First Drive 2015 Lexus NX 200T: Lexus Enters The Luxury Compact Crossover Segment

It’s no secret that the fastest growing segment in the car industry is the Compact Crossover segment.  Within that segment the luxury models are growing at even a faster rate.  Until now, Lexus did not have a model to compete against the likes of the Mercedes GLK, Audi Q5 and BMW X3, however, that all changes now with the new NX.

The new NX is aimed at a younger demographic with a more active lifestyle.  Lexus is targeting those buyers who want looks that stand apart, a sporty character, but without any sacrifices to luxury.  Lexus also estimates that 50% of the NX buyers will be new to the Lexus brand.

If you like and enjoy the Lexus IS, then the NX is right up your alley.  While the ES and RX models are aimed at what was Lexus’ “traditional owner”, like the IS, the NX makes more of a statement, both outside and within.  Lexus calls IS/NX buyer the “next wave” of Lexus owners.

Based loosely on the RAV4 platform, 90% of the platform has been changed and upgraded.  There are unique parts and chassis components that result in a 20% greater structural rigidity.  Because of the greater strength, a quieter, more composed ride, the kind you expect from Lexus, is possible.

The exterior of the new NX is sure to draw comments.  It has the Lexus corporate spindle grill, but in two flavors.  The 200T and 300h models have horizontal bars, while the F-Sport has a black honeycomb structure.

The rest of the vehicle has strong lines throughout, the F-Sport model will have a unique facia, wheels and interior trim, a unique Ultrasonic Blue paint color and red interior available.  All models will come with LED headlamps as standard and the arrow day time running lamps.  LED high beam lights and tail lights will be offered in higher level trim models.  There are also lighted door handles and puddle lamps that activate as you approach the car at night.

On the 200T and 300h models 17 inch wheels are standard, with 18 inch wheels an option.

Inside all models get a 7 inch video screen, with navigation as an option.  In non-navigation models the “mouse” is now replaced with a knob, similar to what you’d find on German luxury models, while vehicles equipped with Navigation will get a touch pad that features pinch to zoom, swipe and haptic feedback just like most smart phones.

The navigation system also has a 3D street view to make it easier to recognize landmarks as you drive to a destination.

The standard audio system in the NX comes with 8 speakers along with free HD Traffic and Weather, the upgraded audio is a 10 speaker system with radio cache, so that you can pause live music, sports or talk radio if you have to take a call.

The center stack has some unique features, starting with a design that mimics the nose of the NX.  There are specific spots in the center console for holding sunglasses, the cup holders get attention to detail with a material on the bottom that will grip bottles, so that you can open them in the holders with one hand.  Lexus will also offer wireless charging using the Qi (pronounced Chee) standard.  If your phone is not quipped for this standard there are adapters sold to make it possible, including for the iPhone.

There have been significant upgrades to the Lexus Enform system.  For those with young drivers in the household, you can set distance limits, speed limits, curfews, and maximum miles and elapse time.  Other convenience features inside the app include remote lock and unlock, for instance when you are on the shuttle bus to the airport and you can’t remember if you locked your car, just use your app.  Remote start is available with the ability to set the temperature in the cabin.  The car will run for 10 minutes before shutting off automatically if you have not entered the vehicle. 

The latest in safety feature are available on the new NX including eight air bags, blind spot warning with cross traffic alerts, lane departure, pre collision alert with customizable distances and all speed dynamic radar cruise control.  The radar cruise control will bring you down to a full stop, then as traffic begins to move again, bring you back up to your set speed.

Overall length on the new NX is 183.3 inches, while the wheelbase is 104.7 inches, those numbers are very close to the original RX crossover.  Cargo room is 17.7 cubic feet with the back seat up and 54.6 cubic feet with it down.  Again, there is attention to detain in the cargo area as below the load floor there is a designated spot for the tonneau cover.

There will be two engine options for the 2015 NX.  For the 200T and F-Sport models it will be Lexus’ first turbo motor, a 2.0 liter four cylinder unit.  The engine produces 235 horsepower at 4,800 rpm’s and 258 lb/ft of torque from 1,650 through 4,000 rpm’s.  The abundance of low end torque makes darting in and out of traffic easier, merging with traffic on the freeway a breeze, and with a twin scroll turbocharger there is no turbo lag.  This engine also has an advantage if you drive at higher altitudes as turbos will continue to make power while naturally aspirated motors, especially small capacity ones will struggle in the thinner air.

Fuel economy for the front drive model is estimated to be 22 city, 28 highway and 24 combined, while in all wheel drive it will be 21 city 28 highway and 24 combined.

The 300h will come with a 2.5 liter four cylinder engine and the hybrid drive system.  The NX 300h will be the first all wheel drive hybrid on the market.  In all wheel drive trim the engine will drive the front wheels and the rears will be driven by the hybrid system.  Fuel economy is estimated to be 35 city, 31 highway and 33 combined for the front drive while the all wheel drive is estimated at 33 city, 30 highway and 32 combined.

On the road the NX drive like a European luxury vehicle, it is firm and well controlled without being overly stiff or abrupt.  While it is no track day vehicle, if you enjoy driving on twisty roads, the NX won’t let you down.

The 2015 Lexus NX goes on sale at the end of November to early December with a starting price of just under $40,000.  Lexus estimates about 3,000 sales a month, we feel it will be much more successful than that.


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