Lexus NX crossover: The Warrior
Adding to Lexus’s portfolio of vehicles is the new, youthful NX crossover; and it’s here to make a fashion statement, not merely repeat one
It has become increasingly difficult to separate rival models in a segment recently, simply because they all look and drive quite similarly. Most of them are even crammed with the same features. But Lexus, as you’ll soon read, is trying to do something different.
The winning mould by the Japanese brand, so far, has relied on its longstanding reputation for reliability and value. But these are qualities a retiree would prioritise when he or she goes car shopping. How about the under 30s — those who want to be distinguishable and also want pace and the other goodies? Is there a Lexus for those in the now? Well, now there is. Enter the dramatically-styled and all-new 2015 Lexus NX crossover.
Helping it make its case is Lexus’ first-time-ever turbo-four motor and an aesthetic suit that Lexus calls F-Sport. We have driven it far and long and here’s what we think.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The long-time poster child for practicality has outdone itself in the design department, quite unexpectedly. The new compact NX crossover is now the flag bearer of Lexus’s highly fashionable range. The exterior has so many facets, it’s like origami at play.
The blessed thing about it is the size — not much of bigger than a hatchback, but large enough to fit four adults comfortably and maybe even seat five. Being 4,630mm long and 1,845mm wide, it’s easy to steer around a parking lot and remain agile over a highway, while maintaining a decent stature over sedans at 1,630mm high. And that is precisely what most people want. This car is claimed to be based on the RAV4, but up to 90 per cent of the parts are new, so that statement seems ironic. Dimensionally, it is as wide as its Toyota sibling, albeit shorter by about 50mm.
Stylistically, they’ve taken the larger RX crossover, scaled it down and stretched out some areas like a baker with a ball of dough. Some surfaces have been chiselled away to create a large number of creases and contours. It is unlike any other car and it begs for attention.
The signature spindle, honeycomb-like grille remains at the front, giving it a jaw-dropping look. The tick-mark daytime running LED lamps from the IS sedan makes an appearance here, underlining the space age, 3-point, blue-tinted LED lamps enclosed in pointy, pulled back clusters. The NX has the most dramatic front since the LFA-supercar, and it’s very well executed.
Keeping it visually distinct from the side are massive — and rather pronounced — wheel arches. We found the black fenders a bit confusing because they equip off-road specials or cheaper trims with that style. As for the wheels, we were expecting low profile, highly stylised wheels, but, despite the chic machine-finished 18” inch alloys, the tyres had a large sidewall. A design mishap, perhaps?
The pulled-back effect of the rear LED lamps gives it a look of motion, while the chrome dual tailpipes keeps it contemporary. The rear is probably the most sober-looking part of the body. All in all, if you drive the Lexus NX, it is a highly stylised interpretation of a compact crossover, and guarantees that it will always draw the right kind of attention.
The grandiose exterior matches the LFA-inspired interior, with red upholstery, contrast stitching, gauges and shift lever styles, all borrowed from the supercar. In other words, the cabin is first class, starting with the ingress and egress — made easy by the h-point and wide-opening doors, along with smart access and push button start. Most operations can take place with just the touch of a button.
The highlights of the cabin are many, such as the thickly rimmed 3-spoke steering wheel with buttons for as many functions as you can count, plus an extra stalk for cruise control. The wheel is set on a dashboard decorated with adornments, satin finish trims, padded surfaces with contrast stitching and a protruding centre console, which has never been seen before on a car. It’s all very futuristic, even for today, except for the company analogue clock. Other peculiarities include exposed bolts on plastic panels and a removable mirrored cover over the sunglass slot.
The iPad-like infotainment 7” screen sits atop the console like a tablet on a stand; the screen is smaller than what the bezel suggests. Interesting bits, like a &remote touch track pad that acts just like a laptop counterpart, and the aluminium-finish drive select rotary knob, populate the lower centre console.
