Lexus debuts its first turbocharged engine in the new NX 200t. The additions to the NX team (joining the NX 300h hybrid) are priced below equivalent hybrid models and give the good-looking Lexus a very comprehensive lineup to tackle the prestige mid-size SUV segment.
Of course that segment is dominated by European marques offering turbocharged engines. And while the Euros favour turbo-diesels for reduced fuel consumption, Lexus has consistently said its play in the fuel-miserly game is hybrid.
It’s a smart alternative – just as you’d expect from Lexus. In fact everything about the Lexus 200t is very smart – including the price.
Lexus NX 200t Overview
The Lexus 200t mirrors the hybrid 300h in being offered with two versions of the entry-level ‘Luxury’ model ( 2WD and AWD) as well as ‘F Sport’ and ‘Sports Luxury’ variants which are exclusively AWD. There are some subtle changes to identify the 2.0-litre turbo models.
The full lineup is:
|F Sport AWD||$63,500|
|Sports Luxury AWD||$72,500|
And just a reminder about the petrol-electric hybrid Lexus NX 300h range:
|F Sport AWD||$66,000|
|Sports Luxury AWD||$75,000|
Lexus NX 200t Engine
“We don’t do things on the run and we were never going to grab a turbocharger off the shelf and bolt it onto an existing engine,” Lexus Australia chief Sean Hanley explained. “That is not the relentless pursuit of perfection.”
This turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine – code-numbered 8AR-FTS - is indeed a big deal for Lexus. It was developed completely in-house and took nine years to bring to production.
It’s brilliant technology, capable of switching from the conventional Otto cycle to the fuel-saving , late intake valve-closing Atkinson cycle. Use of a twin-scroll turbocharger and mounting the liquid-cooled intercooler to the engine minimise the intake volume downstream of the turbocharger for better throttle response.
And there are as couple of Lexus firsts: a cylinder head with integrated four-into-two exhaust manifold and twin-scroll turbocharger plus the latest version of variable valve timing called VVT-iW. The ‘W’ stands for a wider range of inlet timing variation which facilitates the switch from Otto to Atkinson cycles.
Also new is the latest Lexus ESTEC D-4ST fuel injection system which splits injection between high-pressure direct injection and low pressure direct port injection. Of course this is all about combustion efficiency for optimized fuel consumption and emissions.
Maximum power is 175kW from 4800-5600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm is delivered between 1650-4000rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.7l/100kms for the 2WD model or 7.9l/100kms for the AWD versions.
Both drivelines use the new U661 transaxle - for compatibility with the fuel-saving ‘Stop & Go’ system – and a new sequential shift six-speed automatic transmission.
Lexus NX 200t The Interior
In keeping with its turbocharged powerplant, the Lexus NX 200t debuts a couple of firsts in the 4.2-inch colour multi-function screen – a turbo boost meter which changes colour according to boost, a G-sensor ‘G-ball’ and an engine oil temperature readout.
In another Lexus first, the NX 200t runs a non-linear speedometer with 100km/h at the ’12-o’clock’ position.
The F Sport models scores a unique look for the instruments with a sporty white band like the LFA supercar.
Those who have read our review of the Lexus NX 300h will know we rate the interior very highly. Some colleagues weren’t in love with the chunky centre console but we reckon it’s terrific and the padded knee-brace panels were certainly appreciated when we tossed the 200t into some curves.
We also give high scores to the front seats and driving position. Very comfortable for long journeys but nicely sculptured for excellent lateral support when the going gets twisty.
And of course the rear seat with its recline function offers comfort which is unmatched by most in this segment. Out-back there’s plenty of luggage space – 500-litres with the rear seat in-place or 1545-litres when folded flat.
Depending on the model your audio choice is a 10-speaker Pioneer system or an excellent 14-speaker unit from Mark Levinson.
Lexus NX 200t Exterior & Styling
We’ve been keen on the looks of the Lexus NX since we first laid eyes on it but there’s no doubt the 200t is the pick of the bunch. Subtle styling changes underscore its performance aspirations.
For example the exhaust tailpipes come from Yamaha’s specialist Sakura Kogyo.
Up-front the 200t runs unique LED headlights and DRLs plus new bumpers and Lexus spindle grille. The combination adds a much shaper look.
The side sees wheel arch flares.
As well as the 18-inch alloy wheels, F Sport scores a mesh-look front grille and a metallic coated front bumper.
And lots of aero enhancements play a role in the Lexus NX 200t’s drag co-efficient of just 0.33. There’s profiled exterior mirrors, a roof spoiler, front and rear underfloor covers wind deflectors and even the rear suspension arms are profiled.
Lexus NX 200t On The Road
During a day on the roads around Canberra we got to drive both F Sport and Sports Luxury versions of the Lexus NX 200t. It didn’t take long to conclude this is the NX model we’d buy.
Nothing against the 300h which we tested over the Christmas break but the extra punch of the 175kW/350Nm turbo 2.0-litre and improved driveability courtesy of the sequential six-speed automatic transmission make the 200t the NX for enthusiast drivers.
We drove the F Sport first and with those sports dampers to liven-up the suspension it was the pick of them for driving dynamics. Like all Lexus NX models the excellent suspension calibration and stiff bodyshell means there is little body roll and plenty of grip made for rapid going through the twisty stuff (a smidge of controllable understeer at the limit).
It’s not as firm as the Europeans but the Lexus NX 200t F Sport lives to the F (F for Fuji Race Circuit) badge.
Our Sports Luxury model came equipped with a glorious two-tone beige and black leather interior which set the tone for the range-topping model. Again though the performance of the turbo 2.0-litre was the highlight – plenty of urge when needed but nicely quiet and refined when cruising on the freeway.
Lexus NX 200t Issues
No points deduction here – the Lexus NX is great.
Lexus NX 200t Verdict
Good as the Lexus NX 300h is, the turbocharged 200t is the NX we prefer. The extra punch of the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine makes the most of the excellent chassis.
We’d go for the F Sport model just for its sharper looks.
But over-riding all of the dynamic stuff is the value. Lexus being Lexus the NX comes equipped with a massive array of luxury goodies. Just the sort of stuff you appreciate when you’re writing cheques north of $50K.
And also Lexus being Lexus you know the 200t is beautifully made and will endure.
Lexus NX 200t The Competition
The Audi Q5 is a Car Showroom Favourite in this league. There are two petrol models – the 2.0 TFSI is stickered at $63,600 and the 3.0 TFSI will set you back $75,000. When it comes to all-wheel-drive technology Audi’s Quattro system is unmatched and there’s no doubt the driving dynamic is more at the sporty end of the scale than the NX 200t. In the absence of a tape measure we suspect the Audi maybe a smidge behind for interior/cargo space.
BMW has two petrol versions of the excellent X3 – the xDrive 20i at $60,765 and the xDrive 28i at $72,930. Although not quite as sporty as the Audi Q5, in direct comparison with the Lexus NX 200t you’ll find the ‘Beemer’ is still a bit firmer over the bumps…it’s the European way. And you’ll need to carefully cross-reference standard specifications and options as the Lexus doesn’t lack for kit.
Petrol variants of the Land Rover Evoque 5-door range from $61,166 to $79,970. Sure that’s more coin than the Lexus NX 200t so what price do you put on the knock-out looks of the Brit? You again have to carefully check what’s standard and optional on the Evoque and we reckon the Lexus may offer a fait bit more rear-seat leg-room. And we’ve also heard reports of long waiting lists for Evoque if you’re specific about models and colours.