Driving the 2015 Lexus NX

Lexus NX F SPORT Grille

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. I posted a technical overview of the new model on Monday, and now it’s time for some personal impressions.

Lexus describes the new NX compact crossover as Premium Urban Sports Gear, with the idea that it’s a vehicle that will fit into an active lifestyle. Before seeing the NX in person, I imagined it to be like a Swiss Army Knife, a crossover that places a high value on functionality by design.

I arrived in British Columbia thinking design is where the NX should shine — how did it match up in real life?

Exterior Impressions

No matter the version, the NX is not going fade into the background. It’s unlike any other car on the road.

Let’s start with the spindle grille — there are two treatments, and both have a premium and expensive look:

Lexus NX Standard Grille

Lexus NX F SPORT Driving

I will admit to preferring the F SPORT grille — feels weird to say about a vehicle in the “cute ute” segment, but the massive mesh gives the NX an intimidating presence.

The standard headlight assembly is decent enough, but the tri-L LED headlamps are spectacular:

Lexus NX Tri-L Headlamp

There’s a much stronger relationship between this lamp design and the swooshing daytime running lights, they have a complimentary look that brings real sophistication to the NX front end.

The design concept of the NX was “inner bullet”, and I think it shows clearly with its arrow-shaped front-end and the blunt drop of the rear:

Lexus NX Side Profile

Lots of visual interest here, particularly the deep angle coming from the front wheel and gradually softening. Still, it’s tough talking about the side profile without mentioning the plastic cladding around the wheel wells:

Lexus NX Wheel Well

It’s a strange thing, but what seems so dramatic in photos is less noticeable in person. I don’t get the point of making the wheel wells seem larger than they actually are, but it’s not the big mistake I was expecting.

The NX design starts to simplify once you get to the back of the vehicle:

Lexus NX Rear

Incorporating the spindle grille into the sheet metal is a nice touch, and the tailpipes on the NX 200t are well done, but overall the rear design is much quieter than the front.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the taillight design and their black clip-on siding:

Lexus NX Taillamp Cladding

I will say that the tail lamps look great in brake:

Lexus NX Taillamp Lit Up

Add it all up, and this is clearly a vehicle from the future. Take away the wheels and add some kind of anti-gravity jet propulsion, and the NX would fit right into a summer blockbuster.

The Interior

It may be bold to say, but I believe the NX cabin is a return to the class-leading interior design that made Lexus so successful in the first place:

Lexus NX Interior Wheel

I can’t point to a single reason for being so bullish, but the overall level of detail is beyond what we’ve seen in the last generation of Lexus vehicles.

The metal scuff plates, quirky features like the extra grip of the cup holders, the sunglasses holder with the removable mirror, all of these features show the thoughtful side that I expect from Lexus interior design.

Soft touch materials are well placed, and all the controls have an intuitive way about them:

Lexus NX Interior Thoughts

How’s the new RTI touchpad? Well, it functions pretty much exactly like the existing Remote Touch joystick — anyone that switches between a mouse and a touchpad while working on computers will know the basic idea is the same.

Lexus NX Controller

I found responsiveness to be an issue, but this may be due to ongoing development. Telling it straight, don’t expect a revolutionary change — it’s a nice evolutionary jump for controlling the infotainment system, but it’s the overall software that needs the real attention.

(Biggest news, the RTI touchpad now has a Back button. I campaigned hard for this addition over the years, and I’m thrilled that it’s now a part of the controller.)

Driving Impressions

I suppose it’s true of all vehicles with two different drivetrains, but the NX 200t & NX 300h really do feel distinct.

Lexus NX Hybrid

There’s a serene, solid quality to the NX hybrid — it feels well set on the road, with none of the floatiness that comes with the bigger RX.

From a stop, it benefits from the instant torque of the electric motor, but there’s something about the drive that’s perhaps a little too uneventful.

Lexus NX F SPORT Grille

On the other hand, the NX 200t feels lively, ready to go. It’s not fast off the line, even compared to the NX 300h, but there’s a sweet spot around 60mph when the engine feels like it could accelerate forever.

(My biggest question about the turbo engine was lag, but it’s only noticeable mashing the pedal to the metal.)

I’m going to say it because I believe it. The NX has a special feel, and it’s going to be a big hit.

At the end of the day, driving back to the hotel in a black NX F SPORT, I called my wife for a quick chat. I was cruising down the Sea to Sky highway that runs through Whistler, which is a wonderful road with sloping curves and big elevation changes and passing lanes.

In the middle of discussing my daughter’s upcoming swimming class, I hit the crest of one of the road’s many hills, and the sun came shining down between two mountains and there was this moment when everything felt right in the world.

