2015 Lexus NX - Compact Crossover Shakes Up the Market
Featured

03 October 2015
  John Kehlenbeck

From the ground up, the NX is refreshingly original, although it’s in a crowded luxury segment.

2015 Lexus NX

Personality: A European compact meets the US of A

Best Gizmo: The new Remote Touch Interface

Most Annoying Feature: The underpowered engine

MPG (as tested): 35 in the city, 31 on the highway (33 combined)

Performance: Less than adequate unless you stay with the 200t

Cars we smoked at stoplights: A moped and a tow truck

0-60: 9.1 seconds (7.2 seconds with the 200t)

How Fast Is That? Not really in the realm of standard performance

How Much? Base price is $34,480

What option should I splurge on? Blind Spot Monitoring, a necessity with the large C-pillars in the rear.

Serious Contenders? Acura RDX, Volvo’s XC60, the BMW X3, the Audi Q5, and the Mercedes GLK

Where can I buy one? http://www.lexus.com

Starting from scratch…wiping the drawing board clean and removing conventional wisdom and expectation. It has worked in the past. Just look at the Land Rover, the Dodge Caravan, and most recently the wildly successful Tesla Model S. For 2015, Lexus made the rather unsurprising move to enter the compact crossover market with the NX, and I must say… I am (mostly) impressed. From the ground up, the NX is refreshingly original as it seeks to disrupt the already crowded luxury segment.

Key players in the competition include the Acura RDX, Volvo’s XC60, BMW X3, Audi Q5, and the Mercedes GLK. Launching into an already saturated domain would seem to be a losing battle, but Lexus will almost certainly end up near the top of the list. Why? It is simple really… the RX. For years, the RX has been the staple of the luxury SUV market in America. Just drive anywhere — and I mean anywhere — and you will see this four-door. You know the SUV I am talking about… there are usually at least three of them waiting in a Starbucks drive thru at any given time.

From the outside, the NX merges style cues from the Toyota brand and the major makeover of the Lexus IS a few years ago. The NX is modern, bold, and well… actually not at all boring like Lexus vehicles of the previous decade. With two feet firmly planted in the “sub-compact” market, the NX won’t fit your grill, a full-size chair, or for that matter, a large trip to Costco. But if you hail from a small family or simply have no need for anything larger than a golf bag in the back, this may be the vehicle for you.

If the exterior is bold, the interior would be labeled as “modernly refined.” I know you are asking yourself, did you just make that phrase up? Yup… and believe it or not, it fits. Let’s start with the most used portion of the interior — the seats. They are comfortable, supportive, and carry the fancy name of “NuLuxe” seating. The instrument cluster is well laid out with a center menu and a crisp display. Sharp corners and strong horizontal lines on the center stack carry the new Lexus styling into the rear of the vehicle.

One note of caution from the interior: large C-pillars bring reduced rear visibility and hinder blind spot sightings. This simply means that when you are about to change lanes on the highway and you take a look to the back, the car gets in the way of your view. All that to say, be sure to splurge on blind spot monitoring… you will thank me when you enter the highway for your morning commute.

The other big interior change comes with the Remote Touch Interface (RTI). For years Lexus vehicles sported a joystick type interface to navigate the infotainment system, drawing criticism from all ages of the customer base. New and improved, the RTI system is a touchpad with tactile feedback for simple selection and navigation. Is it perfect? Nope. Is it better than the previous design? You bet.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. I do have one gripe, one complaint, one glaring anomaly of luxury… it is a little underpowered. Now before you go throwing your hands up and tossing in the towel on the NX, understand this — most of these subcompact luxury SUV’s are lacking ponies under the hood as well. Federally mandated gas mileage standards and the ever increasingly picky consumer make power capability a balancing act to behold. The “as-tested” version of the SUV was the top of the line NX300h. With $39,720 base price and a hybrid power system, it is less powerful than the base model NX200t. The 200t starts at $34,480 and comes with a turbocharged inline 4 cylinder, 235 horsepower engine and packs more power and punch than the more expensive hybrid version. Honestly, I would gravitate toward the 200t if my own wallet was on the line.

From the ground up, the NX will prove a successful addition to the Lexus lineup for years to come. However, beware when signing on the dotted line for this five door sub-compact… the cheaper version just might be packing more joy (and ponies) for less dough.

 

 

 

© 2015 John Kehlenbeck, Horsepower Auto Reviews