Lexus threw-out its own design rule book in creating the NX. This all-new SUV has some ‘attitude’ in its styling and gets passers-by gawking.
Apart from the LFA supercar and more lately the RC F Coupe, head-turning isn’t a reaction one normally associates with Lexus. So the NX 200t is off to a flying start.
Lexus NX 200t Overview
Curiously the Lexus NX lineup is classified in Australia as a ‘compact’ SUV. Strange because the week we had the NX 200t we had two other mid-size SUVs and you couldn’t pick the differences in external size or interior space.
In the www.carshowroom.com.au garage was the range-topping Sports Luxury variant of the Lexus NX 200t. Priced at $72,500, the Lexus NX 200t Sports Luxury is exclusively all-wheel-drive (AWD) and drives via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Over the entry-level ‘Luxury’ grade, the Lexus NX 200t adds extras such as: leather/woodgrain-look interior, moonroof, 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio, 360-degree panoramic view monitor and LED headlights with auto high beam. The ‘Sports Luxury’ also scores some impressive technology inclusions like: a wireless induction charger for phones and mobile devices, head-up display, pre-collision safety, active cruise control, adaptive suspension, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning.
Lexus NX 200t Engine
The combination of performance, fuel consumption, weight and package size sees the automotive world trending to forced-induction 2.0-litre engines for a variety of vehicle segments. Lexus has been onto this trend for some time and, in the Lexus way, developed its own top-shelf version of a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine entirely in-house.
Debuting on this engine for Lexus are a cylinder head with an integrated four-into-two exhaust manifold and a fresh version of variable valve timing called VVT-iW. The ‘W’ indicates this engine can switch from Otto to Atkinson cycles as required (‘w’ider range of inlet timing variation…get it?).
In the Lexus NX 200t Sports Luxury we tested, drive was to all four wheels via a new sequential six-speed automatic transmission.
Maximum power is 175kW from 4800-5600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm is delivered between 1650-4000rpm.
Combined-cycle fuel consumption scores 7.9l/100kms.
Lexus NX 200t The Interior
You might think the Lexus NX 200t runs the same interior as the 300h. But you’d be wrong.
For starters the petrol version introduces a 4.2-inch multi-function screen as well as a G-sensor ‘G-ball’. There’s also a turbocharger boost gauge and an engine oil temperature display.
Even the speedometer is different with the NX 200t running a non-linear version - 100km/h shown at the ’12 o-clock’ position which is a very good idea for Australian freeways.
We liked the cockpit layout of the NX – seat height and steering wheel rake/reach adjustment ensured a great driving position and the leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel was just the right size. To the left, the thick centre console provided good bracing and padding for your knees in cornering (we can think of some high-performance cars with six-figure price tags which don’t offer that).
As usual with Lexus, the satellite navigation screen provided a great display and its operation (as well as the audio system) didn’t require a Doctorate in IT. Other manufacturers take note – K.I.S.S. even in prestige vehicles.
Rear seat passengers in the Lexus NX 200t enjoy spaciousness which some rivals can only dream of. And a recline function allowed the Car Showroom Juniors to snooze during a trip down to Phillip Island.
The luggage area was shallow but still easily handled the golf clubs and other requisites for our weekend getaway. That’s 500-litres with the rear seat in-place or 1545-litres when folded flat.
Lexus NX 200t Exterior & Styling
There’s a sports/muscly theme going on with the Lexus NX 200t which we certainly like. The high waistline and abundant creases provide a degree of sophistication and style which can sometimes be lacking in these sorts of SUVs.
Up-front, the NX 200t scores the latest Lexus ‘spindle grille’ and the trendy ‘hawkeye’ piercing headlights. There’s also lots of aero work to be seen with ducts and crevices reminiscent of a GT racer.
Side view sees the tapering roofline, curved glasshouse, flared wheelarches and nicely-styled 18-inch alloy wheels.
At the rear, you will notice an aero shape for the jewel-like tail-lights and a tailgate spoiler.
Lexus NX 200t On The Road
The Sports Luxury Lexus NX 200t – like the F Sport model – scores the adaptive variable suspension (but a different calibration to the F Sport’s sporty settings). As well as the usual parameters (speed sensing, roll control, rebound control and anti-dive/anti-squat control), the Lexus system has a clever control in the vertical G sensor which detects when you’re not on a sealed road to provide a more refined experience inside.
The adaptive variable suspension responds to the settings of the Drive Mode Select System which (in the Sports Luxury and F Sport models) has ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport+’ settings. A dashboard light confirms your selection.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test route it was easy to pick the differences in damping force and throttle actuation. And in ‘Sport+’ mode we did find the Lexus NX 200t quite dynamic (for an SUV).
Of course at the limit the AWD configuration meant understeer was inevitable, but easily controlled via the throttle. And in that context, the Sports Luxury model doesn’t quite match the traction of the lower profile 235/55R18 100V rubber fitted to the F Sport variant.
But initial turn-in was good and there was a pleasing lack of bodyroll.
We certainly liked the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine developed for the Lexus NX 200t. There aren’t too many in this league with more than the 175kW/350Nm and delivery was impressive across the power band.
Naturally the Lexus NX 200t was impressively quiet and refined at all speeds and around town offered impressive isolation from traffic roar. That 360-degree panoramic view monitor was impressive and certainly removed any lingering doubts about the tight rear-three quarter styling when reverse parking.
Lexus NX 200t Issues
The cargo area of the Lexus NX 200t was surprisingly shallow. Same for the 300h hybrid model but it needs space to house its batteries whereas the 200t doesn’t. With so many seven, eight and nine-speed transmissions now in-play it’s a tad surprising the NX 200t only comes with a six-speeder.
Lexus NX 200t Verdict
We think Lexus has hit a ‘home run’ with the NX 200t. We like the looks, we like the luxury kit, we like the drive and there’s no doubting the value-for-money.
Time hasn’t softened Lexus’ fanatical attention to detail and, wherever you cast your eye, the NX 200t exudes quality. And Lexus is still the leader for after-sales support programs.
Lexus NX 200t The Competition
The all-round excellence and value-for-money of the Lexus NX 200t is reflected by the quality of the cars we’d have in our consideration set. The rider we’re putting on all of this however is the amount of kit Lexus fits as standard versus the European way of listing much on the options list…compare the details before deciding.
From Audi we have the excellent Q5 3.0 TFSI priced at $75,000. With 200kW/400Nm from Audi’s 3.0 TFSI V6, the Q5 3.0 TFSI obviously outmuscles the Lexus – but lags behind on fuel consumption at 8.5l/100kms (7.9l/100kms for the NX 200t Sports Luxury). In the Audi way, the Q5 is a sporty drive and amongst major rivals gives the Lexus 200t the closest run for interior style.
BMW has the X3 xDrive 28i priced at $73,400. With 180kW/350Nm from BMW’s turbo 2.0-litre, this is the most powerful X3 with a petrol engine. On the styling front the X3 doesn’t have the street presence of the Lexus NX 200t but there’s no doubting the BMW driving dynamics – sporty and firm as we expect from the Germans.
The range-topping Range Rover Evoque (petrol) is the Prestige Si4 stickered at $80,440, or one rung down the equipment level is the Dynamic Si4 which will require $75,040. Both are powered by J-LR’s 177kW/340Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and are one-up on everyone else in this league with the nine-speed ZF automatic transmission. Interior space isn’t the strong point of the Evoque.