The Lexus NX is a five-passenger compact, luxury crossover that first came to market in 2014. For the 2022 model year, it has received an overhaul with refreshed looks, updated multimedia, new powertrains, and more safety features. This new model seems to be setting the stage for a new era over at Lexus. It's the first to introduce an updated exterior style sans a Lexus badge in the back, first plug-in hybrid Lexus, and the first to adopt a new multimedia interface.
The NX is available in four different powertrains with either front or all-wheel drive. NX 250 models come standard with a 203 horsepower naturally aspirated 2.5L in-line 4-cylinder. NX 350 models increase performance with a 2.4L turbo inline four-cylinder that delivers 275 horsepower exclusively with AWD. The first hybrid option is the NX 350h which pairs the 2.5L with two high-torque electric motors to offer a combined 239 horsepower. And finally, the first-ever plug-in hybrid is the NX 450h+ which gets 304 total system horsepower offering an estimated combined 84 MPGe.
Also new for 2022 is Lexus Safety System 3.0 which is standard on all NX models. New standard advanced features include risk-avoidance emergency steer assist, left turn oncoming vehicle detection/braking, right/left turn oncoming pedestrian detection/braking, and dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed management. These features join previous standards like road sign assist, pre-collision system, lane departure alert with steering assist, intelligent high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control. Prices start at $37,950 for an NX 250 FWD and climb as high as a starting price of $56,900 for an NX 450h+ F Sport model. There's a lot of competition in this segment including the Acura RDX, Audi Q3/Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT4, Infiniti QX50, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lincoln Corsair and Volvo XC40. After a week in the NX 350 AWD here's what stood out...
Exterior Style (+)
The NX has grown up in its second generation. It's longer, wider, and taller than the previous model but still within the parameters of the compact class. The new dimensions give the NX a better stance with good proportions. It retains the signature spindle grille, but it has been refined and is even more visually impactful. Flanking the grille are LED headlights with a bold lighting signature seen across the Lexus lineup. Models equipped with the F Sport package get a unique grille and bumpers with a sportier look. Around back, new LED tail lights stretch across the entire hatch with LEXUS spelled out across the center.
Removal of the Lexus badge (-)
One key styling change that has started with the NX and seems to also be carrying over to the new LX is the removal of the Lexus emblem from the rear of the vehicle. Replacing that emblem are new block letters that spell out LEXUS. Reports have suggested that Lexus is doing this to signify a design change that appears more modern and youthful. I think it's too reminiscent of similar Lincoln models that doesn't necessarily scream younger to me. The overall design itself succeeds in being more modern and youthful, but if I were a buyer, I would prefer to have that very identifiable L badge on the back.
Powertrain Variety (+)
Most models in this offer class offer two, maybe three, powertrain options... but the NX is now available with four. All four powertrains are new including the first ever plug-in hybrid for the Lexus brand. Each of these four offerings will deliver a different driving experience that coincide with their price tags. Nonetheless, Lexus has smartly created some variety in one of the most popular segments.
2.4L Turbo i4 Performance (+/-)
My time was spent in an NX 350 AWD equipped with the 2.4L turbo i4 that delivers 275 horsepower and 317 lb.ft. of torque mated to an 8-speed direct shift automatic. Acceleration is respectable with an estimated 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds which is slightly quicker than the 2021 model. There was sufficient pep to scoot through traffic for a fun drive. When the RPMs are pushed, the powertrain feels a bit labored and whiny. For most everyday driving, this won't be noticed, but it is a reminder that the 'fun driving' has some limitations.
The overall ride is smooth and controlled at all speeds. The NX felt nimble with responsive steering. Quick turns and avoiding potholes were easy and there was no significant body lean. The center of gravity feels good and the electronically adaptive suspension delivers a comfortable ride. Road noise is minimal for an overall positive experience. It offers three drive modes, normal, eco, and sport which can be changed via a dial in the center console.
Hybrid Options (+)
Both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid make a lot of sense for the NX. The all-new NX 350h improved both power and fuel economy. The standard AWD system uses a second independent electric motor to drive the rear wheels to maximize fuel economy with a combined EPA-estimate of 39 MPG. It's also quicker than the outgoing model with 239 combined system horsepower that was 1.5 seconds faster in a 0-60 test.
The first-ever NX 450h+ comes with an estimated EPA range of 36 miles on electric power only via a high-capacity lithium-ion battery. Combined with the 2.0L engine, the estimated EPA range is 84 MPGe. It's also the quickest NX available getting from 0-60 in 6 seconds. A high-output, high-efficiency system reduces power loss and results in faster charging times. Using the maximum charging current of 240V, the plug-in hybrid can be fully charged in approximately two-and-a-half hours when equipped with the optional 6.6 kW Expedited Onboard Charger.
