Danielle Assenheimer

First Drive: 2015 Lexus NX200t

For a week in late August, Lexus afforded us the opportunity to be unique, nearly one-of-a-kind. We were the automotive equivalent of a unicorn. To the consumer, we’ve been talked about and reported on, but rarely seen in the wild. Our presence would have even confounded salesmen, had we plucked up the courage to roll into the local Lexus lot. Based off of the Toyota Rav4 platform, Lexus has introduced a new crossover. More diminutive than the RX, this new crossover competes in the increasingly-popular small crossover class. But not to worry, it won’t blend with the crowd – its individuality and features makes it its own. Developed by a team that includes active racers, Lexus’ expectations for this new crossover are quite high. This is the Lexus NX.

Lexus NX200t 2

The NX adopts many of its visual hallmarks from the current Lexus lineup. Call it the corporate grille, the spindle grille, or the predator face, it’s definitely a new Lexus. The NX’s angular front end gives it an imposing look set with dazzlingly bright LED headlights and DRLs. From the rear, Lexus’ signature L-shaped tail light design is clearly laid out in the LED clusters. In profile, of the greenhouse it recalls its Toyota heritage. Up close, the fine details point more to a stealth fighter. The sharp angles of the lighting fixtures, the deep creases in the hood and doors, and the angular exhaust tips are seemingly designed to reduce the NX’s radar profile. The NX F Sport kicks it up a notch. You’ll find a more aggressively styled grille, front lower valance, different wheels, and black exterior mirrors. Inside, the F Sport gets a unique interior along with special interior trim and sport seats. With 9 different color choices, even the pickiest of individuals will find a color that fits their lifestyle.

Lexus NX200t 10

The interior of the NX is stellar. The materials and build have a quality feel and appeal. Many of the fittings recall our experience in the IS350 sedan. That’s a good thing, since we found almost everything inside the sedan to be built to Lexus’ high standards. Even in this pre-production NX, there wasn’t a squeak or rattle to be found. Our tester came with an elegant and supple two-tone leather interior. I found the hidden vanity mirror in the console to be an interesting surprise for us women, however I’m not sure how often it will thought to be used. It also had a habit of being difficult to remove, as evidence from the worn leather strap to retrieve it. The NX is available with heated and ventilated front seats. Although we’ve used ventilated seats in many vehicles, we were impressed on how well they worked in the NX.

Lexus NX200t 12

The cargo space is ample for its size and the removable privacy cover is flexible for whatever you may be carrying. Making convenience a top priority, they have equipped the NX with a SmartAccess key system which allows you to unlock the vehicle by touching any of the five doors. The wireless charging tray is another hot item you’ll find in the NX. As long as you have a compatible smartphone or other device, you can charge it without needing a cable, eliminating clutter. It does, however, take up a bit of space and limit access to the center console. Rear seat space is good compared to other crossovers this size. The seats are comfortable and provide ample head and knee room for adults.

Lexus NX200t 14

One of the biggest improvements in 2015 for Lexus is the new infotainment interface. They have finally moved away from the mouse system, which we found cumbersome to use. The NX is the first to be fitted with the intuitive Lexus Remote Touch Interface (RTI). Essentially, it looks and feels like a laptop trackpad. With its more computer-like setup and vibrating feedback, you can drive along and navigate the familiar Enform screens with ease. The new NX can also be fitted with most of Lexus’ driver aids. We noted blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and radar cruise control on our tester.

Lexus NX200t 4

A crossover that handles like no other. Lexus put a lot of effort into developing the driving dynamics for its “nimble crossover”, which is purportedly where the NX got its name. The way the NX drives has the potential to be a big differentiator, especially when you consider the number of vehicle choices a consumer has. Crossovers aren’t often associated with driving dynamics. Lexus stiffened the NX and developed new suspension with unique mounting points to improve its demeanor. Smooth and confident. The NX embodies both of these in its steering, body control, and driver feedback. Regardless of driving mode, the NX isn’t going to excite or surprise. It’s the standard crossover feel with the typical Lexus luxury touch. The NX F Sport differentiates itself with stiffer suspension, but we didn’t have the opportunity to test it.

Lexus NX200t 3

The biggest news of all is under the hood. Better late than never, Lexus has introduced its first turbocharged engine. The NX200t is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with an output of 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. If it wasn’t for the delay in power and slight turbine noise, it would be difficult to tell there’s anything bolted onto the engine. The engine hasn’t been tuned to be peaky or overly sporty. Power is sufficient for the typical crossover driver. Its fuel economy, like it’s performance, left us feeling lukewarm. We expected better than 23 mpg, especially on our FWD NX. There’s also the NX300h hybrid which offers a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine. It ultimately becomes a matter of personal preference as far as which engine route you decide. Both are offered either as front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Lexus NX200t 5

The genesis of the crossover lies in focus groups and market segmentation. They’re developed and sold to everyone by offering broad appeal for the young, the old, the urban, the rural. Lexus arguably perfected this approach with the RX. In the NX, you’re given all the creature comforts we’ve come to expect from Lexus and more. New technologies, like the Lexus Remote Touch Interface and wireless charging systems create even more appeal. The NX200t’s 2.0L turbo is sure to find its way under the hood of other Lexus models. With the hopes of an optimistic price point, the NX is sure to take off in popularity for 2015. Expect them to reach dealers in late October.

Lexus NX200t 9

The NX200t we tested was an early pre-production model. So early, in fact, that pricing and build information isn’t yet available. Combing through the spec sheet, we’ve assembled our best-guess for features and options included in our tester. In Fire Agate Grey, a color that was either metallic brown or dark purple, the NX carried itself with unique class. We love the comfort and ergonomics of the interior. In public, the NX drew questions and double-takes. It might be late to the small crossover game, but it won’t be overlooked.

-Danielle Assenheimer

2015 Lexus NX200t FWD
$35,000 (est)
Navigation Package
Comfort Package
Premium Package
Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Pre-Collision System w/ Radar Cruise Control
Wireless Charging Tray
Destination Charges
As Tested MSRP Pricing Not Announced

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