When the call comes in that there is a booking available for a weeklong test drive from Lexus, it’s hard not to feel a little excited. This time it’s the all-new NX that we have been driving and believe us, this second generation of mid-size luxury SUV is ready to pave a new trail for the Lexus brand. With a stunning new design and Lexus’ first plug-in hybrid electric powertrain we believe this could be the vehicle that so many Irish customers craved. With the NX, Lexus set about redefining the mid-size luxury SUV segment with a car 95% new over the out going model! The original NX that was launched back in 2014 went on to become a best-selling model for the brand with more than 175,000 units sold, many of which had never owned a Lexus in the past! Right now if we were to take a snap shot of European sales you would see the Lexus NX actually makes up a third of the brands overall sales. These figures highlight the importance of the NX but with this all new recipe, they are ready to compete in this luxury SUV category.
Looking at the bodywork the all-new Lexus NX has contrasting curved surfaces and sharp angles in keeping with the family design traits. At the front, the hallmark Lexus spindle grille leaves you under no illusions as to what the vehicle is on approach. It sits further up than the outgoing model, which helps improve airflow into the engine compartment, and is further highlighted by the large frame. The lines of the vehicle draw your eye back along the bonnet as it flares broadly outward towards the rear. Our test car had four-projector LED headlights, with Lexus’ first slim Adaptive High-beam System (AHS). Each of the units contains 11 LED chips with light output controlled by a forward camera. L-shaped daytime running lights are positioned above the headlights and have seamless surface illumination with a fade-out function when the driver flicks the indicators. Like the ES we recently tested the standard headlights are bi-beam LED-type with Automatic High Beam (AHB). Looking at he rear you get new L-shaped all-LED light clusters, and Lexus’ signature blade lighting in a bar that spans across the back or side to side. On the tailgate, the Lexus badge has been replaced with the “Lexus” name to further imprint the brands identity into the minds of those behind in traffic!
The whole vehicle is generous in proportions also. Compared to the previous generation NX, overall length has increased by 20mm, the wheelbase by 30mm, the width by 20mm and the height by 5mm. Based on the GA-K platform this allows for wider front (+35mm) and rear tracks (+55mm), which gives the vehicle a more powerful stance. The outgoing model looked sometimes a little awkward on the smaller wheels but this new variant can accommodate wheel and tyre packages from 18 to 20-inch with ease. Irish buyers will have 11 colours to choose from, including three shades that use Lexus advanced sonic paint technology and the quality looks fantastic up close! Five ultra-thin layers of paint with compressed pigments are applied to each NX and hand polished to achieve a deeper lustre in the finish across the bodywork.
Inside things have drastically improved also! I recall sitting into the out going model a couple of years back which although comfortable, it was just a mass of buttons and switchgear more akin to a cockpit than a cabin. Thankfully the number of physical switches has been reduced from 78 to 45 in the new NX and they have been grouped in defined zones according to their function. Physical buttons have been retained for the most frequently used functions, for quicker, more intuitive operation. Those used when driving are arranged around the steering wheel; the audio and air conditioning controls have been consolidated in the central display screen; and driving controls that can be used when the vehicle is stationery are located in the centre console. Believe it of not, Lexus actually measured the shoulder-to-fingertip distance of people around the world to ensure excellent control without disturbing the driver’s posture. Even the length of the armrest on the centre console has been increased by 84mm, improving comfort for both the driver and front seat passenger! The seat upholstery is now available in high-quality L-fineskin fabric with synthetic leather in Black or Dark Rose, or full Tahara synthetic or genuine leather. Our test car featured Black with Rich Cream and deep orange stitching which was particularly nice. The range of trim inlays includes Micro Dot, with a tasteful pattern, Black Prism with a 3D carved look or Sumi Black Walnut which has a strong wood grain finish.
Under that long elegant bonnet Lexus have drawn on more than 15 years of hybrid technology expertise to produce their first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or (PHEV). This model features a four-cylinder, 2.5-litre hybrid Atkinson cycle engine, a 134 kW front electric motor, a 40 kW rear electric motor, hybrid transaxle and a lithium-ion battery with 18.1 kWh capacity. Dual VVT-i electrically controlled intelligent variable valve-timing and D-4S direct/indirect fuel injection with multi-hole injectors make the somewhat large capacity engine super frugal. Combining the full electric motors and combustion power, produces a maximum 309hp, which makes the 0 to 100 km/h sprint possible in 6.3 seconds. If you wish to run on EV power alone you can expect 69 to 76km in the combined WLTP cycle, or even 89 to 98km in around the city. Add to this this the security of all wheel drive on the off chance we get snow and you are in safe hands!
From a safety standpoint the new NX is the first model to feature the third generation of Lexus Safety System+, equipping it with a comprehensive package of active safety and driver assistance features. Lexus’ safety leadership goes hand in hand with its commitment to making advanced accident risk detection and prevention measures accessible to more motorists. With this aim in view, Lexus Safety System+ is provided as standard on all new NX models, across all European markets. This includes a plethora of airbags and possibly every electronic safety enhancement feature currently available on the market. Expect lane keeping assist, pre collision warning, traffic recognition and 360 degree vehicle monitoring to name but a few.
Pricing for the new Lexus NX kicks off at €62,120 or €473 per month. The top of the range F-Sport will be priced at a shade over €72,000 and as always, Lexus will have a range of finance or PCP options available through your local dealer.
Living with the NX for a week was a nice experience. As we mentioned in our YouTube video review it is all about the feeling it brings the driver. It is so silent in the way that it wafts down the road, it becomes a very easy place to cover mileage in. To achieve this cabin quietness Lexus used acoustic-quality glass for the windscreen and front side windows. Flush door mouldings reduce wind-noise along the sides of the NX and Lexus have even foam coated at the base of the front and centre pillars to reduce noise and vibration inside. Although the NX is potent to drive when you combine the electric and combustion power train it feels somewhat wrong to drive it in a spirited manner. The CVT gearbox combined with the electric motors likes to build power and figure out ways to save you fuel over providing a noisy 0 to 100 km/h sprint time. What we preferred to do was sit back and enjoy the infotainment whilst watching how the NX uses and saves its battery range.
What we did like is aside from the drive mode selector, you can actually opt to hold or reserve the current range in your battery at the press of a button. This means for example you could keep 50% of your electric range for a time most needed. Holding the same button for longer will engage charge mode where the engine will engage and run that bit harder to charge the battery full whilst you are stationary or on the move. It’s clever tech but probably not the most economic way of charging your battery. If you can get into the habit of charging the NX from a wall box at home each night, it will be the most efficient. Lexus are currently offering the NX with a three-year/100,000 km manufacturer warranty, but now also with the new Lexus Relax programme, which allows you to extend this cover by a further year and 15,000 km each time you have your vehicle serviced at an official Lexus centre. The warranty is provided at no extra charge as part of the fixed-price service and extensions can continue until the car reaches its 10th anniversary, or 160,000 km driven which is very impressive. Lexus certainly know how to provide peace of mind!
No normal Hybrid available.