2015 Lexus NX 200t First Drive Video
This Lexus NX first drive video review provides the first driving impressions of this all-new compact luxury crossover. Included is information about the three models - the NX 200t, NX 200t F Sport and NX 300h - as well as their fuel economy, interior space, available features, turbocharged and hybrid powertrains, and expected competitors. For more information, read the 2015 Lexus NX 200t Road Test (http://www.autoblog.com/2014/07/07/2015-lexus-nx-200t-first-drive-review/). | July 07, 2014
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t is a competitive new entry in the growing compact luxury crossover segment. It boasts a smooth turbocharged four-cylinder, an impeccably crafted cabin, a generously sized backseat and distinctive styling more likely to strike an emotional chord (be it good or bad) than most Lexus designs. A notable downside is a lack of cargo space.
What Is It?
The NX is an all-new compact luxury crossover set to go on sale in December. It is a smaller, sportier alternative to the existing Lexus RX midsize SUV.
Its outside dimensions are similar to its key competitors: the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is a bit smaller. Inside, Lexus has done a commendable job of maximizing rear-seat room; however, the significantly raked liftgate reduces overall cargo area usability.
There are three available variations. The Lexus NX 200t will make up the bulk of NX sales and is the first vehicle to get Lexus' new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The NX 200t F Sport model has the same engine, but has a sport-tuned suspension, more aggressive styling and several features designed for drivers seeking more engagement with their car. Other F Sport models in the Lexus line have been popular among younger buyers. Finally, the 2015 Lexus NX 300h is one of only two hybrids in the segment and by far the most fuel-efficient one.
What Does It Look Like in Person?
Not as shocking as when the NX 200t was first shown in pictures, but its abundant creases, angles, bulges and details are without question one area where it sticks out from the competition.
Some will find it distinctive, aggressive and even cool, while others will find it overstyled and even ugly. Such polarizing potential is refreshing for Lexus and indicative of a brand trying to move beyond its reputation for making ultra-conservative, personality-free vehicles.
What's the Interior Like?
The cabin isn't quite as radical as the exterior, but it nevertheless exudes a cool, modern vibe that won't be mistaken for anything else in the class. At the same time, it's warmer and more visually interesting than the rather severe Lexus IS sedan. The construction is absolutely top-notch, with materials that look and feel rich — especially in the two-tone beige-and-black color scheme of our test car. Soft leather lines the seats, passenger-side dash and the padded areas that thoughtfully line the center console, while the silver plastic trim and various buttons feel expensive as well. Details like contrast stitching, wood trim and a modern analog clock are tastefully applied.
Although the legible climate controls are mounted high within easy sight and reach, the functionality of other controls could be better. Without navigation, the "Display Audio" interface uses a knob-and-screen system similar to Mercedes' COMAND system, but we haven't had a chance to sample the system in practice.
With navigation, you get the latest iteration of Lexus Remote Touch. We've never warmed to this interface in current models, which utilizes a mouselike joystick on the center console to control icons and menus on a high-mounted central screen. Despite its haptic feedback and customizable movement effort, we've found it requires too much attention from your eyes and too much dexterity from your fingers. In the NX and future Lexus models, that mouselike joystick has been replaced by a touchpad virtually identical to the one on the laptop you're probably reading this article on. You now slide your finger across the pad to go between icons and push down to engage one. In limited use, it frankly seemed to exacerbate the problem.
What About Utility?
Despite exterior dimensions that are incredibly similar to those of its competitors, the 2015 Lexus NX 200t differs inside in both good and bad ways. In regards to the former, backseat legroom is generous for the segment, with more space than usual for a 6-footer to sit behind another 6-footer. Headroom is sufficient all around, but some may find the cabin a bit confining due to the rather small side windows. In general, however, the NX should meet the passenger-carrying needs of singles or young couples.
Cargo-carrying needs may be a different story. Although the backseat can fold, doing so doesn't result in an especially large space. Its 54.6 cubic feet of total volume may be equal to the similarly constricted Mercedes GLK and just a few cubes shy of an Audi Q5, but its raked liftgate makes it less versatile than even its modest volume number would suggest. That's driven home by its 17.7 cubic feet with the seats raised, a number lower than many hatchbacks and all compact crossover competitors.
At the same time, however, this relatively modest cargo space keeps the NX from stepping on the toes of the bigger Lexus RX that also seats five passengers.
What Engines Does It Offer?
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t, including the F Sport model, comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This is the first turbocharged engine Lexus has ever sold and it's likely to find its way into future Lexus vehicles. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.
With rare exception (RDX and GLK), 2.0-liter turbos are the standard base engine in compact luxury crossovers and the NX's is certainly competitive. With 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, its output on paper is on par with most competitors, while its Lexus-estimated 0-60-mph time of 7.0 seconds with all-wheel drive would be about average for the segment.
When driving the NX, this new engine impressed with its linear, smooth power delivery and surprisingly quiet operation. Existing Lexus customers used to having six cylinders thrumming under the hood shouldn't be put off.
