2022 Lexus NX review: Luxury SUV takes a big step forward

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The latest premium SUV out of Japan tries to tempt buyers away from the big German brand with an appealing blend of luxury and tech.

The all-new NX is a big deal for Lexus. Despite lacking the driving pizzazz of German rivals, the previous iteration was comfortably the brand’s top seller after hitting the market in 2014.

Now the second generation NX has arrived, promising big driving improvements, the choice of four power units – including the brand’s first plug-in hybrid – and three trim levels.

Prices start at about $68,500 drive-away and stretch to $100,000 in the 14-model line-up.

As before, the NX shares core underbody components with the Toyota RAV4.

More aggressive styling includes signatures such as the L-shaped headlights and gaping spindle grille, while Lexus is spelled out across the rear for the first time.

A glance inside reveals impeccable finishes and quality materials, reinforcing the luxury positioning.

There’s no shortage of kit, either. Powered by a 152kW/243Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder, the entry-level NX250 gets 18-inch alloys, smart-key entry, a powered tailgate, heated and powered front seats, a 9.8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Safety gear includes auto emergency braking, blind-spot detection and safe-exit assist. A sunroof and wireless phone charging are part of a $3000 enhancement pack.

The NX250’s equipment is identical to the $73,500 NX350h Luxury model, which has a 179kW 2.5-litre hybrid and is available in front- or all-wheel drive guise (about $5000 more).

The NX350h is also available in Sports Luxury trim for $81,500. That model has 20-inch wheels, partial leather, a superb 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, sat-nav, head-up display, ventilated front seats, a rear vision mirror that doubles as a camera and a sizeable 14-inch central display.

The F Sport costs the same money but trades some features for sportiness, such as adjustable dampers, alloy pedals and a unique grille, black highlights and bodykit.

F Sport is the only trim available for the new 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo in the NX350, which costs about $87,500 and is only available in all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive NX450h+ PHEV costs about $100,000.

The NX has decent rear seat space and terrific front seats, although the panoramic sunroof eats into headroom.

The NX250 is light-on for grunt. Its 2.5-litre petrol engine needs prodding, at which point it’s perky but vocal.

The NX350 adds muscle at lower revs, pulling strongly and cleanly and working nicely with the eight-speed auto.

In the NX350h the CVT transmissions feeds a combination of electric and petrol propulsion, occasionally shutting down the engine to help with the claimed fuel use of 5.0 litres per 100km. A single electric motor ensures useful pull while extending the scope of the 2.5-litre. An additional e-motor drives the rear wheels in all-wheel drive models, bringing more torque,(391Nm versus 270Nm) which is noticeable in gentle driving.

At the top of the range the plug-in NX450h+ F Sport provides short-range EV running and the backup of a petrol engine.

Claimed EV range is 87km but ours started with a full charge and a 61km estimate.

Most owners will likely rarely experience maximum power because you need to activate hybrid mode, which consumes many multiples of the official 1.3L/100km fuel figure.

EV mode makes most sense, limiting it to a 134kW/270Nm motor powering the front wheels and a 40kW/121Nm unit for the rears.

Whereas some PHEVs require you to feather the throttle to stay on electric power, the NX’s EV mode allows you to make the most of the 18.1kWh battery.

Wake the 2.5-litre petrol engine and the forward surge is more determined.

On the road, the NX isn’t as sharp as a BMW, as dull steering takes the edge off responses. It settles swiftly from mid-corner imperfections and reassures with its poise.

Runflat tyres combine with firm suspension to deliver sure-footed cornering at the expense of low-speed ride comfort. The comfort levels improve as speed increases.

Exemplary quality and a reputation for going the distance are front and centre with the NX, which is vastly improved over the original.

VERDICT 4/5

The new NX delivers a better driving experience, with frugal hybrid options, quality finishes and an extensive equipment list.

LEXUS NX350h VITALS

Price: From about $73,500 drive-away

Warranty/servicing: 5 yrs/unlimited km, $1485 for 3 yrs/45,000km

Safety: 10 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane-keep and blind-spot assist. Intersection-turn and safe-exit assist

Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cyl, 179kW/270Nm

Thirst: 5.0L/100km

Spare: None, runflat tyres

Boot: 520 litres



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