Two weeks ago, Lexus invited me to Whistler, British Columbia, where I was able to test drive the all-new NX compact crossover in all its various forms. The following is a technical overview of the new model — my personal impressions will posted on Wednesday.
As the vehicle that established the luxury crossover market, the RX SUV is the best selling Lexus of all time. Since launching in 1998, it has racked up over one million total sales in the USA alone. In 2013, the RX accounted for nearly 40% of Lexus USA sales.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise Lexus has been reluctant to introduce any models that could cut into RX sales, even as competitors built crossovers both small, medium, large, and every size in between.
Still, things change. The crossover market has separated enough that the RX can no longer be all things to all people. There’s a new type of buyer — one that’s looking for a vehicle to fit into their active lifestyle, but without the family-friendly baggage of the RX.
In order to better compete for these customers, Lexus will introduce the NX compact crossover later this year — here’s a broad overview of the new model.
The central concept of the NX is Premium Urban Sports Gear — chief engineer Takeaki Kato explains it best:
“The key for the NX was to combine a sense of cool that made customers fall in love with it at first sight, together with easy to use space and utility.”
The design theme is described as Inner Bullet, which seems entirely accurate looking at this early sketch:
The NX takes the Lexus signature spindle grille and bumps it up to 11, even on the standard non F SPORT model:
The side profile is all angles and creases, with wheel arches exaggerated by aluminum flake plastic cladding:
The rear also shows signs of the Lexus spindle grille wrapping around the taillights:
The NX is available with two different headlight designs — first is the standard LED low-beam projector headlamp with halogen high beams:
The second design is the premium tri-LED headlamp with LED high beams:
The premium headlamps come with a couple additional features:
- Intelligent high beams, which automatically turn off when oncoming traffic is detected; and
- turn signals integrated into the L-shaped daytime running lights, rather than part of the main headlamp assembly.
The taillights are also LED, and have a nice design detail — the brake light curves around the trunk opening and gives the appearance of an unbroken line:
The foglamps on the standard NX are also LED:
The final exterior lighting detail are the LEDs puddle lamps embedded in all four door handles:
(In case you were wondering, the lock is tucked between the handle and the door panel.)
The NX is 182.3 inches (4,630 mm) long, 83.9 inches (2130 mm) wide including the mirrors, and 64.8 inches (1,645 mm) high. Wheelbase is 104.7 inches (2,660 mm):
Ground clearance is 6.9 inches (175 mm) for the NX 200t and 6.7 inches (170 mm) for the NX 300h. Tow rating on the NX Turbo is 2,000 lbs, with the NX Hybrid rated at 1,200 lbs.
As for cargo space, the NX 200t has 17.66 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats up and 54.56 cubic feet with the rear seats down. The NX 300h is only 1 cubic foot less, measuring 16.77/53.68 cubic feet up/down.
(For comparison, the RX has 40 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up and 80.3 cubic feet with the rear seats down.)
The NX body is made up of different grades of hot stamped and high-tensile strength sheet steel, with some aluminum here and there:
The NX benefits from the advanced construction methods introduced with the latest generation of Lexus vehicles, starting with ample body adhesive to boost rigidity and improve stability:
Laser screw welding spots have been added between the existing spot welds:
There are also additional spot welds in key areas:
The underbody has been reinforced with updated stabilizers in the front and back:
Suspension & Brakes
Like the RX, the NX has MacPherson struts in the front and a double-wishbone rear suspension in the rear. However, the suspension has been tuned with a focus on driving performance — case in point, chief engineer Kato cited the IS sedan as one of the benchmarks for handling.
The brakes are the standard four wheel disc setup, but there are a couple new features worth noting:
- The parking brake is electric, with a pull-up switch under the Drive Mode Select knob.
- After coming to a complete stop, there’s a Brake Hold system that will keep the brakes engaged until the gas pedal is used.
NX 200t Drivetrain
Powering the NX 200t is the all-new 8AR-FTS 2.0L turbocharged direction injection engine with Variable Valve Timing (Dual VVT-iW) with intelligence:
Final numbers are 235 horsepower @ 4,800-5,600 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1,650-4,000 rpm. This delivers a 0-60 MPH time of 7.2 seconds for the 2WD model and 7.0 seconds for the AWD model.
