2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport Review
by Randy Stern
There’s gold in the premium compact crossover segment!
We’re prospectors. We got $45,000 lying around and want something that tackles the urban scene while getting cred in the suburbs. It means balancing between valet drop-offs, school drop-offs, shopping, lunch, hair appointments – and I am not just talking about women here!
The name of this game is how to keep up appearances in more ways than one.
Premium compact crossovers are exactly that. There are plenty of them moving in and out of their respective dealerships. These hot commodities have a pecking order, however. If you do not have a BMW X3 or a Range Rover Evoque, then why are you at Neiman-Marcus at 2:00PM on a Tuesday? Or, turning in the valet at the local Michelin top-rated restaurant nearest you with the one you call “love?”
Quite the challenge for the new entry in this segment: The 2015 Lexus NX.
It would be easy for Lexus to say “me, too” by introducing the NX. However, one would expect some originality coming from Toyota’s luxury brand. It certainly provided that – and a few more details distinguishing it from the rest of the crowd.
Considering the competition – including the two mentioned previously in this piece – has Lexus created a distinctive enough premium compact crossover to join the valet line at best places in town?
Let’s start up front. When Lexus began affixing the Spindle Grille to its models, they signified a face that is distinctive to the brand. Some applications befit the model, while some were a bit more polarizing in its execution. The NX starts with the Spindle Grille as the primary focal point of the design. It is where the shape of the vehicle takes place – a dominating focal point that sends the eye rearward after showing its folds, creases and visual tricks. Lighting units – there are six of them – find appropriate places within these folds to emit strong lighting and visual effects. LEDs and Xenon beams do the job effectively.
From the front end, the overall shape of the NX follows form towards function. There are some illusions in height, such as it being tall, but at a manageable height, right through its fastback-style roof and its squat stance – even at 182.3 inches long. The ride height is elevated, just as expected in a crossover, providing another optical illusion of stance and effort.
Having the F Sport model around, Lexus adds the sporty black grille texture inside the spindle, requisite badging and aggressive aerodynamic aids. To finish the F Sport look, eighteen-inch alloy wheels are added with Yokohama Geolandar tires with the a nice 60-series sidewall for perfect crossover use.
The F Sport theme works well inside the NX’s cabin. There is perforated black leather, with other similar hides around the dashboard and door panels. Contrast stitching helps to add that feeling of sport luxury all around. Seats are on the small side, but offer plenty of bolstering for its front seat occupants. Power adjustments make for customized seating set. Though it might seem tall on the outside, folks with longer torsos may need to duck to get in and out. Otherwise, the NX offers room for five with comfortable positions for each one.
Instrumentation and the center display are standard Lexus fare. Translation: They are very good and straightforward. Operating the center screen comes from a new touch pad, which is both quicker and better to use than the old remote mouse-like controller. The dual level center stack also works for easier access to HVAC switches, while maintaining a good hand/arm position for the touch pad. The console is a bit jumbled with the shifter further from the driver than it should be. The drive mode knob is also a bit away from some driver’s reach.
Cargo space is actually quite good with great coverage using the removable parcel shelf and cargo net. All told, that equals to 17.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Those seats fold flat for greater space behind the front seats.
What lies underneath its hood is something you hoped Lexus would do – a turbocharged gasoline fueled four-cylinder engine. The 2.0liter unit spews 235 smoothly delivered horsepower with the turbo running 17 pounds of boost. A six-speed automatic send power from this smooth boosted motor to all four wheels through a very good all-wheel drive system. The best figure of them all is the 258 pound-feet of troque which you feel immediately from your right foot. The NX responds and goes deep. Performance-wise, the NX will fly – even with 3,940 pounds of crossover on is back.
Something you expect from a Lexus is a smooth ride. The NX delivers with great Yokohama Geolandar tires that reduce noise and a suspension system that absorbs most road surfaces – even lumpy pieces of high highway. Handling is a tad on the soft side. There is minimal roll and lean at the curves, but you can feel the control of the NX 200t‘s F Sport upgrades. Steering is an easier more manageable task, thanks to a smaller steering wheel. Action and response are fine. Maybe the electric power steering system needs to be dialed in a bit better. On-center feel is soft with a bit of play in the wheel. Brakes are decent, but not exactly sharp. Normal and panic stops feel OK, but would like to see more power from the system. The ABS works just fine.
Perhaps the big concern was fuel economy. The NX 200t F Sport turned 22.7MPG – below average for this vehicle.
A basic NX 200t with front wheel drive will start off at $34,480. This AWD F Sport tester came with a sticker price of $45,313 with several packages included. The NX also comes in a Hybrid – a 2.5liter Atkinson Cycle engine with Lexus Synergy Drive – starting at $39,720.
Why This Ride?
– Lexus made a distinctive vehicle for this class – mission accomplished. It also brought in a great engine and driveline, a smooth ride and a cabin that is made for the part. Luckily, it ticks all of the boxes to compete in this segment.
– No, it cannot go off-road like a Range Rover Evoque (or Land Rover Discovery Sport or LR2). Nor does it have all of the goodies the BMW X3 possesses. But, what the Lexus NX offers is a distinctive ride that draws attention everywhere it goes. In this class – to be seen is everything!
– We often forget that practicality must trump style. That substance overrules image. One could see the Lexus NX as something a bit overstyled and too much of an accessory for its owner. This vehicle is better than that. It bears repeating that it is indeed practical, comfortable…and sporty…and will the job in and around town. Not to mention when the urge comes about for a nice drive somewhere of substantial distance. That was done…and it was thoroughly enjoyed. A win for the Lexus NX…
Photos by Randy Stern