Test Drive: 2016 Lexus NX 200t

2015_lexus_nx_200t_006When I reviewed the newly redesigned Lexus RX a few months back, I recounted my on-again, off-again love affair with the brand. As we left it then, I was once again enamored with Toyota’s luxury division, wooed by the style and substance of its retooled vehicles. Then, into my life drove the NX. Could the RX’s smaller sibling keep the flames of passion burning?

Lexus was a groundbreaker with the RX, creating the luxury crossover class. Not so much with the NX. It’s a compact luxury crossover, and will compete in an arena already crowded with standout entries, the likes of which include Lincoln MKC, Acura RDX, Audi Q3, and Mercedes GLA.

I first drove the NX before it debuted for the 2015 model year. Maybe I was a bit skeptical about its late entry to the party; perhaps I was a bit jaded on the brand. At that time, I was impressed, but not overly so. NX did tempt me with its edgy, sculpted exterior styling, but I found the interior to be a notch below luxury expectations. And, I wished for a bit more power from the base engine.

Fast forward a year or so, and I’m ready to give the NX another shot. At first glance, yep, it’s got the look. Chiseled lines, a low, athletic stance, a high beltline that would seem to compromise visibility, but somehow manages not to. Then there’s the grille. The spindle grille. A gaping maw that, particularly on the F-Sport model, looks poised to suck in anything that gets in its way, black-hole style. It’s polarizing, for sure, but has grown on me and is likely here to stay in the Lexus family.

2016 Lexus NX interiorMoving inside to the five-passenger cabin, the fluidic design is eye-catching and logical. The touchpad on the center console is the command post for all of the vehicle’s operating systems, including the suite of Lexus Enform Remote connected services. Whether you like a vehicle’s operating system of choice is largely a matter of preference, but Lexus’s is generally intuitive and offers apps and connectivity sufficient to satisfy most technophiles.

The sports-car inspiration carries to the interior, where the seats are curved and countoured for comfort, and the look is clean and modern. Several packages are available that up the luxury quotient, even adding some wood trim in the Luxury package.

But the real test is behind the wheel. And here the NX exceeded my remembrance and my expectations. I truly enjoyed driving it. The sporty performance matched its athletic visage. The only engine is a 235-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder paired with a sequential six-speed transmission. Lexus engineers looked to the IS when tuning the driving dynamics of the NX, giving it a more rigid body structure that results in a blend of handling agility and ride comfort.

Lexus NX detailMy weeklong experience with the NX reinforced my renewed love for Lexus. NX may have been late to the party, but when it arrived, it certainly made an impression. RX is still the brand’s top seller, but this up-and-comer may soon be nipping at its heels.

Pricing for the NX starts at $34,965 for the 200t; $37,065 for the F Sport; and $39,720 for the NX 300h hybrid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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