2015 Lexus NX

By September 26, 2014
2015 Lexus NX

The Lexus NX, a new luxury compact crossover SUV, is 5.5 inches shorter than the midsize Lexus RX, with styling that's more edgy and futuristic. It's intended to capture young and well-off buyers who have never owned a Lexus, by making them feel cool like no other Lexus SUV does. Although the Lexus NX is shorter than the RX, it's an eye-popping and button-popping 9.7 inches wider and 1.5 inches lower, and there's an F Sport model with body tweaks that take it farther.

The NX uses a new 2.0-liter turbo engine, the first turbocharged engine for Lexus. Inspired by performance vehicles, the 2015 Lexus NX unites the engineering input of racers, says Lexus, as four of the main Japanese engineers have racing backgrounds. The engine designer's previous project was the incredible lightweight 4.8-liter V-10 that's in the LFA supercar, all 552 horsepower and 9000 rpm.

The 235-horsepower Lexus NX engine strives to achieve fame in the real world, with a water-cooled cylinder head, integrated exhaust manifold, and twin-scroll turbocharger. It uses an advanced valve control system to switch between Atkinson cycle and Otto (standard) cycle to optimize performance and fuel efficiency. It makes 258 foot-pounds of torque from 1650 to 4000 rpm, and 17 psi of boost, say the specs. It's EPA-rated at 21/28 mpg City/Highway with all-wheel drive, with 91 octane fuel. The engine will appear in future Lexus models.

There is also a hybrid-powered model, the NX 300h (the sixth Lexus hybrid), making 194 combined horsepower with its two electric motors. An all-wheel-drive hybrid model has a third electric motor to drive the rear wheels when it's slippery. The NX 300h is EPA-rated at 33/30 mpg City/Highway with all-wheel drive, on 87 octane.

We found the performance of the 2.0 turbo good but not neck-snapping, with a 0-60 mph time of 7.0 seconds according to Lexus (the hybrid is 9.1). There's an all-new 6-speed sequential automatic transmission, that, even in sport manual mode, doesn't shift as sportily as might be expected in a car having such boasts behind it.

The Lexus NX was designed to be capable for light duty on the trail, with its wide stance for increased ramp-over angles. The C-pillar is angled to optimize internal storage width, allowing four golf club bags to fit sideways in the cargo area. The sides of the edgy NX are bursting with character lines (more like character edges, slopes and cliffs), and the lines work. The headlights are cool pinched sharp trapezoids, while the DRLs under the headlamps are thin wide elegant check marks.

The base Lexus NX 200t model isn't as cool-looking as the F Sport. The F Sport has more nimble steering and a firmer suspension that rides just as comfortably. Pricing wasn't announced at the introduction in July, so it's not known how much the F Sport will be, but it feels like the one to buy, for its superior looks and handling.

Comparables in the near-luxury compact SUV category might include the BMW X3, Jeep Cherokee, and Acura RDX, all within 1.5 inches in length. Only the Cherokee, all new in 2014, looks cool, and it's by far the least expensive.

The driver's cabin might be the best thing about the NX. Layout, organization, function and materials are all excellent. The F Sport's injection-molded seats are brilliant, and the instrument panel is almost perfect, chock full of clear icons on buttons. There's a popup screen on the dashboard, whose functions are managed via a mouse thing that Lexus calls RTI, Remote Touch Interface.

The suspension and handling is like the engine and acceleration, good enough but not terribly exciting. The ride is comfortable and never harsh, while turn-in is okay but not really sharp. On rippled bends it's basically secure but not exactly confidence-inspiring, as it wants to roam. When we found some perfectly smooth corners, the handling was perfectly comfortable, being more at home.

The 200t is less responsive. It feels heavier, steers slower, rides softer, and stops less quickly.

Model Lineup

The 2015 Lexus NX comes in three models, each with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive: the 200t with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the F Sport with the same engine, and the 300t with a 2.5-liter hybrid.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch 10-spoke aluminum wheels, door handles with LED lighting, heated side mirrors with LED turn signals, integrated rear spoiler, LED low-beam headlamps, foglamps, brake lights, daytime running lights, and interior lighting; rear privacy glass, auto headlamps, keyless entry, variable wipers, 10-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, 8-way front passenger's seat, 60/40 reclining rear seats, manual tilt-and-telescopic steering column, power door locks and windows, rear A/C vents, steering wheel controls, dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert, 8-speaker sound system with satellite HD radio, USB/iPod, Bluetooth, and a 7-inch screen.

The NX F Sport adds a unique front bumper with mesh grille insert, metallic trim, LED foglamps with cornering lamps, sport-tuned suspension and steering, 18-inch wheels with 225/60 all-season or 235/55 summer tires, aluminum pedals, unique interior trim, NuLuxe seats in black or red with contrast stitching, paddle shifters, turbo boost gauge and g-force meter, black headliner and side mirrors, F Sport badging.

