2017 Lexus NX 200t SUV-The Next Crossover
The market seems to have sub-compact and compact crossover/SUV’s materializing out of a giant replicator from the 24th Century. The new Lexus NX 200t (turbo) SUV has the look of a new space shuttle designed by Federation engineers right out of Star Trek. It has style and a stance that sets it apart from other smaller SUV’s, with similar styling cues from the bigger sister RX 350. It is Lexus’s hope that the NX will attract younger executives into the Lexus brand who can afford an MSRP of $35,085, before any optional equipment.
My test 2017 Lexus NX 200t FWD came with a Premium Package and options which drove the price up to over $43K. This includes nice amenities like navigation, 10- speaker premium audio system, and some safety systems; i.e. Blind Sport Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alter (RCTA), and parking assist sensors everywhere.
Lexus considers their new “Remote Touch Interface” a safety feature as well because it supposedly keeps the driver’s eyes on the center screen while changing some complicated menus. This works like a touchpad on the executive’s notebook computer, with some scrolling capability. A touch screen would be a faster way to “interface” with the vehicle’s infotainment system.
The Premium Package comes with popular luxury-like features, including 19-inch wheels and low-profile all-season tires, LED running lights, and a power moonroof. On the inside is a power telescopic steering wheel, and deluxe adjustable seats that cool and warm the driver and passenger’s backside. This package is a $2,930 extra cost, but most NX’s will come this way due to consumer demand.
The driving characteristics of a modern crossover vehicle need to be stable enough to keep people feeling safe on the curves and during emergency maneuvers. Younger drivers seem to want a vehicle that does not drive like a truck and desire a “sportier” drive. This translates into firmer suspensions, bigger wheels and tires, and higher costs. The reality is, most of the luxury SUV’s are too expensive for the majority of the younger buyers in the US market. Therefore middle-aged buyers are the majority of consumers here, and they want a more comfortable ride.
This comfortable, controlled ride formula has propelled the successful RX series to the top of Lexus sales for many years. So can the NX be the younger version of the desirable RX? This would require some practical utility in this “sports-utility vehicle.” The NX does have four doors, a fairly roomy rear seat that splits and folds in 1/3 and 2/3 sections, and a power hatch tailgate. Total interior volume is a generous 71.6 cubic feet (w/o moonroof), but it has a not-so-large 17.7 cubic-feet behind the rear seat.
When the rear seats are folded down, then the NX can hold 54.6 cubic feet of cargo. However, the roofline is not very tall so if feels less SUV-like. The interior space feels a little cramped with a cascading center console, large dash layout and a high belt line reducing the driver's view out the side windows, especially for shorter occupants. The NX functions like a large hatchback from the rear compartment but ingress and egress from the doors is very accessible like a crossover should be.
The seats are contoured to simulate a sports seat, which would be preferable if the performance matched this seat design. There are rounded side bolsters to hug the body and tall headrests which help taller drivers. However, the roofline is low so there is no view over the top of the seats and this added to the closed-in feeling of the NX interior. Shorter adults need a shorter seat bottom and some softer cushions for the front of the seat.
One other critique goes back to the cascading center controls and screen. It is important to have a place to store things like sunglasses, gloves, personal stuff, and cell phones. There just aren’t very many nooks and compartments in the NX’s interior. This has been a high benchmark set by Lexus/Toyota sedans and SUVs for years. There is a large center compartment, and there is a cool little “secret” compartment under the hand rest for the touchpad- but don’t tell anyone. The second seat and cargo area has more storage.
That practical, yet sporty performance is provided by a 235 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The impressive power comes on quickly with 258 pound-feet of torque which pulls the NX quickly from 2000 rpm up to redline. Passing power is more than adequate, as we moved passed trucks on a 2-lane mountain road. Performance is pretty impressive with a 0-60 mph acceleration in 7.2 seconds with the front-wheel drive model I was driving. The top speed is 124 mph, but it is electronically limited, so this Crossover can roll out with the best sedans.
Lexus has done a good job with allowing just enough exhaust note into the cabin when driving hard. The 6-speed automatic transaxle shifted smoothly all week long, under various driving conditions, and can be mated to an AWD drivetrain if desired. But this utility vehicle has a maximum towing capacity of just 2,000 lbs.
The size of the Lexus NX is just smaller than a Nissan Murano, and the styling is very similar to the Murano. The NX profile is a departure from the ultra-lux and stately vehicles. Wheelbase is 104.7 inches, and the overall length is 182.3 inches which puts this vehicle in the compact SUV category. I found the NX 200t drove like a stable, well-planted, and capable road cruiser that was not tiring to drive long distances. It also was easy to pilot on the mountain roads. It parks easily, and it moves through the city streets quickly.
The NX 200t FWD is rated at 22 city/28 highway/25 combined, and I was able to average 27.7 miles per gallon while living in the Lexus NX for a week. This is better performance than many of the compact (non-hybrid) SUV/Crossovers on the market. In order to save weight, Lexus has fitted the NX with a fuel tank of only 15.9 gallons, so the maximum range is just over 420 miles.
Standard interior goodies include a manual tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel and a good infotainment system. Lexus is using a new Apple Siri© Eyes Free Mode which handles contacts, music, text messages, and turn-by-turn navigation. The standard audio system has eight speakers, AM/FM/HD Radio, Bluetooth® audio streaming, and a CD player for us dinosaurs.
Standard equipment includes 225/65R17 tires (225/60R18’s on our Premium package F SPORT NX) and some good looking alloy wheels. This NX may attract a younger audience at first glance, but the solid performance, great handling, and CD player will attract the enthusiast drivers out there, like me.
Ground clearance is 6.9-inches which will handle most slushy roads but not deep snow like true off-road vehicles. Again, this is a sportier SUV and should be classified as a Crossover. Some of us love a competent, road-worthy Crossover, even if Lexus wants consumers to believe this is their next space-age SUV. Even the “Sport” mode tightened up the steering, livened up the transmission shifting, and adjusted the power to create a better road machine.