When it comes to styling, I have always considered Lexus to be conservative in nature. After seeing the 2016 Lexus RX SUV at the New York Auto Show, I can see they are trying to change that image. Further evidence of this is found in my review vehicle this week, the 2015 Lexus NX 200t with the F Sport package. Clearly, this was a step out of the box for Lexus and an attempt to draw younger customers into the red-hot, small luxury SUV segment.
This is also Lexus’ first foray into turbocharged engines. The NX comes with a standard 2.0-liter turbo engine that is putting out 235-horses. In typical Lexus style, they didn’t come out with a turbo engine until they had one of the best-in-class entries, and this one certainly qualifies. One big surprise is that it comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and I sort of expected a 7-speed minimally.
The NX comes standard as a front-wheel drive vehicle, but you can get it in an all-wheel version as well. It even comes in a hybrid version, which I will be eager to test at some point, given the fact that I always say that Toyota’s hybrid system is the best in the industry.
The F Sport option gives you some special wheels, a sport-tuned adjustable suspension system, special leather seating, LED lighting and shift paddles. When you turn the Sport suspension knob on the center console, you can feel a significant difference in the way the SUV rides, corners, and handles. There is another button for active sound control, which pipes the engine sound into the cabin.
My tester is Eminent White and has red and black seats, which actually worked well in this SUV. The seats are comfortable and from the driver’s seat, the gauge cluster is large and easy to see. Although the NX is based on the Toyota RAV4 chassis, I saw no evidence of any influence in the interior at all. Stitching on the seats and dash look rich, there is good room for the front and back seat passengers, especially considering the NX is a full 5” shorter than its big sister, the popular RX350. If cargo area is important to you, move up to the RX, the cargo area is fairly small in the NX.
Standard equipment includes eight standard air bags, rearview camera, dual climate- controlled air conditioning, 10-way power seats, power tilt steering wheel, pushbutton start, and a color monitor to operate the sound system.
There are $6500 worth of options on this vehicle. The cheaper options include a built-in cell phone charger, garage door opener, heated steering wheel, cargo net, 18” F Sport wheels (which look great) and cargo mat. That comes to around $800.
Then we have the Navigation Package, which is $2140 and gets you navigation system of course, plus Lexus Enform – which is a suite of real-time apps-an upgraded stereo, and the remote touch interface, which I will address a little later. $660 gets you auto-dimming exterior mirrors with blind spot monitoring, rear cross alert, and tilting mirrors when in reverse.
$500 will get you front and rear parking assist sensors, and for another $2045 you get the F Sport Premium Package, which is heated front seats, power moonroof, and memory seats and tilt steering wheel. All the options are reasonably priced, which I have found to be typical over the years with both Lexus and Toyota products.
Driving dynamics of the NX F Sport are actually quite good, especially when in Sport Mode. Besides altering the suspension, it also changes the transmission to quicker shifts for maximum off-the-line performance. To maximize fuel economy, go to Eco Mode. The NX will feel more sluggish but it will help you get the 22 in town and 28 on the highway EPA ratings.
My only real complaint is the RTI (remote touch interface) on the center console. It replaces the mouse-like setup in previous models and at times it can be maddening. It is a rubber surface that your finger sticks on when dry. Worse, it requires you to look down at it, and then up at the 4.2’’ color screen, and back and forth to do simple tasks like change the radio station. All this time, your eyes are off the road. Maybe it gets easier, but for me, after a week of driving, it didn’t. It looked to me like the rear glass could have been made a little larger, too, to help with visibility.
All in all, Lexus did pretty well in its first attempt in this segment. Although radical for a Lexus, I like the bold styling, including the in your face grill. It is priced in line with the competition, the Audi Q3, BMX X3, and Lincoln MKC. So far, the residual values are very good, making this a great candidate for leasing.