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Lexus NX 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Barnwell road tests and reviews the Lexus NX at its international launch.

Lexus is about to step into new territory with a compact premium SUV called the NX. It already has two big SUVs in the LX and RX models but there’s a lot more action where the smaller NX sits. Buyers are overwhelmingly choosing compact vehicles over the big ‘uns.

Loosely connected to Toyota’s RAV4, the NX has 90 per cent re-engineered parts, is 20 per cent stronger in the chassis and ushers in a totally new engine.

New direction 

It is the first vehicle produced under the direction of Lexus International that networks the whole company globally to focus on a specific task.

In keeping with Lexus philosophy, the NX features fine attention to detail inside and out, uses premium quality materials and in this case, offers impressive dynamics.

First seen a couple of years ago in concept form, the production NX doesn’t differ all that much from the show car. It’s a stunner from all angles sure to wow punters when it hits the streets here soon. Some styling cues come from motorcycles and the angular, aggressive looking NX features LED headlights, daytime driving lights and tail lights.

It’s the first Lexus with a touch controller for multiple functions and is the first with drive mode select offering Eco, Normal and Sport. Tick the F-Sport box and you get adaptive variable suspension with three modes including Sport+.

Available will be a new inductive phone charging pad called Qi phone - no cables required.

Engines

Two powertrains will be on offer including a new 2.0-litre petrol turbo four with 175kW/350Nm output, the latter over a broad engine speed range. The twin-scroll turbo with variable boost control is integrated into the exhaust manifold and has a large water to air intercooler attached. The direct-injection engine can switch from the conventional Otto cycle to the ignition delayed Atkinson cycle thanks to a sophisticated wide range valve system.

We will get the NX200T 2.0-litre turbo petrol and the NX300h hybrid with the same engine as the Lexus ES300h - using a 2.5-litre petrol engine with electric assist engine(s) depending on the model. It has 115kW plus 30kW from the electric system. We couldn’t work out the torque.

Drivetrains

All-wheel drive will be available on both with the 200T using a conventional on-demand all wheel drive system with a drive shaft to the rear axle and the 300h using an electric rear wheel drive system.

The two wheel drive turbo and hybrid variants will be front wheel drive with a conventional six-speed auto as standard on the turbo with a CVT on the hybrid.

As is the case with other Lexus models, various options and packages will be available including Luxury, F-Sport and Sports Luxury grades with the middle model bringing a more athletic look, bigger wheels, sports suspension, shock tower bar, metal pedals, red stitching, boost gauge, distinctive interior, sports seats and acoustic adjustment on the turbo…. and the striking mesh grille. Other NX models have a horizontal bar grille in the same spindle shape.

For both engines F-Sport and Sports Luxury will only be available in all wheel drive with the entry Luxury model in front and all wheel drive. To avert torque steer which can pull a front drive car to one side under hard acceleration, the turbo has a small single clutch on each drive shaft.

The turbo should get 8.0-litres/100km and clock an 0-100kmh sprint in 7.2 seconds while the hybrid can get as good as 5.6-litres/100km but is a lot slower at 9.1 for the 0-100kmh sprint.

Interior design

Inside is a study in Lexus style - neat, functional, almost clinical but in this case with a lot more character thanks to real wood inlays and a centre stack channelling the spindle grille.
Leather is a given, some with hand stitching.

It has a driver focused cockpit with a centre information read out and a big centre screen to control the car’s numerous functions and connectivity. Three grades of audio are used, model dependent, including a 14 speaker, 980 watt Mark Levinson unit that rocks your socks off. Interior lighting is by LED and there are plenty of practical features including a split folding rear seat and a stow away parcel shelf.

The power tailgate is height adjustable and the reverse camera (standard) has dynamic guide lines and cross traffic alert on some models. The high res, satnav system is touch pad controlled.

Available driver assist functions include smart access, blind spot warning, lane departure alert, queue control dynamic radar cruise control pre collision warning and preparation. It will be a five star ANCAP car.

Driving

We took both models for a long drive at the international launch over mostly freeways and some back roads. NX isn’t intended as an off roader at all apart from gravel made up roads and perhaps ice.

It’s super quiet cruising and the turbo in particular is a lively drive with sporty dynamics, strong throttle response and direct steering feel.

It’s comfortable and well equipped with plenty of new technology to keep you informed, entertained and in touch. We’d pick the turbo every day because it’s a more engaging drive befitting a car that looks as striking as the NX.

Verdict

Join the queue - they already have plenty of orders for this puppy… understandably. Price is likely in the $50,000 ballpark.

Pricing Guides

$41,990
Based on 89 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$34,880
Highest Price
$49,500

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
NX200t F Sport (AWD) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $38,490 – 48,880 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX200t F Sport (AWD) Pricing and Specs
NX300h F Sport Hybrid (AWD) 2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $38,888 – 48,500 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX300h F Sport Hybrid (AWD) Pricing and Specs
NX200t Luxury (AWD) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $34,880 – 46,990 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX200t Luxury (AWD) Pricing and Specs
NX200t Luxury (FWD) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $36,885 – 42,950 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX200t Luxury (FWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8