43,398.
Test drive in Arizona
Last summer, I had an opportunity to drive the new NX at a media preview event in Seattle Washington. This week I took the wheel again, anxious to spend more time on fast roads and see how well the interior would work for day-to-day living. Driving routes included streets and highways in the Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler and Mesa, Arizona metropolitan areas as well as a section of the Gila River Indian reservation south of town.
Reaction to the new face of Lexus- an exaggerated spindle grille- has been mixed. But all agree that the design gives the brand much-needed presence on the highway. Lexus cars turn heads as they never have before. On the NX F Sport, a sinister, blacked-out grille framed by LED daytime running lamps lets other drivers know that this car is all business.
From the side, the crossover sports an aggressive aero profile, with a high beltline and large wheel wells. It resembles a predator crouching on its haunches. LED tail lamps wrap around the back corners of the car, giving the back a wide, planted appearance.
The new turbocharged engine delivers on all fronts, delivering peak torque as low as 1650 rpm and maintaining it to 4000. The long, flat torque curve delivers excellent power off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic. It also boosts performance at altitude. Unlike naturally aspirated engines, there is no noticeable parasitic power loss when drivers head for the mountains.
The new six-speed automatic transmission was an important upgrade for Lexus, adding an extra overdrive gear as compared with the five-speed unit on former models for better highway fuel economy. The Lexus NX 200h averages 28 miles-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA.
An electric power steering system is smaller than conventional hydraulic units, making it easier to package under the hood and shaving weight off the chassis. Low speed assist is quite good, but on center response at higher speeds is a bit soft.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone setup in the back. The compact double wishbone design is ideal for smaller cars, since the suspension doesn’t impinge on the cargo area. Performance is excellent, in keeping with the brand’s tradition of buttery smooth ride-and-handling. A drive select feature enables the driver to vary suspension damping from sport to comfort modes, depending on his needs.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion. The larger wheels on the F Sport model add some stability at speed. Those living in four-season climates should swap the summer tires for winter tires during the cold weather to maintain good traction.
Visibility to the front of the car is good. I was able to adjust the power driver’s seat for a clear forward view. The car’s narrow greenhouse and thick rear pillars create some blind spots to the sides and back. The standard rearview camera and optional blind spot monitoring do a good job of compensating.
Engineers did an excellent job minimizing road, wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior, so occupants can converse on the highway or enjoy the upscale audio system.
The two-tone NuLuxe upholstery on the F Sport test car shows influence from modern furniture and handbag design. The F Sport car also has a special steering wheel and badging, in keeping with its performance focus. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust, with ample lower lumbar support for drives lasting more than an hour.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the keys. Once inside, features such as the touchpad interface for infotainment controls make operating the car quite intuitive. The center stack screen is not shaded and tends to wash out in bright sunlight. The gauge cluster is easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark.
Although the Lexus NX seats five passengers, four will be more comfortable on longer trips. The middle second-row seating position is narrow and does not have as much legroom as outboard ones.
The optional power liftgate makes it easier to load large cargo into the back. The Lexus NX meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The Lexus NX comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, whiplash resistant seats, a rearview camera and tire pressure monitoring. Standard Lexus Enform includes post collision emergency notification.
The Lexus NX is an IIHS 2015 Top Safety Pick.
The stylish NX is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish compact crossover with excellent ride and handling and a high level of standard safety features.
Dislike: Soft on center steering response. Thick rear pillars create large blind spots in the back corners.
Model: NX 200t F Sport
Base price: $36,580
As tested: $43,398
Horsepower: 235 Hp @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 1650 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.2 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy:* 22/28 mpg city/highway
Comment: *The manufacturer requires 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline.2015, Luxury 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Lexus, performance, pricing, standard safety
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