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Lexus NX quickly becoming a star among compact luxury SUVs Featured

Apr 03, 2017 Hit: 284 Written by 
The Lexus NX is a standout offering in the compact luxury SUV segment.
The Lexus NX is a standout offering in the compact luxury SUV segment. Photo courtesy of Lexus

Lexus has long captured the allegiance of many luxury car buyers in the United States … folks who probably will be loyal to the brand for years to come.


When they expanded their lineup in 2015 with a new model, the NX compact SUV, the question was whether the brand could duplicate the success it has seen with other models -- namely its midsize RX crossover -- in this segment.


In short, they’ve done quite well in very quick time -- selling more than 60,000 units in 2016 between the U.S. and Canada.
I recently spent some time in a 2017 Lexus NX 200t, and I’m back with a full report on what all the fuss is about, and how this luxury SUV measures up to the competition.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle:: 2017 Lexus NX 200t
  • Price as tested:: $40,778 (starts at $35,285)
  • Best feature:: Beautiful design; roomy interior; enjoyable drive
  • Rating:: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?:: Luxury car shoppers who want a roomy compact SUV with an eye-catching design


LOOKS

In terms of inspiration, the NX has some basis in the more pedestrian Toyota RAV4, but once the framework is set you get some distinct Lexus luxury upgrades.

I must complement the exterior first, with its unique, aggressive but not too in-your-face grille with a somewhat snubnose look. I like it a lot. If you upgrade to the F Sport model, it gets a bit too gaudy for my tastes, with the spider-web style grille coming into play, but to each their own I suppose. The vehicle also comes with 17-inch aluminum wheels.


The interior is plush and comfortable, and materials are generally high-end, but slightly less so than you’ll find if you go to the top end of the Lexus lineup. That’s OK though, as it’s still cozy and attractive, not to mention roomy. Despite being a compact SUV, the back seat is quite comfortable both for children and adults, which can’t always be said. Five can sit comfortably in this vehicle. The only bad part about this setup is the lack of cargo space it creates, so those seeking more extensive cargo room should probably look elsewhere in this segment or upgrade to an RX.

ENGINE, HORSEPOWER

The NX features a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine, plus a 6-speed automatic transmission that works effectively. The powerplant offers 235 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.
Also, if you are thinking green, a hybrid version of the NX is offered with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (and 194 hp).
Front-wheel drive is standard on the NX, but you can upgrade to all-wheel drive. Towing capacity is 2,000 pounds.

Zero to 60 speed is roughly 7 seconds. While it’s not going to set any land-speed records, I was thoroughly impressed with the overall driving experience in the NX200t I tested. It was a smooth vehicle with a sporty feel that responded well to everything I wanted it to do, noise was kept to a minimum, and if you are focused on getting moving you can keep the vehicle in Sport mode for better results. It was genuinely fun to drive.

If you upgrade to the F Sport model, you’ll get an even sportier feel to your ride, as well as the more aggressive look.

Eco, Normal and Sport are your drive options, though Eco is best reserved for when people won’t be behind you honking for you to move.


TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say again that the touchpad-based system to control the Lexus infotainment system really has to go. Thank God there are other buttons and voice commands available to use too, because this overly touchy touchpad will get on your nerves.


It’s distracting and not user-friendly in the slightest. I would recommend simply not using this input device while you are actually driving, and only doing so when you are parked. While on the road, use steering wheel controls or voice commands. One thing some drivers may prefer is to turn off the haptic feedback on the touchpad.


In terms of safety, the NX features 8 airbags, ABS with brake assist, LED low-beam headlamps, Daytime running lights, and a theft deterrent system.

Also, the standard Lexus Enform Safety Connect system provides you with: Stolen vehicle locator; Auto-collision notification; Enhanced Roadside Assistance; and the Emergency Assistance button.

You get a three-month trial of Satellite radio, HD radio, and an impressive audio system.

One thing missing is compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is the norm in many other new vehicles.

Among other tech and safety features offered on the NX:
-- Wireless phone charging
-- Blind Spot Monitor
-- Intuitive Parking Assist
-- Lexus Enform Remote mobile app (can remote start engine, lock/unlock doors, check fuel level, find car in parking lot)

-- Scout GPS Link (Uses a smartphone app to offer turn-by-turn directions via the multimedia display … does not require subscription, and provides drivers with real-time traffic info)


MPG
Official fuel mileage numbers on the AWD version of the Lexus NX 200t are 22 city/28 highway/24 combined. My experience mirrored these numbers pretty closely.
These numbers aren’t tops in the segment, but are respectable. If you go to the hybrid version of the NX, you’ll reach an impressive 29 mpg combined.


PRICE

My test vehicle was just under $41,000, including options. Trim levels start at: 200t FWD ($35,285); 200t AWD ($36,685); 200t F Sport FWD ($37,385); 200t F Sport AWD ($38,785); and 300h ($39,720)
For a vehicle this small, that’s may seem a bit pricey -- and on one hand it is, compared to a Chevy Trax or a Honda HR-V or a Mazda CX-3; but we are in luxury territory, and you’re actually competing with Acura (RDX), BMW (X3), Audi (Q5) and Mercedes-Benz (GLA) compact SUVs. Compared to that lot, the price can be viewed somewhat favorably, especially when the reliability associated with Lexus vehicles is taken into account.


BOTTOM LINE

For a model introduced just a couple years ago, the Lexus NX has had a charmed life, quickly following its bigger brother the Lexus RX up the sales charts for luxury SUVs. While the rate of the ascent may be a bit surprising, the reason for it is not. It’s a well-designed high-end vehicle at the entry level of the luxury scale, which makes it accessible, and it’s very fun to drive and spacious (for passengers, not cargo).

Don’t expect it to be a flash in the pan either, as this model, just like the RX, is likely to be high on sales charts for many years to come.

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AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

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Matt Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

Website: www.autotechreviews.com

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