The three big German marques are at it hammer and tongs in the Australian sales race at the moment. No more so that in the crossover SUV field. The very British Land Rover is starting to get involved as well with its just introduced Discovery Sport.
So it’s no surprise Lexus has joined the fray, with additional models, sharp pricing and a major advertising campaign.
When launched the Lexus NX crossover came only as a hybrid, the NX 300h. Lexus NX 200t, the subject of this week’s road test, arrived a few months later and follows the European route of using a relatively small engine, but turbocharging it to add power and, most importantly, plenty of torque. With a price list starting at $52,500 for the 2WD NX 200t, the new Lexus range is well priced in comparison with the German and British opposition.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder Lexus engine has a power output of 175 kilowatts, and 350 Nm of torque. The latter is produced all the way from 1650 to 4000 rpm, a handy range for the average driver who seldom exceeds 4000 revs, so maximum grunt is there all the time.
An automatic transmission with only six forward speeds is becoming relatively rare these days so some will feel the NX is behind the field in having one.
Like many current SUVs the Lexus NX is sold with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. However, the Australian importer has put its emphasis all-wheel-drive, the 2WD comes in just the one spec level, the Luxury. The all-wheel drive comes as Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury variants. Our test car was the topline Luxury Sport.
One of the first statements Akio Toyoda made when he took charge of Lexus was that he didn’t like his cars being described as conservative. That word will not be used when describing the Lexus NX. The huge ‘spindle grille’, deep swages in the doors and the sharp kick-up at the rear are more likely to be called radical than conservative.
Note that the high window-line created by this style may make it difficult for smaller children to see out. It might be an idea to take the littlies on your pre-purchase test drive to see what they see, or don’t see.
Inside, there’s the usual high quality Lexus design and materials set out in a design that’s not as radical as the exterior, but which works well.
The Lexus control system for the satellite navigation and other infotainment functions isn’t particularly easy to use, though presumably regular owners of the cars will grow accustomed to it.
Lexus NX 200t Luxury and F Sport have a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system. There’s the option of a 14-speaker Mark Levinson system. The latter has Green Edge technology that produces double the output from the same amount of energy as conventional speakers.
There’s Bluetooth audio streaming as well as two USB ports and an Aux port in the centre console box. The Aux can play video files through the multimedia display screen with a compatible four-pole cable.
Lexus NX 200t has electronic safety features that include controlled braking, emergency brake signal, vehicle stability control , traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). A reversing camera is standard. Lexus Dynamic Torque Control in the AWD models helps maximise traction and cornering stability. LDW+ warns the driver if NX is about to cross lane markings without using the turn signals. It also assists with steering to avoid lane departure.
The front seats give occupants good room and provide support that’s aimed at touring rather than blasting around corners. Handling dynamics are safe and competent, but this isn’t a sporty SUV in the manner of the Germans in this class.
Lexus has made its name over the last 25 years by providing a quiet, smooth ride in a luxurious cabin. Lexus owners say their main interest in motoring is peaceful progress in real world driving conditions. Having lived with a Lexus in that manner for a whole week we certainly agree with them
The rear seat provides good legroom for most adults, but some may have to ask the folks in front to give up a little of their legroom. This is hardly a criticism in this class of small-medium crossovers, but make sure you check it out with your regular travellers.
Engine performance is good without being outstanding in the Normal mode likely to be used by most owners – choosing Sport mode certainly livens it up. There’s some turbo lag in each mode, but that’s inevitable in this sort of engine and the use of a twin-scroll turbo helps minimise it.
Once the engine is fully boosted and the six-speed auto has selected the correct gear Lexus NX 200t is a real pleasure to pilot.
During normal driving the Lexus is likely to be at maximum torque due to the lovely spread from 1650 to 4000. This makes for relaxed driving and minimum emissions and fuel use.
Fuel use during our testing was in the six to seven litres per hundred kilometres range on motorways and easy country running, rising to a more than acceptable eight to ten litres per hundred around town. This compares well with the 7.7 L/100 km official numbers.
Lexus has sold the RX midsize SUV and the very large LX 4WD for many years in Australia and both have proven popular. The all-new NX is already showing every sign of outselling them both. Which comes as no surprise as this market segment is red hot at the moment.
AT A GLANCE
NX 200t Luxury 2.0-litre turbo-petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $52,500 (automatic)
NX 200t Luxury 2.0-litre turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon: $57,000 (automatic)
NX 200t F Sport 2.0-litre turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon: $63,500 (automatic)
NX 200t Sports Luxury 2.0-litre turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon: $72,500 (automatic)
Note: Prices do not include government or dealer charges. Contact your local Lexus dealer for driveaway pricing.
ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models
SPECIFICATIONS (Lexus NX 200t Sports Luxury 2.0-litre turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon)
Engine Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Bore/Stroke: 86.0 x 86.0 mm
Maximum Power: 175 kW @ 4800-5600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 1650-4000 rpm
Driven Wheels: AWD
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 3.884:1(front), 2.277 (rear)
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4630 mm
Wheelbase: 2660 mm
Width: 1870 mm (with mirrors folded)
Height: 1630 mm
Turning Circle: 12.1 metres
Kerb Mass: 1700-1860 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Towing Ability: 1000 kg (with braked trailer)
Boot Capacity: 500 litres (1545 litres with rear seatbacks folded)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson strut type independent suspension. Adaptive variable suspension on F Sport and Sports Luxury
Rear Suspension: Trailing arm type double-wishbone independent suspension. Adaptive variable suspension on F Sport and Sports Luxury
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Disc
0-100 km/h Acceleration: 7.1 seconds
FUEL CONSUMPTION/EMISSION RATINGS:
Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Fuel Consumption – Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.9 L/100 km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 7/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5/10
Four years/100,000 km