Lexus NX review
The Lexus NX has strong styling and a fine cabin, matched with a predictable but ordinary driving experience
The Lexus NX is the first foray into the midsize posh SUV sector for Toyota’s luxury offshoot, aimed at denting the sales of the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and even tackling Land Rover’s alluring Range Rover Evoque. Beneath one of the best translations of concept car styling to showrooms in recent years, the NX mercifully isn’t hamstrung by a hybrid-only set-up, as in the larger RX.
Instead, Lexus’ first ever turbocharged engine, and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, aims to lay on some proper mass-market appeal to back up the headline-grabbing bodywork. It’s a largely refined and mostly practical crossover, but in a highly competitive class, struggles to stand out as above average in anything other than its muscular looks.
Our choice: Lexus NX 200t Luxury
The angular, rakish NX will divide opinion, with as many people being put off by its comicbook lines as those left drooling over it. But for Lexus to do a design so brave deserves recognition – the brand has long been criticised for staid, European-copycat design and has at last taken stock and done something original and exciting. In ground-hugging F Sport trim particularly, the NX looks miles sexier than a BMW X3 M Sport or Audi Q5 S-line.
Inside the angular theme is limited to the raised climate control panel, but in typically Lexus fashion the materials are pleasing and the finish tight. Attention-to-detail comes in the shape of a portable vanity mirror on the back of the centre tunnel’s storage bin lid, and a new touchpad control for the 6.2-inch infotainment screen.
Though better than the old ‘mouse’ button, the touchpad still isn’t quite as accurate nor intuitive to use as the clickwheel-operated Audi MMI, BMW iDrive, or Mercedes Comand systems.
Although the NX is an unremarkable drive, we can at least wholeheartedly recommend that the petrol-powered NX 220t is the model to go for, versus the only other drivetrain in the range, the hybrid NX 300h. While the hybrid’s CVT gerarbox does have an improved kickdown response compared to its applications in the CT200h and IS300h, the end result is still a droning, unhappy engine making a great deal of fuss without the corresponding leap in acceleration you’ expect of a 194bhp drivetrain.
Economy will never reach the claimed 56.5mpg, and new plug-in hybrids have far exceeded this old-school system’s ability to travel one mile at up to 30mph on electric power.
Instead, the NX200t’s 235bhp turbo petrol engine and six-speed automatic are the better choice. The gearbox’s lack of ratios compared to BMW’s eight-speeders and Land Rover’s nine-ratio ‘boxes can sometimes leave it caught out, and contributes to the car not feeling quite as nippy as its figures suggest. Butt here’s no doubt it’s the more refined, user-friendly powertrain.
The rest of the NX’s drive is a case of ‘good enough’ rather than noteworthy. It demonstrates adequate steering weight and a consummate lack of body roll, but these components never gel to form a truly engaging drive. The payoff for flat cornering is a firm urban ride in the sportier driving modes, which seems rather superfluous and unnecessary.
Although the freshness of the NX means we can’t offer a comprehensive overview of its reliability as yet, Lexus as a brand scores well overall in Auto Express’s Driver Power surveys for reliability, dealer service and customer satisfaction.
The hybrid’s drivetrain is largely shared with other models in the Lexus and Toyota range, so its components are well proven. On the safety front, blind-spot momitoring, lane departure warning, active city braking and 360-degree parking camera views are all available to take further stress out of piloting the NX. The cameras in particular are a boon given the car’s below-average visibility.
While the front of the NX’s cockpit is perfectly spacious, the raised ‘cinema style’ tiered rear seats mean headroom can be tight for adults in the back, especially when the optional full-length glass roof’s blind is closed. There is no seven-seat option.
Boot capacity is 500 litres – not the largest in the class, but Lexus counters with the fact that it has sacrificed underfloor storage in favour of a space-saver rear wheel – music to the ears of anyone who’s ever been stranded with nothing more than a bottle of tyre-repair foam to save them.
Lexus’s stubborn decision not to offer a diesel in the NX (or in any of its cars) due to their unsuitability for the lucrative Chinese market means that, if you’re looking for the cheapest running costs in this class, look elsewhere.
The hybrid NX300h purports to achieve 56.5mpg and 116g/km, but although that means it’ll score favourably in the fleet market sales chart, it’ll struggle to better mid-thirties mpg in practise. The NX200t is claimed to achieve 34mpg, and this is a realistic claim when driven considerately. A transmission offering more than just six forward gears would improve this, we predict.