Nashville, TN ? Lexus, Toyota?s luxury division will bow with two versions of their new NX luxury compact utility crossover ? the Lexus NX 200t and the Lexus NX 300h hybrid. There?s also a special, performance oriented NX F-Sport that?s based on the NX 200t. All three Lexus NX models are loosely based on the same platform as Toyota?s RAV4 ? loosely being the key word, as 90 percent of NX parts are different, and even similar parts have undergone retooling with tighter tolerances that result in a feel that?s considerably more luxurious than the mass- produced RAV4.
Lexus actually pioneered the car-based luxury crossover 16 years ago with their RX 300 (launched in 1998 as a 1999 model). The NX models clearly indicate an evolution in the segment that the RX 300 created. NX models are larger, heavier, quicker, with greater fuel economy than that first mid-sized RX. The compact NX is also more structurally sound with an increased use of high-tensile steel, screw welding and adhesives in production.
Power for the Lexus NX 200t and Lexus NX 200t F-Sport represents the first use of Toyota?s new 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve twin scroll turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine with intercooler and electronic fuel injection that delivers 235 horsepower in a range from 4,800-5,600 rpm, while also developing 258 pound feet of torque from 1,650-4,000 rpm. The engine?s variable valve timing enables it to transition instantly from Otto to Atkinson cycle as power or fuel economy requires. The engine, which is transversely, mounted up front mates to an electronically controlled six-speed multi-mode automatic transmission with intelligence and wheel mounted paddle shifters for the F-Sport version. Motive force is transmitted to either the front wheels (FWD) or full-time all-weather AWD, which utilizes active torque control with and electromagnetic coupling for the rear differential, instead of a conventional torque converter, which allows the system to move from 100 percent up front to a 50/50 split with the rear wheels.
The Lexus 300h borrows its 2.5-liter, in-line four-cylinder power source from the Lexus ES 300h. Both the standard NX 200t and NX 300h will be available in either a front-wheel or all-wheel drive configuration.
In terms of its appearance, the new Lexus NX displays a highly emotional overall design with sharp lines and angles in a condensed mass that features solid surfaces, pronounced front and rear fender flares that are incorporated or fused into the dramatic diamond-shaped body style that leads off with Lexus? signature ?spindle? grille, flanked by sharp, thin geometric headlamps and arrowhead shaped LED running/directional lights. The windscreen is sharply raked rearward over the rear-slanted roof that ends with an integrated spoiler. The peak of the diamond-shaped body?s door section thrusts upwards diagonally, matching the roof?s peak in the side silhouette. The tail end presents a squared-off, sculpted look, accented by the uniquely shaped bright dual exhaust tips.
The Lexus NX 200T models ride on suspension componentry consisting of a MacPherson strut design and a rear double-wishbone unit with separated springs and dampers that avoid cabin intrusion by the strut towers.
Standard worthwhile features include: keyless locks, door handle footlights, LED headlamps and turn signal lamps, 17-inch wheels, Siri Eyes Free mode and an 8-speaker CD audio system with satellite radio. The 7-inch multimedia display features a touch pad located in the center console with haptic adjustable feedback, providing familiar pinch, stretch, pinch, drag as well as double-tap functions, similar to a lap top computer. The rear cargo cover may be folded in half, and is able to fit under the rear storage compartment with the spare tire.
The Lexus NX 200t F-Sport presents a more athletic and aggressive look about it, through the addition of an aero body kit, F-Sport badging, exclusive F-Sport seats and exclusive black-capped mirrors. It also comes equipped with stiffer spring rates, shock tower braces and performance shocks. There?s also a boost gauge feature and a button-activated sound enhancement when operating in Sport mode that serves up a delightful exhaust note. Unfortunately, there is no differential in power output from the regular NX 200t.
