2017 Lexus NX 200T Review By Steve Purdy
2017 LEXUS NX 200T
Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
You really can feel the difference between a mainstream CUV and one from a luxury automaker like Lexus. Take our flavor-of-the-week NX 200t for example. Our first impression upon getting in, making essential adjustments and taking off for a breakfast meeting on this cold winter day, was amazement at the difference between the feel of this compact crossover compared to CUVs from Honda, Kia and others we’ve reviewed lately. Don’t get me wrong. Those others are fine vehicles with gratifying, comfortable and high quality driving dynamics but this Lexus adds a discernible level of luxury and sportiness over the mainstream brands. The NX competes with the Audi Q5, BMW 3-Series, Acura RDX and Mercedes GLC.
The Japan-built NX (for “nimble crossover”) is Lexus’ smallest crossover, a 5-passenger, front-or all-wheel drive sweet ride. Loosely based on the recently redesigned Toyota RAV4 platform it comes in three versions: the regular NX200t turbo starting at $35,285 (the one we are reviewing here), an F-Sport model at $37,385 and the NX 300h hybrid starting at $39,720. All-wheel drive can be added at any trim level for around $1,200 and a variety of option packages can be had.
Lexus, and it’s mainstream sister brand Toyota, decided a few years ago that white-bread styling and design would no longer be tolerated, and here is a good example of that philosophy. In overall shape, stance and profile we see a definite family resemblance with the new RX mid-size crossover. It is brash, angular and crisp with a gaping, jutting, oversize interpretation of the Lexus’ trademark spindle grille leading the way. The black, mesh version on the F-Sport, in fact, looks as if it might be useful for filtering krill if it were in the mouth of a whale. Standard 17- and optional 18-inch wheels are designed to add some drama. Distinct, deep character lines along the flanks make a bold statement about sport and style as do details like artfully designed door handles and the protruding arrow-shaped wrap-around taillights. The NX is a head-turner.
The 90% new platform underpinning NX is one full increment smaller than the popular RX. Having lived with it for a week it doesn’t feel that small. It’s roomy enough for all but the biggest passengers, front and rear. The cargo area, at 17.7 cubic-feet and 54.6 cubic-feet with seatbacks folded, is below average for this category of vehicle but the spaces are all nicely appointed with handy pockets and cubbies. The cockpit has plenty of seat adjustment to accommodate most drivers and passengers, though big guys like me would appreciate a couple more inches of vertical range. All but the biggest rear seat passengers will be comfortable.
Lexus’ bold design philosophy continues inside. Unusual shapes, striking lines and fine materials characterize the dash, center stack and the rest of the interior. Lots of contrasting stitching on a variety of surfaces, and design elements that have purely aesthetic purpose, confirm Lexus’ dedication to going beyond practicality to what we might call ‘design intensity.’ You’ll find no faux wood here, just subtle metallic surfaces along with fine plastics and leather.
Instruments are mostly simple and easily to read. Controls include plenty of knobs and buttons without (thank you Lexus designers) touch screen controls. Instead the 7-inch screen is controlled with a smallish touch pad on the console that works much like your computer’s touchpad with pinch-to-zoom and other functions. Some reviewers have panned this feature. I found it easy to manage even wearing gloves. The sensitivity of the touchpad is adjustable and haptic feedback helps us know exactly where our cursor is poised. Like many cars, the USB port and 12V power outlet are hidden in the console but not as tough to get to at as many.
Our test vehicle is the basic front-wheel drive NX 200t with the Navigation and Comfort Packages on the options list. The bottom line on the sticker shows just over $40,000. It does not have sunroof, heated or cooled seats, adaptive cruise control or any of the other driver intervention systems that are becoming more common. Most of those come with the Premium package. Nor does it accommodate the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto apps.
A 2.0-liter, direct injected, four-cylinder with twin-scroll turbo powers our NX 200t and a six-speed automatic transmission gets that power to the road. It makes a good 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It is torque, as most of you know, that we feel on acceleration, and acceleration is strong. The Lexus folks claim it will do 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds while getting 22 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 24 mpg combined. Not bad for a nearly two-ton CUV. The all-wheel drive version is within a click or two of those numbers and you’ll not need premium fuel even though it is turbocharged. In our mixed driving environments this week we easily managed just over 23 mpg.
On the road we found the driving dynamics to be first rate – quick, solid, firm, sporty and gratifying. The seats are firm with good lateral support. The sophisticated ride and handling feel almost German, but with less of a Teutonic seriousness. The transmission’s smooth and quick engagement, disengagement and shifting under just about all conditions – cruising or hard driving – testify to Lexus’ luxurious personality as does the precise throttle feel and other tactile elements. We have a cloverleaf freeway entrance with a short acceleration lane that is a good test of these qualities where I had a gratifying time getting smoothly into fast traffic.
Lexus’ middle-of-the-pack new vehicle warranty covers the whole NX for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.
Sure you can save a few grand with a small CUV from a mainstream brand and you’ll probably not feel like you are missing out on anything. But spend a little time in this NX and you’ll probably be surprised at what you are missing.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved
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