There are Navigation, Comfort and Luxury option packages. Options include 18-inch wheels with all-season 225/60R18 tires, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, heated seats and steering wheel, intuitive park assist, lane departure alert, moonroof, power liftgate, power folding rear seat, Pre-Collision System (PCS), dynamic cruise control, LED high-beam headlamps, and wireless charging tray for select mobile phones (Qi compatible).

Safety equipment includes eight airbags with sensors to detect crash severity and deploy at appropriate speeds in front, four-channel ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution, back-up camera with dynamic grid lines, side impact door beams, tire pressure monitoring system, and vehicle stability control with traction control.

Walkaround

The Lexus NX is about as edgy as anything, with a sharp nose on the spindle grille, which unfortunately looks lame in the 200t. We quote our hard oral notes: Way goofy, sticks out, looks like they didn't finish it, the horizontal chrome bars are awful.

Then you look at the F Sport's clean black eggcrate, and you say, Now that's what a spindle grille should look like. The car looks good in a dark color, around the big dark grille. There's a unique front air dam on the F Sport, and black exterior mirrors. Both models have the cool sharkfin antenna for satellite radio, while the standard painted aluminum 10-spoke wheels (double 5-spokes) are stylish and look great.

The NX was designed to be capable for light duty on the trail, with its wide stance for increased ramp-over angles, although not for the F Sport with its front air dam. The overall shape just flowed, literally. Designers poured molten steel over the die of the spindle grille and watched it flow into inspiration for the NX's angular, integral shape. Which, even with its edges, yields a good drag co-efficient (Cd) of 0.33, helped by six underbody aero panels and the roof spoiler.

The headlights are cool pinched sharp trapezoids, cleaner in the F Sport because of LED lamps that look like crystal when they're off, made by a particular molding method. The 200t uses LEDs for the low beams and halogen bulbs for the high beams, but all-LED lights are optional.

The DRLs (daytime running lights) under the headlamps are thin wide check marks, more elegance. There are sequential LED turn signals, adaptive LED fog lights on the 300h and available for the 200t; with a turn signal on, two of the fog bulbs illuminate to aid visibility into the turn. Finally, an LED beam lights the top of the door handle and ground as the driver approaches the vehicle.

The sides of the car are bursting with character lines, more like character edges, slopes and cliffs, from the front middle of the rear wheelwell to the bottom rear of the front wheelwell. Or the line might be running back and uphill, with the direction of the car rather than against it. Dramatic backward or forward, coming or going, the lines work.

At the rear, you have to be looking from a three-quarter angle to see the coolness, because it's all in the wraparound taillamps that split like a red forked tongue. The tailgate is steep, with detail that's intended to echo the spindle grille. The roofline reveals a short upward slope to the highest point, which is forward a bit.

Interior Features

Inside the Lexus NX is a driver's cabin, like no other crossover we can think of. It might be the best thing about the NX. Layout, organization, function, materials, all aces. Climb in the saddle, the cabin says I'm here to make you happy.

Through the windshield you can't see the nose except when the seat is way elevated, and then only a bit of sheet metal. Other SUVs have that view but feel like a school bus, but the NX, no way.

It's like the NuLuxe leather seats know you, they fit so well. Support in all the right places for driving. The F Sport's seats are injection molded, and we're sold. The 200t and 300h leather seats are wrapped and sewn around the padding the old-fashioned way. The F Sport seats are more supple. But both get an A.

There's more NuLuxe wrapping the steering wheel and shift lever, padded the center armrest, and trimming the dash along with carbon fiberish. There are beautiful alloy pedals including a dead pedal, stylish effective door handles, and long door pockets.

The instrument panel is almost perfect, chock full of clear icons on buttons, with an info display between the tach and speedo that's easy to manage by scrolling. When you find the G-Force meter call it dumb and move on. So what. And if you're looking at that meter in a hard corner, you're dangerous.

There's a popup screen on the dashboard, whose infotainment functions are managed using a mouse thing. Lexus calls its version RTI, Remote Touch Interface. It's easier and safer than a touch screen because it requires less eye-hand coordination while you're driving. We only spent an afternoon in the NX models, not enough time to find flaws in the system. We had a few fails trying to do things, but maybe it was us. Or maybe it wasn't. Like Pooh used to tell Piglet, you never know about bees. In cars nowadays, you never know about electrons.

The C-pillar is angled to optimize internal storage width, allowing four golf club bags to fit sideways in the cargo area. Four grown men off to the links, and you're all set. Hope they like each other. And that they're not too tall, as there is just an average 36.1 inches of rear legroom. Throw out the golf bags and golfers, drop the rear seatbacks, and you've got 54.6 cubic feet of space for fun stuff.

Driving Impressions

When we floored it we expected it to be faster, but maybe we expect too much. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds could be considered hot in some contexts. In this context the F Sport looks like it should be a rocket ship. But remember it's still only a four-cylinder growling out a twin exhaust.