There is a full suite of available active safety features including: Lane Departure Warning, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking. There?s also an enhanced Lexus Enform app that allows setting speed or distance limits for a guest driver ? great for monitoring and controlling teenaged driver activity. Another high-tech feature is the wireless charging of Qi-equipped electronic devices. So many features abound in all of the Lexus NX models, that space prevents listing them all here. Of course, there are options available for personalization and enhancement.
During the press preview held in Nashville, Tennessee, I was able to experience time behind the wheel of two preproduction 2015 NX models both in FWD. The first was a Fire Agate Pearl finished NX 200t with a Flaxen NuLuxe interior with Dark Umber trim. Next was a NX 200t F-Sport finished in Ultrasonic Blue Metallic with a Black NuLuxe interior featuring metallic trim. Both prototype models were equipped with the following options: Navigation system, LED headlights, Pre-Collision system, Blind Spot Monitor with Cross Traffic Alert, Intuitive Parking Assist, Power rear gate, Wireless charger, and Premium Package with heated and ventilated front seats, moonroof, 18-inch wheels and tires and electrochromic outside mirrors. I did not experience driving the NX 300h due to limited availability. The NXs will go on sale in the fall so official pricing is not expected until just before.
SUMMARY: The 2015 Lexus NX lineup represents a stellar entry into the compact luxury crossover league. It will fall in between BMW?s X3 and the Lexus RX 300 in dimensions, power and likely price. The Lincoln MKC is another potential competitor, possessing similar parameters.
The NX 200t and NX 200t F-Sport are identical in power output, with considerably more than adequate acceleration and virtually no turbo lag. The transmission operates smoothly and reacts instantly to manual input through the paddle shifters. The Drive Mode Select feature provides three modes: Normal, Eco and Sport. Sport obviously delivers crisper throttle response.
The steering wheel was inspired by the Lexus LFA in its shape and feel, and fits the car?s demeanor in terms of handling attributes and characteristics, which are spot on, delivering a planted and stable and comfortable ride quality.
The overall performance of the Lexus NX 200t and 200t F-Sport is a cut above that of many competitors, but the interior ambience and luxuriousness is its strong suit. Fit and finish are well above entry-level standards, reflecting an old-world craftsmanship quality.
Bottom-line, the 2015 Lexus NX cast of characters were designed to play a leading role with the focus on attracting a more youthful buyer, and the Lexus team seems to have nailed it. It is extremely good-looking, performs well and represents a good value.
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[wptabtitle] SPECIFICATIONS: 2015 Lexus NX 200t [/wptabtitle]
|Base Price:||$36,000 to $37,000. – NX 200t * Est.|
|Price as Tested:||$ Official pricing yet to be announced.|
|Engine Type and Size:||2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve twin scroll turbocharged in-line four-cylinder with intercooler and electronic fuel injection.|
|Horsepower (bhp):||235 @ 4,800-5,600 rpm|
|Torque (ft./ lbs.):||258 @ 1,650-4,000 rpm|
|Transmission:||Electronically controlled Six-speed Multi-mode automatic with intelligence. And wheel mounted paddle shifters.|
|Drive Train:||Transversely mounted front engine / FWD or full-time all-weather AWD.|
|Suspension:||Front – MacPherson strut, coil springs.
Rear – Trailing arm double wishbone type, coil springs
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with four-channel, 4-sensor ABS.|
|Tires:||Bridgestone Dueler H/L 225/60 R18 mounted on 5-“V” geo-spoke alloy wheels.|
|Length Overall:||182.3 inches|
|Width:||73.6 inches – (mirrors folded / 89.9” open)|
|Curb Weight:||3,940 lbs.-FWD / 4,050 AWD.|
|Fuel Capacity:||15.9 gallons|
|EPA Mileage Estimates:||21 mpg city / 28 mpg highway – AWD / 22 mpg city, 28 mpg FWD.|
|Drag Coefficient:||0.33 – NX 200t / NX 300h – 0.34|
|0 – 60 mph:||7.0 seconds- AWD / 7.2 seconds FWD|
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.