Fuel economy has yet to be tested by the EPA, but Lexus estimates the 2WD turbo mpg to be 22/28/25 city/highway/combined. The AWD turbo is estimated at 21/28/24 city/highway/combined. Fuel capacity is 15.9 US gallons (60L), and premium fuel is required.
The updated Variable Valve Timing (Dual VVT-iW) allows the engine to start in the Otto cycle before switching to the Atkinson cycle, balancing off power for acceleration with better fuel efficiency at cruising speeds.
The engine is mated to a new 6-speed transmission equipped with a turbo-optimized torque converter and the G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) system introduced in the 2014 IS F SPORT. G-AI automatically selects the optimum gear and downshift pattern by sensing the current G force of the vehicle.
The big news is the twin-scroll turbocharger:
Developed entirely by Lexus engineers, this turbocharger employs a four-into-two exhaust manifold system, which reduces turbo lag by pairing cylinders according to their expansion or compression stroke.
Another innovation is the air-to-liquid intercooler mounted directly to the engine — this lowers intake temperature while insuring output doesn’t suffer.
Best of all, the intake system syphons away carbon vapors from the crankcase — this means the 2.0L turbo can go 10,000 miles between oil changes, just like a conventional naturally aspirated engine.
The NX 200t is available with Dynamic Torque Control AWD, which continuously controls torque transfer between the front and rear wheels by using sensors for vehicle speed, steering angle, steering speed, throttle angle and yaw rate.
NX 300h Drivetrain
The NX 300h hybrid is powered by the 2AR-FXE 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve VVT-i four-cylinder engine:
The NX 300h generates 194 total system horsepower and 152 lb.-ft. of total torque. This gives the NX 300h a 0-60 mph time of 9.1 seconds.
As with the NX 200t, fuel economy has yet to be tested by the EPA. Lexus estimates the 2WD model mpg to be 35/31/33 city/highway/combined and the AWD model mpg to be 33/30/32 city/highway/combined.
The NX 300h features a new P314 continuous variable transmission with simulated sequential shifting and a new kick-down function for an additional acceleration boost.
The NX 300h AWD system takes advantage of an additional electric motor to drive the rear axle while the front axle is propelled by gasoline or electric power. The rear motor also acts as a generator when the NX is in regenerative braking mode, which helps to charge the hybrid batteries faster.
For an overview of the two drivetrain options, here’s a video explanation by project engineers Izumi Watanabe and Kenji Otsuka:
Drive Mode Select
Like all Lexus models, the NX is equipped with a Drive Mode Select controller. In this instance, there are three different driver options:
- Normal: Standard mode that balances between performance and fuel efficiency;
- ECO: Emphasizes fuel efficiency by smoothing out throttle response and reducing demand on air conditioning system; and
- SPORT: Increases the responsiveness of the throttle response and tunes in the Electric Power Steering.
The main inspiration for the NX interior design is the IS sedan, here they are back-to-back:
The NX interior is styled with a sedan-like cockpit, and the center console design mirrors the metal surround of the spindle grille:
Eight-way power driver & passenger seats are standard, with the driver getting additional lumbar support. All seats are worked in a nicely styled embroidered pattern:
Seat heater and coolers are available in both the NuLuxe and leather trim levels, along with a 3-position driver seat memory with a sliding seat for easy entry and exit.
In back are 60/40 split/folding seats with reclining functionality and a fold-down armrest with retractable cupholders:
Power fold/recline rear seats are also available as an option.
The interior has a couple additional details worth mentioning. First off, the mystery of the pull-tab behind the RTI controller has been solved — it’s a storage area for sunglasses:
The cup holders in the center console are lined with a new material that allows for better grip, making it possible to open a water bottle with one hand:
There’s also an available power rear liftgate option with a welcome adjustment — owners will be able to customize the position of the open trunk to suit the height of their garage.
Display & Controls
The NX 200t instrument panel has a four-dial gauge cluster:
The NX 300h is identical but for one change — in non SPORT mode, the left dial is used as a hybrid system indicator showing power output and regeneration.
All models are equipped with a 4.2-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD screen in the center of the instrument panel for displaying audio, navigation, and call information.
