We?d like to think Lexus was listening to us.
For years we?ve appreciated the new Lexus models we?ve driven, but it?s been a two sided coin. On one side their cars are close to perfect in many respects. On the other side they often have lacked personality and the styling was attractive but not very exciting.
That?s all changed recently with the introduction of several new Lexus models, that we thought were exciting not only exciting to drive, but the styling demanded an extra look over the shoulder as we walked away.
Overall the Lexus styling has been improving, but the two most recent cars that impressed us are the RC coupe and the NX compact luxury crossover. We reviewed the RC recently and you can read that review at https://ourautoexpert.com/2015-lexus-rc-350/us. Now we?ve had a chance to spend a week in the 2015 Lexus NX 200t ? it?s a “WOW” car!
The wagon-style crossover vehicles have the desirable ability to carry people or active lifestyle equipment while providing the driver with good, and sometimes superior, performance and handling. Crossovers are like the Swiss Army knife of the automotive world.
According to some sources, Lexus created the luxury crossover with the popular RX model, which debuted in 1998. It is and has been the best-selling Lexus model for years. The new NX, which was introduced in mid-2014, is quickly catching on, and we wouldn?t be surprised to see it challenging the RX for the top Lexus positon in a year or two.
The 2015 Lexus NX is a few inches smaller in length and width than the RX plus it has a more sporty and aggressive styling than the conservative RX. That is about to change, however. Lexus unveiled the 2016 RX with a dramatic new styling at the New York Auto Show in April. The new RX design is much more exciting ? so perhaps they were listening?
With its dramatic lines, the NX styling almost looks as if it was carved from a single piece of metal. Up front it?s distinguished by a dramatic spindle grille ? the new ?look? of Lexus. The grille is bookended by slim lighting pods fitted with standard LED headlights. There?s a sweeping roof line and an equally dramatic LED rear end treatment. All the design elements combine to create a very slippery 0.33 Cd co-efficient of drag.
Extra luxury touches abound with features like an LED that shines on the ground as the driver approaches and illuminates the top of the exterior door handle. The door handles have no visible key slot, or a gap between the handle and the cover. There is a place to insert a key behind the handle should the electronic locking fail. The doors have a soft, solid feel thanks to a special latch design.
Beautiful leather seats and sewn trim panels make the interior feels like it belongs in an exotic sports car. The instrumentation and controls are business-like with an outstanding layout and design, which makes it especially user friendly. The only exception is the infotainment system which was a little confusing at times.
An interesting new feature is the Lexus-first Wireless Charging Tray ? simply lay a phone or other mobile device on the tray and it automatically charges while you drive. There?s also an innovative touchpad interface that works similar to the one on a laptop computer to move the cursor to the desired icon. We like the touchpad, but it?s very sensitive and requires practice.
The 2015 Lexus NX is available initially in two distinctive versions, the NX 200t and the NX 300h hybrid which we hope to spend some time behind the wheel in the near future. The NX 200t is powered by a 235-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. The four-cylinder engine is an all-new Lexus engine architecture with a 2.0-liter turbocharged port and direct-injection with an advanced valve control system that switches between Atkinson cycle and Otto cycle operation to optimize performance and fuel efficiency.
This is the first Lexus to use turbocharging and it makes the little four-cylinder much more drivable, but it has a bit of turbo lag at lower rpms so it doesn?t have the initial thrust like the new V-6-powered RC 350, for example. Lexus says 0 to 60 mph takes 7.0 seconds. Fuel economy is listed at 22 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Our time behind the wheel showed an average fuel economy of 24.1 mpg after a week of city and freeway driving.
The transmission is an all-new sequential six-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted shift paddles. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive as a $1,400 option.
Starting with a high-rigidity structure, the engineering team used a MacPherson strut front suspension and double wishbone rear suspension with coil springs and dampers to produce handling closer to sports car-like than most crossovers. They also created specially reinforced suspension components to minimize shake and shudder caused by lateral loads that change the tread width of a tire as the wheel reacts to an undulation. The result is a vehicle that handles beautifully but still provides notable ride comfort.
The new Lexus has impressive lists of the latest comfort, convenience and safety features. Some of the important factory options include new technologies like Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Pre-Collision System, Intelligent High Beam LED headlights and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
The 2015 Lexus NX comes in six variations including the NX 200t, NC 200t F Sport and the NX 300h Hybrid with each model available in front- or all-wheel drive. The NX prices range from $35,405 for the NX 200t front-wheel drive to $42,235 for the NX 300h AWD. The NX 200h F Sport Packages adds $2,200 and the AWD is $1,400 more. The NX 200t F Sport with all the options gets close to $50,000.
With new models like the NX and RC added to their portfolio, Lexus may soon be challenging the status quo among the other leading luxury performance models.