The Lexus NX lineup has received new engines: an entry-level naturally aspirated four-cylinder, a more powerful turbo engine, a more powerful hybrid, and a new PHEV.
The NX’s interior has been totally revamped and received a larger infotainment screen. The trackpad is no more.
The PHEV NX450h+ gets a full-electric range of 61 kilometres (36 miles).
Throughout its 8-year existence as a member of the compact luxury SUV clan, the Lexus NX has tried to exhibit a more extroverted style, namely with its giant spindle-looking grille. Reliable, well insulated and predictable, the NX always had something to offer in terms of value. Unfortunately, it never really put the proof in the pudding in terms of performance and driving dynamics needed to put up a real battle against its German rivals.
In order to remain attractive, the NX revamped its lineup for this generation by switching the engines around and adding a really important piece of the puzzle that could give it an edge and gain some market shares.
We tried out a few members of the 2022 Lexus NX family earlier this month in Phoenix, AZ.
A Whole New Engine Lineup
First, the Lexus NX lineup has received an entry-level, four-cylinder, naturally-aspirated engine. It’s a known Toyota mill, a 2.5-litre engine that deploys 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Next up, the turbocharged engine has also gotten a boost. It now feeds the NX350 and is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder unit that deploys 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque, which is quite a torque jump from the outgoing 2.0-litre engine that barely churned out 258 lb-ft of torque.
On the greener side of the NX, Lexus changed the 300h variant to the 350h. This new model still uses the four-cylinder 2.5-litre/electric motor pairing. The engine that once offered 194 horsepower now delivers 240 horsepower.
The newcomer that could be decisive for the future of the Lexus NX lineup is under the hood of the NX 450h+. This is the plug-in hybrid variant that uses the same hardware and platform as the Toyota RAV4 Prime. The same 2.5-litre engine has been combined with the hybrid system to deliver 304 horsepower and an impressive full-electric range of 61 kilometres.
In Canada, all powertrains are mated to Lexus’s AWD system.
The Lexus NX’s interior has undergone a major overhaul. What used to be a more plastic presentation with an spindle protrusion towards the driver that felt a bit constricted and busy with analog commands, an analog clock, and a terribly unintuitive trackpad to control an infotainment screen that was way out of the driver’s reach have all been replaced by a simple, yet somewhat more refined theme.
The screen is now a standard 9.8-inch screen unit (with a 14-inch option available) that is slightly tilted towards the driver.
The problem is that most of the buttons and levers are gone, meaning everything has to be controlled via the screen. While the interface is easy to use, it can be annoying to have to scroll through menus to do what used to be done with the simple push of a button.
The Lexus NX now incorporates a new voice assistance system to further support drivers and passengers who don’t want to wander through the Lexus interface menus. We had the opportunity to test out this new system, which Lexus claims is a self-learning interface that gets used to the driver’s inputs, preferences, and even their accent.
The system keeps a sharp ear out for the “Hey Lexus” or “Ok Lexus” commands. The driver can use this feature to input vocal commands that range from changing the temperature settings or radio station to folding down the rear seating to deploy full cargo volume.
While we miss some of the manual commands, we could get used to the combination of the touchscreen and voice command system. The former is intuitive and clear, while the latter proved itself to be highly efficient and perceptive.
In the end, whether you love or hate the NX’s new interior outfits, you’ll most likely be glad that the trackpad is gone.
Enhanced Driving Dynamics, but Not Quite There Yet
On the road, the new turbocharged 2.4-litre mill in the NX 350 offers surprising accelerations thanks to the 317 lb-ft of torque delivered quickly. The eight-speed automatic transmission in charge of managing the efforts of the engine also does a great job channelling the power through the wheels, while also finding the right gear when the situation changes. As far as all-performance goes, with the turbocharged engine, you’re in business.
The problem with the NX 350 is that it is still not as entertaining to drive as the popular German counterparts in the segment. That is, unless, you opt for the F Sport package with adaptive dampers. This will give it the extra notch it needs to counterbalance the roll effect encountered with the base variant.
As for the hybrids, the pairings with the ICE and electric systems work together seamlessly to provide plenty of response. There are little to no compromises in acceleration feel, which shows Lexus has mastered the art of pairing these two entities. The engineers also did a great job of calibrating the chassis components so that the hybrids don’t feel much heavier on the road then their ICE-exclusive counterparts.
The Lexus NX is now more than the “reliable and boring one”. Although the its looks are still as polarizing as before and it is still tough to get any goosebumps while driving it, the NX throws more horsepower and torque into the mix in addition to offering a healthy PHEV variant that will give this model an edge over the competition. With a full-electric range of 61 kilometres (36 miles), luxury crossover buyers who’d rather skip the gas station on their short daily trips might just consider the NX. And while rival automakers charge hefty premiums for their PHEV variants, the NX adopts a more aggressive approach.
The NX starts at $47,400 ($37,950 in the US with FWD), but that only gets you the “base-Camry-engine-powered” NX with 203 horsepower. For $49,900 ($41,050 in the US), you can have the base NX 350h hybrid model. At $55,400 ($41,550 in the US), the turbocharged NX350 is yours. And, finally, you’ll have to dish out just under $60,000 ($55,560 in the US) for the plug-in hybrid model.