ith the release of the new NX crossover does Lexus have something that will be as successful as the RX and will it be able to compete with other luxury compact crossovers like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and the BMW X1/X3 models?
For over a decade Lexus has only offered one crossover in its lineup – the RX, which essentially started the luxury crossover craze. Now Lexus has finally released a second smaller crossover, that competes in the heavily packed compact crossover segment. With the release of the new NX does Lexus have something that will be as successful as the RX and will it be able to compete with other luxury compact crossovers like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5 and the BMW X1/X3 models?
To bring the NX to life, Lexus tapped parent Toyota for the RAV4 platform as its basis. How much is shared with the RAV4? Not as much as you would think. The NX has different power trains and according to Lexus NX Chief Engineer Takeaki Kato, the NX is completely different from the center back. It does ride on the same wheelbase as the RAV4, but since its very different from the RAV4, the NX wouldn’t even be able to be built on the same production line as the Toyota.
RAV4 similarities aside, the NX looks like a completely different animal than the more conservative RAV4. The NX takes the current Lexus styling language and dials it up even further, making it one of the most aggressive models in the Lexus lineup. It also stands out in the segment with its large Spindle grille and aggressive lines. Either way the styling is likely to be more polarizing than the larger and softer looking RX.
The NX is offered with two powertrains: a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder in the NX 200t or a hybrid system in the NX 300h that mates a 2.5L four-cylinder to an electric motor for a total 194-hp. My test car, the NX 300h was a front wheel drive model, which only has one electric motor, since the AWD version gets a second for the rear axle. The hybrid powertrain is the same setup that powers the ES 300h and in the NX it’s power is adequate around town. At lower speeds, below 25 mph you can sometimes get it to drive in electric mode and there’s even an EV mode button that forces it to emit zero emissions. Unfortunately the hybrid powertrain feels a like a “last-generation” setup, since it can only drive in EV mode at lower speeds. Other newer hybrid systems can at least zoom around in the 50-60 mph range in electric mode.
Don’t expect to win any drag races here, since a 0-60 mph time of 9.1 seconds is anything but fun, but the good thing is that the NX 300h isn’t designed to be fast. Instead it’s a fuel efficient SUV with a city rating of 35 mph and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 30 mpg over my week with the NX 300h. Around town the NX handles as expected, but at times it felt bigger than it actually is. It’s suspension is obviously set more for comfort than sport, with the shocks and springs delivering a soft comfortable ride, but at the expense of overall body control.
Inside the NX 300h features many of the same styling themes as the rest of the Lexus lineup. For the most part its covered in high quality materials, but there are a few hard plastic bits. The front seats are very comfortable and headroom in front is adequate, but, the biggest drawback about the interior is the lack of rear headroom. Rear seat passengers complained about their heads hitting the ceiling. The new Remote Touch Interface touchpad for the infotainment system is a bit easier to use than the toggle mouse-like thing in other Lexus models.
With a starting price at $40,645 the NX 300h costs over $5k more than a standard NX 200t. With the Premium and Navigation packages the NX 300h will set you back $45,455.