The engine makes 235 horsepower at 5600 rpm with 258 foot-pounds of torque from 1650 to 4000 rpm, and up to 17 psi of boost from the twin-scroll turbo, although when we floored it in second gear, the boost gauge never went above 12. Subaru says the torque stays the same from 1650 to 4000 rpm, thanks to Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-iW), but you can feel it come on some at 3700, and it feels happy over 4000. VVT-iW also allows the engine to start in the Otto cycle and then run in the more fuel efficient Atkinson cycle.

The engine was bench-tested for more than 10,000 hours before its road testing for 600,000 miles. The intake system draws carbon vapors away from the crankcase, allowing 10,000 miles between oil changes.

The new 6-speed sequential automatic transmission has a special power, described by Lexus as torque-demand control logic to calculate required engine torque and maximize it for quick response and acceleration that is fuel-efficient. We like the paddle shifters but were disappointed in the speed of the shifts in sport mode. It kicks down on its own even in manual mode, and the kickdowns aren't as crisp as one might expect from a Lexus called F Sport.

We hit some good ripply 60-mph corners to test the suspension, and the handling is like the acceleration, good enough but not terribly exciting. Turn-in is okay but not really sharp; it's basically secure but not exactly confidence-inspiring (it wants to roam); there's no head-toss, but it feels tall and bouncy.

When we found some perfectly smooth corners, the handling was perfectly comfortable, being more at home.

The 200t is less responsive. It feels heavier, steers slower, rides softer, and stops less quickly.

All three NX models come as front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, however the AWD systems are different in the 200t and 300h hybrid. In the 200t, the Dynamic Torque Control system varies front/rear torque between 100/0 and 50/50, and also senses if the car is not hitting its intended line, tweaking the torque at isolated wheels to urge it back. The 300h hybrid uses the E-Four system with an electric motor to drive the rear axle when slipping occurs. The rear motor acts as a generator when the NX is in regenerative braking mode, increasing the amount of kinetic energy recovered.

The 300h hybrid might be compared to the Lexus CT200h, a small wagon, and much prettier we think. It uses a 2.5-liter engine with the Lexus Hybrid Drive System, with enhancements including a water/oil cooler for the electric drive motor and a revised front drive reduction ratio to improve both fuel mileage and climbing hills. The 300h also has its own automatic transmission engineered to optimize hybrid engine needs. In tech-speak, a double planetary gearset serves as a power splitter between the generator and the front wheels; as a reduction gear for the electric motor; and, when both work together, as an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Summary

The Lexus NX offers good acceleration, good handling, a good powertrain, better than good looks, and a great cabin. If you want to be first on your block to get the newest Lexus SUV, go for it.

Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of NX models in the Pacific Northwest.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Lexus NX 200t, NX 300h, NX 200t F Sport
Engines:235-horsepower turbo 2.0 liter I4; 2.5-liter hybrid with 194 combined horsepower
Transmissions:6-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard):7 airbags, vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist, backup camera, tire pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional):blind spot monitor with cross traffic alert, lane departure warning; all-wheel drive
Basic warranty:4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Japan
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Lexus 200t F Sport
Standard equipment:NuLuxe seats in black or red with contrast stitching, paddle shifters, turbo boost gauge and g-force meter, black headliner and side mirrors, door handles with LED lighting, heated side mirrors with LED turn signals, integrated rear spoiler, LED headlamps, foglamps, brake lights, daytime running lights, and interior lighting; rear privacy glass, auto headlamps, keyless entry, variable wipers, 10-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, 8-way front passenger's seat, 60/40 reclining rear seats, manual tilt-and-telescopic steering column, power door locks and windows, rear A/C vents, steering wheel controls, dynamic cruise control, 8-speaker sound system with satellite HD radio, USB/iPod, Bluetooth; sport-tuned suspension and steering, 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/60 all-season or 235/55 summer tires, aluminum pedals
Options as tested (MSPR):
Destination charge:$
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested (MSPR):$
Layout:all-wheel drive
Engine:2.0-liter twin-scroll turbo I4
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):235 @ 5600
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):258 @ 1650-4000
Transmission:6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:21/28 mpg
Wheelbase:104.7 in.
Length/width/height:182.3/83.9/61.8 in.
Track, f/r:61.8/61.8 in.
Turning circle: ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:38.2/55.1/42.8 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: in.
Head/hip/leg room, r:38.1/53.9/36.1 in.
Cargo volume:54.6 cu. ft.
Payload: Lbs.
Towing capacity:2000 Lbs.
Suspension, f:independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs
Suspension, r:independent, double wishbone, coil springs
Ground clearance:6.9 in.
Curb weigth:4050 lbs.
Tires:P225/60/R18
Brakes, f/r:vented disc/disc with ABS, brake assist, regenerative braking system
Fuel capacity:15.9 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of September 26, 2014.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: - www.lexus.com