The standard 7-inch VGA infotainment screen in the center console is used to display the climate, audio, and navigation information:
The steering wheel provides controls for audio, phone, voice recognition, the instrument panel display, and optional Lane Departure Alert & Dynamic Radar Cruise Control systems:
Standard in the NX is the Display Audio controller, a rotary knob that works as a combination dial & joystick to control the infotainment system:
New to Lexus is the updated Remote Touch controller, which is now a touchpad that functions similar to a smartphone — touch and drag, scrolling, pinch to zoom, and double-tap or press to click are all supported:
The RTI interface is only available on NX models equipped with the Navigation package (which also includes the Lexus Enform app suite).
There are two sound system options offered on the North American NX, starting with the Display Audio eight-speaker setup:
It’s a full AM/FM/HD/SAT/CD system with HD Radio, Bluetooth hands-free/audio, free HD weather and traffic information. The center console connectivity includes a single USB port, AUX input jack
and a 12-volt power port.
An upgraded ten-speaker option is available with the navigation, which adds (obviously) two speakers and an extra USB port:
One Lexus-first feature is the optional QI wireless phone charger, which is located in the center console armrest:
(It’s worth noting that the iPhone will need an adapter case to work with the QI wireless charging.)
This video provides the best overview of the safety systems offered on the NX (though it should be pointed out that the panoramic view monitor will not be available on North American NX models):
Other important safety features include 8 standard air bags, plus available parking assist and a pre-collision system with assisted and automated braking in the event of an accident.
Color & Wheel Options
Available exterior colors for the standard NX & NX hybrid in North America will be:
085 Eminent White · 1H9 Nebula Gray Pearl · 1J4 Silver Lining Metallic · 1J7 Atomic Silver · 212 Obsidian · 3R1 Matador Red Mica · 4V3 Fire Agate Pearl · 8W3 Meteor Blue Mica
Interior color options in Lexus simulated leather NuLuxe will be Flaxen, Crème, and Black. All with come standard with Black Film trim.
Genuine leather Crème and Black will be available with the Luxury package, which will also include Shimamoku wood trim.
The NX will have two different wheel options: Standard will be a 17″ 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheel with 225/65 R17 all-season tires, and the premium option will be an 18″ split 5-spoke aluminum wheel with 225/60 R18 all-season tires:
F SPORT Package
The NX 200t is available with the F SPORT performance package, which is best characterized by the mesh spindle grille:
The F SPORT edition also feature a different foglight design, which helps illuminate the road while turning:
Along with the black mirror covers and F SPORT badging on the front fenders and rear trunk, the lower rear bumper is blacked out:
The overall suspension has been tuned, with adjustments to the front and rear suspension springs, shock absorbers, and electric power steering. Performance dampers have also been added to the front and rear, which limits the amount of micro vibrations felt through the steering wheel during high-speed cornering.
Interior changes include a leather F SPORT steering wheel, paddle shifters, aluminum scuff plates and pedals, and exclusive F SPORT front seats with additional side bolstering:
The F SPORT package also gets different information displays in the instrument panel, including a turbo boost meter and an accelerometer that measures the vehicle’s lateral and longitudinal G forces:
As far as colors, the NX F SPORT will be available in:
085 Eminent White · 1H9 Nebula Gray Pearl · 1J4 Silver Lining Metallic · 1J7 Atomic Silver · 212 Obsidian · 3R1 Matador Red Mica · 8U1 Ultrasonic Blue Mica
Inside, the NX will be offered in Rioja Red NuLuxe & Black NuLuxe. Both will feature Silver Metallic trim.
There are two F SPORT wheel options:
- 18-inch split 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheel with 225/60 R18 all-season tires
- 18-inch F SPORT Dark Metallic aluminum-alloy wheel with 235/55 R18 summer tires (Premium package)
The last addition to the NX F SPORT package will likely be a sticking point for some — an Active Sound Control dial located just under the steering wheel will give drivers the ability to adjust the level of engine sound in the cabin. Best let Lexus explain this feature:
The actual engine sound and the assisting sound that is synchronized with the engine speed are harmonized, transforming the cabin into a sound space filled with realistic sounds.
This ends my technical overview of the 2015 NX compact crossover — please check back on Wednesday for my personal impressions of the NX 200t, NX 200t F SPORT, & NX 300h. My thanks to Lexus for inviting me to this event.