The 2015 Lexus NX 300h, meanwhile, is only the second compact luxury crossover to have a hybrid option (the Audi Q5 being the other). A total output of 194 hp is produced by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and a differing number of electric motors depending on drivetrain. Front-wheel drive has two: one for powering the wheels and regenerating the batter pack, and the second for other vehicle functions like starting the engine and running accessories. All-wheel drive adds a third electric motor that drives the rear wheels.
Lexus estimates that it will go from zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which seems believable given its far-from-fleet responses during our test-drive. It's also considerably louder than the NX 200t, with notable droning noises that are typical for Lexus hybrids and their electronically controlled continuously variable transmissions.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
Although official EPA figures have not been announced, Lexus estimates that the front-wheel-drive NX 200t will return 24 mpg combined (22 city/28 highway). All-wheel-drive models are expected to deliver 24 mpg combined as well despite a slightly lower city rating of 21 mpg. Again, this makes Lexus consistent with most competitors.
As you might expect, the NX 300h is a standout when it comes to efficiency. What it might lack in acceleration, it makes up for with a Lexus-estimated 33 mpg combined (35 city/31 highway) with front-wheel drive and 32 mpg combined (33/30) with all-wheel drive. By comparison, the Audi Q5 Hybrid achieves 26 mpg combined. In case you're wondering about diesel-powered competitors, the Q5 TDI returns 27 mpg and the Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec returns 28 mpg.
In other words, the NX 300h can proudly proclaim "best-in-class fuel economy," albeit in a model that Lexus expects to make up less than 10 percent of NXs sold.
What's It Like To Drive?
Much like its size and styling, the NX's driving experience clearly differentiates it from the bigger RX. The steering is more responsive, the compact dimensions imbue a sense of agility and the firmer suspension tuning makes you feel more connected to the road. At the same time, we wonder if it may be a bit too firm (especially in the sport-tuned F Sport model), but we'll have to wait until we get the NX on our usual evaluation route to determine how it rides.
Nevertheless, the NX felt legitimately engaging to drive. How does it compare behind the wheel to its rival compact crossovers? The answer to that will also have to wait for further evaluation, but we can report that it's certainly in the same league as its impressive group of would-be competitors.
What Features Are Available?
The most basic NX 200t will come equipped with automatic LED headlamps, adjustable driving modes (Normal, Eco and Sport), keyless ignition and entry, eight-way power front seats, "NuLuxe" simulated leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, Siri-integrated voice controls for iPhones, HD and satellite radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system. Safety features include a rearview camera and a multitude of airbags (front side, full-length curtain, driver knee and a unique front passenger cushion airbag).
The F Sport version adds a sport-tuned suspension, special 18-inch wheels, unique exterior styling, transmission paddle shifters, turbo boost and g-meter gauges, and special interior trim and a system that pipes artificial engine noise into the cabin (complete with a separate volume knob). The NX 300h really only differs with its hybrid powertrain, special gauges and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel available as an option on the other models.
Noteworthy optional features include heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, a sunroof, driver memory functions, a power-folding backseat, a power liftgate, a wireless charging tray (Qi compatible), automated parallel parking, blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning. Many of these are within packages, but the Navigation package in particular includes the obvious, plus the Remote Touch interface, a suite of "Enform" apps including Pandora and OpenTable, and a smartphone remote that can accomplish a variety of vehicle functions including locking the car or keeping track of it when it's being driven by a valet or teenager.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Acura RDX: Fellow Japanese luxury brand Acura is quite often cross-shopped with Lexus, as they attract similar customers interested in strong reliability and value. In this case, the A-rated RDX satisfies those aforementioned virtues along with an especially spacious cabin, abundant features and a low price. A lack of personality the NX and others in the segment possess is one of the few cons.
Audi Q5: One of the oldest competitors in the segment has nevertheless held up well over time and is indeed the vehicle Lexus representatives mention most often as a competitor. It is closest in size to the NX and has a similar turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while its cabin is impeccably built (even for a segment with no shortage of lovely interiors).
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class: Like the NX, the GLK's lack of overall cargo volume doesn't make it the most ideal for families. However, singles or child-free couples should appreciate its solid engineering, long-distance comfort and robust engines (a gasoline V6 and fuel-efficient diesel).
Volvo XC60: Like the RDX, the stylish and safe XC60 offers more cargo space and in general is more family-friendly. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines impress with their acceleration and fuel economy, but for now are only available with front-wheel drive. Less efficient engines are saddled to all-wheel drive.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Like any of the vehicles in the compact luxury crossover segment, the 2015 Lexus NX should appeal to those seeking a tall seating position, room for four people, more cargo capacity than a sedan provides and a luxurious cabin ambiance that's a clear step above the Toyota RAV4s of this world. At the same time, they don't need as much space as provided by bigger luxury SUVs.
In most ways, the NX 200t is hard to distinguish from its competitors on paper, but its expressive styling should help it create an emotional connection with certain shoppers and make it stand apart in ways other Lexus SUVs do not. Class-leading fuel economy from the NX 300h is also worth noting.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
If you need an SUV for carrying lots of luggage or larger items, the NX should give you pause. This makes it one of the least family-friendly vehicles in the segment. We would also make sure to try out the two available electronics interfaces during a test-drive to see if their functionality makes sense to you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.