2015 Lexus NX Hybrid & F Sport. Click image to enlarge
Originally published July 7, 2014
On the one hand we have Kato Takeaki. The Lexus chief engineer is an out-and-out racer. He races in several Japanese amateur series, and when he’s not on the track, he terrorizes the roads at the wheel of his 1995 MR2 with an aftermarket limited-slip diff. He has a passion for 2.0L turbo engines – after all, there’s one in his trusty red MR2 – but there isn’t such an engine currently in the Lexus family. Takeaki sees a gap.
On the other hand, we have the fastest-growing segment in North America, if not the world; one defined by stiff competition in the mainstream sub-segment and a clear class leader in the luxury sub-segment. Their cousins stand tall at the pointy end of the field with the seminal RAV4, while Lexus’s own RX long ago outgrew the “compact crossover” class. Lexus sees a gap.
Enter the NX; Lexus’s all-new luxury compact crossover and the first Lexus ever to sport a turbo.
Available with a 2.0L turbo engine, or as a Hybrid with a 2.5L inline-four, Lexus says it shares platform aspects of the CT200h and of the RAV4.
There are two main trims: 200t and 300h. The 300h is available in just one, fully loaded Executive Package while the 200t gets Standard, Premium, Luxury and Executive trims.
Additionally, there are two F Sport trims available on the 200t, which align with the Luxury Package and Executive Package base trims. They come with a suite of extra look-fast bits and suspension tuning but no hp increase.
Our drive gave us a taste of the F Sport and the hybrid. It also allowed us to sample Lexus’s replacement for its much-maligned, mouse-based HMI – but more on that later.
Pricing figures weren’t available, but when questioned Director of Lexus Canada Cyril Dimitris said he expects the NX to be priced “competitively”, but also confirmed the NX would be priced above the $39,940 Lincoln MKC.
2015 Lexus NX engine bay & dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The new 2.0L Atkinson Cycle, direct-injection four-cylinder is force fed by a twin-scroll turbo with an air-to-liquid intercooler and produces 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque across all trims.
That is on par with the base engines of the Lincoln MKC (240/270), BMW X3 (241/258), Audi Q5 (220/258) and pulls up just shy of the Acura RDX’s 3.5L V6 with 273 hp and 251 lb-ft.
Each of those vehicles (bar the RDX) has an upgraded engine available with more power and torque. Lexus’s engine upgrade is the hybrid, which has a net output of 194 hp – peak torque is not available.
The 2.0L engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, with AWD standard in Canada. The six-speed was selected to avoid having too many “new” components to configure – chief among them the engine, but also a complete revision of the way the traction control and stability control systems operate. It has been reconfigured to provide better response and be less intrusive during most driving conditions. The AWD system is front-wheel-drive based and will give between 50 and 100 percent of the power to the front, and between 0 and 50 to the rear. The Hybrid is slightly different and will only send a maximum of 40 percent power to the rear – transmission duties in the hybrid are assigned to a CVT.
2015 Lexus NX seating & cargo area. Click image to enlarge
At 1,755 kg the NX is lighter than all of those competitors except the RDX despite being similar in size at 4,630 mm in length and 1,845 wide. Because it is among the shortest in the class (1,645 mm high) you lose a little cargo volume, with Lexus claiming a preliminary 500 L with the seats in place and 1,545 L with them folded.
By comparison the Q5, which Lexus says it set as the benchmark for the class (we concur), packs 540 and 1,560 L respectively. It also packs more towing capacity – a lot more – 2,000 kg to the NX’s 907 kg.
For those with an Ikea fetish though, the NX boasts the longest luggage-load length in the class. Handy if you have a passion for Expedit bookcases.