Fuel Economy (+)
When the NX 350 arrived with a full 14.5-gallon tank it offered a range of around 365 miles. Fuel economy ratings on the 2.4L turbo are 22/29/25 city/highway/combined MPG and after a week of suburban driving I averaged 23 MPG. These ratings are slightly better than average for the class and the new hybrid and plug-in hybrids offer even more fuel economy. The NX does require premium fuel.
Multimedia System (+)
Lexus has long been in need of a new multimedia interface and the NX is the first model to get one. The new system pairs with a standard 9.8-inch touchscreen (or optional 14-inch screen) that extends from the digital cluster behind the steering wheel with a slight angle towards the driver. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability is standard and once connected I had no issues with the CarPlay. The optional Mark Levinson 17-speaker 1,500-watt surround system fills the NX with clear audio.
The new Lexus interface features high-resolution graphics and a more modern execution. The menus have been simplified and are much easier to navigate through the screens. The system incorporates an intelligent voice assistant in which you can utilize the command "Hey Lexus" to adjust the climate, navigate directions or change audio options. This system can be personalized via cloud technology that can be transferred to other Lexus vehicles with the same system.
The touchscreen design is sleek with two climate control dials at the bottom corners that look chic. There's also a small volume dial at the bottom center with quick touch buttons for defrosters are on either side so that you don't need to navigate the touchscreen on cold Chicago mornings. Features such as heated/ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, advanced park, ambient lighting, WIFI, and driver connect can all be done through the touchscreen, voice commands, or steering wheel controls. Over-the-air updates offer real-time updates for mapping and enriched media experiences. The cloud-based native navigation is also available to occupants with or without a network connection. Gone from the system is the center console the touchpad controls.
The overall interior layout is both functional and modern. Drivers will face a simple digital cluster with views that can be customized to the driver's preference. The leather steering wheel is simple with paddle shifters and controls for the multimedia interface. The wheel design is sophisticated and provides a comfortable grip. The dash layout is driver-centric with a sporty feel. Materials are all soft to the touch and high-quality. Below the multimedia touchscreen is an appropriately placed wireless charging pad with nearby USB A and C ports.
The center console consists of an electronic gear selector that utilizes a short knob that moves through the gears non-linearly. It takes some time to get used to navigate through the gears, but ultimately was an execution I liked better than others out there. Also in the center console are two large cup holders, storage, and controls for some driver assist features. The center console storage has a neat feature that opens in two directions to face either the driver or passenger.
The overall interior space is more spacious than the previous model and offers reasonable head and leg room for a compact class. The seats are both comfortable and supportive. Optional features include a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, black open-pore wood trim, and a flashy red leather interior.
Door Handles (+)
One unique feature is the execution of door handles. Outside, most vehicle handles pull out or flip up, but on the NX there is a touch sensor on the inside of the handle to release the door. The actual handle never moves as it's fully controlled by the embedded digital latch. On the inside the handles are also different with a slim lever that works more like a button rather than a traditional handle. Both executions take some getting used to and even confused my kids who normally figure these things out quickly. Note that there is an emergency latch in place should the vehicle lose power or the digital technology malfunction.
The NX is the first Lexus to receive the updated Safety System + 3.0 which includes the following driver assist features:
* Risk avoidance emergency steer assist
* Left turn oncoming vehicle detection/braking
* Right/left turn oncoming pedestrian detection/braking
* Dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed management
* Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection
* All-Speed dynamic radar cruise control
* Lane tracing assist
* Lane departure alert with steering assist
* Intelligent high beams
* Road sign assist
* Blind spot monitor w/rear cross traffic alert
Additional features available include a digital latch with safe exit assist, a digital rear view mirror, and front cross-traffic alert.
Final Statement (+)
In a fast-growing segment of compact luxury crossovers, the NX was in need of an update and the changes made by Lexus were all on point. The new styling is similar, but the proportions and size is a big improvement. The updated interior is a huge step forward and the multimedia system should appeal to a younger demographic, but Lexus needs to stay on top of the ever-changing technology to ensure it remains relevant. I enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the NX and think it's an overall great package to consider, especially considering the variety available.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle:2022 Lexus NX 350 AWD F Sport
Exterior Color: Caviar
Interior Color: Rioja Red LeatherNotable Options: Luxury Package (20" alloys, head-up display, ambient lighting and more), 14-inch touchscreen
Price as tested: $53,340 (with destination charge)