2022 Lexus NX 350h Luxury - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
NX Finally Steps Up
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Until now, the NX never really felt like it belonged in the Lexus stable. The first generation NX ($36,000 - $40,000), offered the prestige of Lexus ownership without the price penalty. But also without the level of luxury Lexus buyers expect from their vehicles. Now the luxury division of Toyota has redrawn the playbook for the NX. While the latest iteration of this five-door SUV looks very much like the model it replaces, the 2022 version offers a completely new take on the junior partner in the Lexus firm.
The biggest change is the vastly improved cabin. Our test NX, with a base price of $48,500, featured the Luxury Package, which transforms the NX into a fully-fledged Lexus. Inside, you'll enjoy heated and ventilated front seats, a 3-position memory system for mirror, steering wheel and seat preferences, a power rear door with kick sensor, rain-sensing wipers, and intuitive parking assist with automatic braking.
A snazzy set of 20x7.5J, 20 spoke silver finish alloy rims provide an elegant touch to the exterior. These rims carry run-flat Bridgestone Alenza A/S rubber (235/50R20) with a Treadwear Rating of TW400 and a Traction Rating of A. They stick well through the twisties.
The redrafted NX sits on a new platform that is 2 inches longer than its predecessor. While this longer cabin still seems snug, the interior has received a complete makeover featuring a revamped instrument panel, and an infotainment system dominated by a 14 inch full color display screen. Unfortunately, every time you fire up the NX, the screen reads "Create your account PIN. This will be used to securely load your profile to the vehicle's multimedia system." Eradicating this annoying message with its questionable assurance of security, is a chore that requires repeated stabs at the recalcitrant screen to move beyond the PIN warning. Another design flaw in the new cabin is the configuration of the interior door handles. These are flimsy plastic pull-outs that require not 1 but 2 pulls to activate. They are perfectly designed to fracture fingernails, trap your finger, and otherwise infuriate you.
Our test NX carried a reasonable base price of $48,500. However, the addition of 14 separate line item options on the window sticker boosted the final tally into BMW/Audi territory at $56,405. The most worthwhile surcharge belonged to the $1,020 Mark Levinson 17 Speaker Premium Audio. But we could definitely live without spending $1,030 for power folding, heated rear seats, $1,070 for a Panoramic View Monitor, Lane Change Assist and Front Cross Traffic Alert. These basic safety items should be standard on any Lexus.
You can choose from three tiers of NX. The cheapest is the NX 250, a non-hybrid model which uses a 203hp 2.5 liter inline-four that is good for a 0-60mph sprint of 8.2 seconds. This is the least expensive NX offered ($39,425 FWD/$41,025 AWD). Or bump up to the NX 350 where all models offer AWD with several drivetrain variants. A 2.5 liter inline 4 produces 275hp and zips you from 0-60mph in just 6.6 seconds. If you opt for the hybrid model that we tested, Lexus uses a less powerful 2.5 liter inline 4 that makes just 240hp, and takes 7.2 seconds to reach 60mph from a standing start. The AWD hybrid adds a pair of electric traction motors to the drivetrain: a 134 kW front motor and a 40 kW rear motor. The top line model, also a hybrid, is designated NX 450h AWD. This combo combines the two electric motors with a 304hp, 2.5 liter inline 4. This one scoots from zero to sixty in 6 seconds flat. The downside of the NX 450 is the price, which starts at $57,225 and increases to $58,475 if you choose the F Sport Handling version. All NX models use the same CVT transmission, with 7 detents controlled by paddles at the steering wheel.
We completed a 120 mile freeway round trip with the very fuel efficient (39 overall MPG) NX 350h AWD. At 65-75mph cruising speed, the NX ran quietly, responded obediently to steering input and throttle application, and generally comported itself in a civilized and predictable manner. We noted that if you use the paddles to perform pseudo-downshifts with the CVT, the lower gears you choose are held only briefly because the transmission too quickly returns to its "Drive" setting. With cruise control set, we maintained a light grip on the steering wheel and let the NX wend its way adroitly through traffic. Thanks to standard "Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Management," the NX proved particularly adept at regulating its speed and road position automatically. This performance placed it at the top of our list for semi-automated driving finesse, as there were only two occasions when I felt manual intervention was necessary. Trust but verify.
The updated NX is finally entitled to call itself a Lexus. If we were choosing from among the many available variants, we would probably opt for the 275hp version NX 350, which bolts to 60mph more than half a second quicker than the 240hp hybrid we drove. While the 306hp NX 450h is the quickest of the bunch, the $10,000 jump in base price mitigates against that choice.
2022 LEXUS NX 350h LUXURY
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 valve with VVT-i and Lexus hybrid electric drive
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 41MPG City/37 MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $56,405
HYPES: Upgraded Interior and GUI, Superior Mileage
GRIPES: Horrid Interior Door Latches
STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10