- Redesigned NX debuts with a new turbocharged engine
- A simpler, less busy cabin design
- New touchscreen- and voice-based infotainment system
- 2022 model kicks off the second NX generation
The first-generation NX, which was sold for the 2015 to 2021 model years, was Lexus' first crack at the small luxury SUV segment. While the NX was competent and competitively priced, a few drawbacks limited its appeal compared to rival SUVs such as the Acura RDX and Mercedes-Benz GLC. Those drawbacks included a small cargo area and a distracting-to-use infotainment interface. Thankfully, Lexus upped its game when designing the second-generation NX.
The NX's lineup now includes the NX 250, NX 350 (reviewed here), NX 350h and NX 450h+. The bold, expressive exterior design we liked from the previous generation carries over to this new model and now incorporates a full-width rear taillight bar just above the automaker's name. Key enhancements include a new infotainment system, a roomier cabin and a more powerful engine.
Look for the 2022 Lexus NX 350 to arrive at dealers late in 2021 and have a starting price of $42,625 with destination.
The NX's model designations refer to what's under the hood, and the NX 350 gets a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. This is an increase of 40 hp and 59 lb-ft from the old NX 300 that had a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. Lexus says the extra grunt is good for a 6.8-second sprint from 0 to 60 mph, and our first impressions tend to support that claim. If that proves to be accurate (we'll know for sure once we do our own independent testing), the NX 350 should be respectably quick and on par with rivals such as the Acura RDX and BMW X3 xDrive30i.
An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard for the NX 350. All-wheel drive is optional. Also available are the NX 250 (non-turbo four-cylinder), NX 350h (hybrid) and new NX 450h+ (plug-in hybrid). All are previewed separately on Edmunds.
The NX 350 responds quickly when you press on the gas, and acceleration should be more than adequate for the average driver. It's not a thriller under hard acceleration, but merging onto free-flowing highways is stress-free. With your foot floored into the gas pedal, the engine emits unmistakable four-cylinder engine noises that let you know there's not much else for it to give. Braking is also adequate for a luxury SUV, with an easy-to-control pedal for smooth stops.
If you're seeking some sporty handling, the F Sport model adds an adaptive sport suspension that allows the NX to corner with minimal body roll and noticeably more confidence than the standard suspension. The standard suspension is tuned more for comfort, but it's not so soft to make the NX 350 overly sloppy on a twisty road.
Ride quality is understandably affected by the F Sport's suspension, but thankfully it's not so stiff as to significantly degrade comfort. You'll simply feel more bumps in the road, but even the bigger cracks and potholes won't send jolts into the passenger space. If you have a preference for comfort over sportiness, we suggest skipping the F Sport. The ride quality is noticeably smoother in the base model.
Engine noise is noticeable and not all that appealing under hard acceleration, but it's otherwise appropriately muted. Road noise is generally low as well, though on coarser asphalt the drone can be tiresome but not intrusive. Turning up the volume on the stereo should easily overpower it. Wind noise is blissfully absent.
The front seats have a sporty appearance and a good amount of lateral support to keep you well anchored in place when taking turns. At the same time, those seats are cushioned for comfort over long distances. The rear seats are suitable for adults, with enough headroom for sub-6-footers. There's also space under the front seats for feet, allowing rear passengers to extend their legs and enjoy more thigh support from the seat cushions. Thanks to the large panoramic sunroof and window cutouts near the headrests, the rear seat area seems even more spacious.
The first thing you'll notice upon entering the cabin is the wide central display canted toward the driver. A 9.8-inch touchscreen is standard, and you can upgrade to a 14-inch screen with a combination of virtual and physical controls for the climate system. This is a massive departure from other Lexus models, which usually are equipped with a central display mounted far from the driver and controlled by touchpad. Behind the wheel is a fully digital instrument panel that completes the NX's high-tech look.
The quality of materials is in line with what we expect from an entry-level luxury SUV. Typical contact points are padded and upholstered in a convincing leather substitute, and all interior elements feel well constructed and are free of any creaks. Overall, the interior of the new 2022 Lexus NX is more cohesive and less busy than its predecessor.
The NX is the first vehicle from the manufacturer to get the latest infotainment system, fittingly named Lexus Interface. It marks a significant step forward from the previous system, which we often referred to as the worst in the industry. The new interface screen is within easy reach, and the sharp graphics are easy to read with a quick glance. The overall menu structure isn't all that intuitive, however. In our initial testing, we sometimes struggled to find some basic functions such as destinations for navigation. This new system does include voice activation that can be summoned by saying, "Hey, Lexus" and then directed by natural speech commands. It alleviates the effort needed to find certain functions, though it does take several seconds for the commands to be processed.
The Lexus NX 350 comes with plenty of other tech features. All models are equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, so you can access your smartphone's entertainment and map apps without having to plug in. On the options list is a 10-inch head-up display that projects useful information onto the windshield for easy viewing. The available navigation system is now cloud-based, which Lexus says allows for more accurate mapping. The system even recognizes when you're about to enter an area with low 4G coverage and will download maps in advance so navigation is uninterrupted.
On the safety side, the NX 350 is equipped with forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition. Several enhancements also debut in the NX, including warning the driver when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk while turning left or right and sounding an alert and potentially hitting the brakes during a left turn when there's oncoming traffic. The blind-spot monitor now searches for traffic or bicyclists approaching from the rear of the vehicle, and it will prevent the doors from opening if they are likely to be struck. An available self-park function will parallel or perpendicular park the NX with minimal intervention from the driver and permit driverless parking in some situations.
Cargo capacity behind the rear seats maxes out at 22.7 cubic feet. That represents a sizable increase of 28% compared to the last-generation NX. This larger space now makes the NX competitive with other small luxury SUVs, though not quite as roomy as the BMW X3 or Volvo XC60. Helping matters is a shallow storage bin underneath the cargo floor and available power-folding rear seats. Storage for personal items for front passengers is also adequate but not generous. A wireless charging pad frees up the cupholders for drinks or other items, and the door pockets and center armrest bin are about average in size.
The fully redesigned 2022 Lexus NX 350 represents a huge improvement over its predecessor, but to be frank, that's a rather low bar. This new NX is noticeably better to drive, has a much larger cargo space and will not send you into fits when you use the infotainment center. It may not feel quite as special as a Mercedes-Benz GLC or BMW X3, but it's not as expensive either. It's worth checking out if you're shopping for a small luxury SUV.