2015 Lexus NX Review

2015 Lexus NX - Lexus enters NX into the crossover sales battle


One might say that with sales of minivans and midsize sedans slipping, the slack is getting picked up by crossovers.
It might be more correct to say, though, that sales of minivans and midsize sedans are slipping due to an increased consumer interest in crossovers.

Before we go any further, let’s review some automotive history. On February 6, 1997, at the Chicago Auto Show, Lexus revealed its vision of a new blend of mid-sized sport utility vehicle (SUV) for the driving enthusiast. The prototype predicted the styling and features that would appear on the 1998 Lexus RX 300.

As an entirely new concept combining luxury sport sedan and SUV, no comparable product existed on the market in 1997.

For 2015, Lexus released the all-new 2015 NX for the growing compact segment of the crossover market.  The NX wears the boldest interpretation yet of the Lexus spindle grille and L-finesse design that envelops a platform engineered by active racers.

The NX’s C-pillar is angled and wide to optimize internal storage width. Four golf club bags can be laid longitudinally across the cargo area instead of being wedged diagonally. A sharply raked tailgate and integrated spoiler are punctuated by Lexus’ signature L-shape light clusters featuring seamless LED, while the tailgate detailing echoes the spindle grille design.

Lexus NX is available in two versions, the NX 200t with a turbocharged 235-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and the NX 300h hybrid, which brings the brand’s number of hybrid offerings to six.

An all-new sequential six-speed automatic transmission networks with the turbo engine. Both NX models offer their own version of pro-active all-weather drive (AWD).

Looking more sports-car than sport-utility, the 2015 NX’s cabin is bristling with new, onboard, standard and available technology, including a Lexus-first Wireless Charging Tray for compatible phones and devices; the new Lexus Remote Touch Interface (RTI) with a touch pad; and a comprehensive Multi-information Display that features a Lexus-first G-Force meter and boost gauge.

Crossovers combine features of a sedan with those of a truck, which includes sport utility vehicles. The unibody sedan contributes comfort that relies on a four-wheel independent suspension system comprised of struts, coil springs and shocks rather than a ladder-built truck's dependent suspension system of leaf springs for rear rigid axles.

Unlike sedans, crossovers have a higher ground clearance and are designed as much for carrying cargo as for hauling people from here to there. Trunks are replaced by liftgates that open to two or three rear rows of seats that fold flat.

The market in crossovers is getting flooded and Lexus has two new ones on the market for 2015, the turbocharged NX 200t and the hybrid NX 200h. It might be too simple to point out that the letter behind the numbers indicate which type the NX is. In Lexus parlance, NX stands for nimble crossover.

In keeping with attracting a wider audience, Lexus keeps the pricing in the mid to upper $30,000s to lower $40,000s. Delivered for testing purposes recently was a $34,480 NX 200t, but since it was all-wheel instead of front-wheel-drive, and was an F-Sport performance model, the price was upped to $37,980. The F-Sport replaces fake with real leather, an inscribed scuff plate at the front doors, LED daytime running lights, 18- instead of 17-inch wheels (same 225 tires), paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for that manual shifting experience, a suspension (harder) tuned to performance and front fog lights.

Since ground clearance is only 6.9 inches, it is easy to step into this four-door, five-passenger compact crossover. If assistance is needed, grab handles are available.  The interior finish is soft to the touch and top-notch. Controls are sensibly placed. Power features include front seats, express windows, door locks and exterior mirrors.  A $2,045 "premium" option package has heated perforated front leather seats, a power tilt and slide sunroof, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and more power back support for the driver's seat.

One standalone option is a $150 heated steering wheel, a second is a $220 wireless charger and a third is a $400 power liftgate.

The high definition sound system (eight speakers standard) is simple to understand and manipulate, especially when switching from AM to FM to satellite radio. Two knobs control tuning and volume. There are iPod, USB and auxiliary ports as well as compact disc and MP3 players. An optional upgrade 10-speaker sound system with navigation costs $2,140.

Air conditioning and heating vents serve front and rear rows of seating. The rear seats fold flat increasing carpeted and lighted cargo capacity from 17.7 to 54.6 cubic feet. There is a cargo cover but a net costs an extra $69.

Standard are remote entry, pushbutton start and stop, self-dimming rear view mirror, carpeted floor mats, intermittent wipers, multiple cup and beverage holders, a centered coin or hairpin holder, lockable glove box, armrests and cruise control.

With a luxury car's suspension system, the ride should be even and controlled and it was. Leg room is OK but not great with an official 41.8 inches in front and 36.1 inches in the rear.

Riding on all-season tires mounted on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, quiet pervades the cabin with little outside noise getting inside.

A backup camera is standard in the safety category along with eight airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, brake assist, stability and traction controls, headrests to complement seat belts and what Lexus calls Enform Safety Connect. ESC notifies authorities of a collision automatically and where a stolen vehicle can be found. ESC also is an information and emergency apparatus and provides roadside assistance.

Typical of this compact crossover luxury market, the NX 200t has a 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a shiftable six-speed automatic transmission. The engine develops 235 horsepower which means this crossover is quick off the mark and can race from 0 to 60 miles per hour in close to

seven seconds. Braking back to zero can be done in a distance of 118 feet. This braking ability is better than average for this type of vehicle.

During the test week, the 3,940-pound NX 200t averaged 23.1 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving with two persons aboard. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the vehicle at 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. The NX 200t weighs more than most compact crossovers, but it has a slightly bigger engine and cooling system, tires and on-board safety elements.

From the spindle grille, pointed nose, and curvaceous headlight assemblies in front to the angled design lines on the sides leading to the modified spoiler, LED taillights and dual alloy exhaust tips at the rear, the NX is the sharpest-looking compact luxury crossover on the market. It looks more like a sports car than a crossover.

A loaded NX 200t, which the test crossover was, can cost a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $44,388. Delivery is $925. A 2015 Lexus RX has an MSRP of $40,970, but the slightly larger crossover RX has a 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V6 engine contributing to less fuel economy.

Warranty coverage is four years or 50,000 miles with roadside assistance and six years or 70,000 miles on the powertrain. The first and second scheduled maintenance visits to a Lexus dealership are free.


Vehicle: F Sport model of 2015 Lexus NX 200t

Type: all-wheel-drive, compact five-passenger, four-door luxury sport utility vehicle

Price: $37,980

As tested: $44,388

Delivery: $925

Engine:  2-liter, 235-horsepower, double overhead cam, in-line turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission: shiftable six-speed automatic

Performance: 0 to 60 miles per hour in seven seconds

Fuel tank: 15.9 gallons

Fuel: premium unleaded

Towing: 2,000 pounds

Payload: 1,150 pounds

Wheelbase: 104.7 inches

Length: 182.3 inches

Width: 73.6 inches

M.J. Frumkin and J.E. Kuyper

M. J. Frumkin and J. E. Kuyper covered the auto industry for decades. Frumkin was with Consumer Guide for 14 years, has authored four books and co-authored three more. He is also the historian/archivist for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association/Chicago Auto Show. Kuyper has been an automotive writer, editor and columnist for newspapers in the Chicago area the past 25 years. His reviews currently appear in the daily Northwest Herald newspaper. Frumkin and Kuyper are founding members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.