Being the top spec, our test mule had an electrically adjustable steering column that made even a 6ft frame an easy fit. Unlike seats in other cars, the upholstered covers for the seats in the NX are made first, and then injected with foam. Fascinating! The seats are supple and soft, but the side bolsters poke into your lower thigh if you’re of a larger frame. The red leather in the F-Sport, in combination with the black-tone interior, make it all very aesthetic and desirable.
There is plenty of knee room in the rear, and is good for two adults only; a third occupant would make it a squeeze. It is not as family friendly as a RAV4, but this is meant for young nesters or individuals mostly.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
For the first time, Lexus features a turbocharged engine that has the right formula — lightweight, efficient and speedy. By specification, it is a turbocharged 2L 4-cylinder, with both direct and port injection. It is linked to a conventional 6-speed. The 232bhp it makes at 4,800-5,600rpm, puts it ahead of the VW Golf GTI, while matching the Range Rover Evoque, both of which share a similar engine architecture. Torque is a meaty 350Nm, produced between 1,650 and 4,000rpm. So you can expect some oomph!
The sprint to a 100km/h on regular roads has been estimated at about 7 seconds, and the car does feel zippy, especially in the city. It soldiers forward up to a 120km/h, after which, it finds it harder to stretch its legs. We like the exhaust notes in Sport mode and there is an ASC scroll to augment turbocharger sounds. The McPherson strut and double wishbone rear set up along with the F-Sport adaptive variable suspension helps it negotiate turns almost drama-free — making it a bit of an overgrown GTI. Turn-ins are quick and stability is of a decent calibre. So, there are crossovers that can show you around the curves rather than just take the kids to community parks!
Over undulations and general road surfaces it stays planted and pliant, but the slower you go over a hump, the bigger the recoil — it’s like getting an annoying hard pat on the back from a friend you don’t like and don’t expect.
With ventilated disc brakes all around, braking feels confident. Even under heavy braking, the car maintains the line of drive and stability. The sound insulation is high-class, avoiding much of the tyre roar and wind whistle. Almost all the 2.0T engines we know provide a good compromise between performance and fuel economy and this is no different. On a mixed cycle, you can achieve the claimed 7.9L/100km and the 60L tanks gives you a theoretical range of 760km.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Like products by other manufacturers, the NX 200t is one that is crammed with features — some convenient, others gimmicky — but it’s all good since the NX is essentially a lifestyle product.
The top-spec F-Sport gets a Mark Levinson 14-speaker unit that produces killer sound and you can stream music off Bluetooth, USB or AUX. The NX also gets wireless charging for phones and tablets in the lower storage compartment — never seen this in a car before! The navigation unit is a split screen unit borrowed from Toyota. Nothing wrong with it, but it isn’t the most visually appealing. Controlling the movement between menus and on-screen buttons is via the track pad, which is much improved over the original mouse featured on the CT 200h. The cursor falls exactly where you want it.
The screen in between the instrument gauges shows a variety of information and is completely separate from that on the centre console. You can even see a graphic for turbo boost, besides controlling audio, phone, etc. You also have a heads-up display. You’ve seen the 4-camera surround view on quite a few cars now, but this one gives you a proper look around when stationery. It’s just showing off at this point.
Other conveniences include a 5-setting height adjustable tailgate, seating ventilation/heating, adaptive cruise control, remote engine starter. Again, speaking of peculiarities — which this car is full of — you have capacitive cabin light, that operates on touch. Lexus also attempts to keep you worry-free by adding features like multiple airbags, traction control, vehicle stability control, lane change assist with blind spot monitor, and rear cross traffic alert.
Sure, Lexus has been the sensible choice by being better built and cheaper than similar German rivals. But now, with the 2015 Lexus NX 200t, especially in F-Sport trim, they are pushing the envelope of design and giving customers the need to buy, not just the necessity. Also, the peppy 4-pot engine satisfies speed urges, while special conveniences and comforts make it so much easier to sign on the dotted line.
Sophisticated looks; overall build quality; peppy engine; idiosyncratic features
Bumpy ride over slow humps; competent rivals; track pad control not for all tastes
EDITOR’S RATING 7.5/10
Lexus worked with Yamaha to tune the sound of the LFA supercar engine. The process used was similar to that of an Ovation guitar