A touching story, sure, but what does it really have to do with the NX?

Well, for as loud as the exterior design may be, inside the NX is an example of the best Lexus has to offer — thoughtful, solid, subtle, and functional. It’s not just about the engines, or the headlights, or the wheel wells, it’s about the experience of driving.

The NX has a character all of its own, and it’s going to fit into people’s lives with ease. That’s what makes it special.

And that wraps up my initial impressions of the 2015 NX. I’m sure you have questions, so leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

My special thanks to Lexus for the invitation and their hospitality during my trip to Whistler.


  1. B

    I actually thought the taillights were much better looking in person. They have a "3D" look to them which isn't portrayed well in any photos I've seen.
  2. VXT

    Hi Krew, nice review! I have 1 question about center monitor. Can it fold down like one on the CT200h? Thank you
  3. Great review Krew, amazing thoughtful read and well balanced.
  4. Booked a NX300h, awaiting availability :-)
  5. Thanks Krew, it is a great review --- you truly understand the strength of the current Lexus and the qualities Lexus is able to offer to their targeted customers. Your review truly explains clearly what Lexus has aimed to create what they call "driving experience" This an authentic personal experience by someone who owns a Lexus. It is a very nice reading.
  6. Would love to hear about iPod integration and how it interacts with the Nav screen.
  7. So Krew, which do you prefer, 300H or the F Sport when it comes to daily driving? The grill of the 300H bothers me and I too prefer the F Sport grill alone. I'm really torn because I want the gas mileage of the 300H but the grill of the F Sport. Will the Canadian market get the 300H F Sport?
    • Only one fully-loaded "Executive"-packaged model of the 300h will be available in Canada, no F-Sport version unfortunately.
    • You'll buy the 300h F-sport, ofcourse. Import it from EU yourself, no problemo.
    • Yeah right! If I want to spend another $8000 to import it. No thanks. Yeah, beggars can't be choosers.
    • I wouldn't make any decisions based on the grille -- I found the standard grille attractive in person, though I like it in photos as well. I preferred the turbo over the hybrid, but then I wasn't paying for gas. :-)
  8. Nice review. I'm glad I put my deposit on the NX a couple months back - can't wait to get it! Q: How was the ride comfort and NVH of the NX 200t F-Sport compared to an IS F-Sport and an RX F-Sport?
    • Ride Comfort and NVH on all vehicles was excellent. Didn't feel a lot of difference overall between standard and F SPORT -- thought the F SPORT was tighter in corners, but nothing dramatic.
  9. Haven't heard much regarding the wireless phone charging. Will it work with existing cases like Powermat/Powercase or require a proprietary outer case from Lexus?
    • It's a proprietary system called Qi, and requires a sleeve for iPhones. Other phones, I guess, are Qi compatible. Haven't done a lot of research myself.
    • A lot of Android phones have Qi (pronounced "chee") charging built right in. HTC, LG and Motorola all include it in many of their devices, and Samsung sells an alternate backing for their phones that allows Qi charging. Most of the Nokia Windows Phones, if not all of them, support wireless charging as well. From what I understand the cases for the iPhones that allow it aren't too pricey, in the $20 to $30 range. I do wish Lexus wouldn't release the press pictures with a seemingly unmodified iPhone in the wireless charging area (Toyota does the same thing). I feel like that's just going to raise a lot of questions from people who have this in their vehicle and don't know their iPhone doesn't support it natively. We'll just have to tell them they can certainly set the phone there but it won't be charging!
  10. I saw it in person at a dealer last week. The plastic around the wheels - I don't understand it. This car will never leave paved roads and just makes it look cheaper than it could have. The other thing that bugs me is the silver "frame" around the center console. The silver plastic in the steering wheel is the "worst" thing about the CT - why add even more in the NX? Looks cheap and crowded. All in all I think Lexus has made this less appealing than it could have been to reduce cannibalization of the RX, much like the (esp. 1st gen) X3 was uglified not to offend X5 buyers. A facelift in two years with a proper plug-in hybrid drivetrain? Yes please. Until then, no thanks.
    • I guess Lexus find its competitors have a similar design --- BMW X1, X3, X5 all have this matte plastic surrounding around the wheels. It is just a matter of getting used to it. Initially I would be more concerned about wear and tear of the matte plastic because unlike clear coat on the paint, there is almost nothing you can do in detailing. But looking at many BMW X1/3/5 on the road which similar plastic, they seem to hold up okay.
    • I like those elements.
    • Yeah, perhaps Lexus somehow know that your group is bigger than mine :) I've heard that they have a lot of pre-orders on the model so enough people must like it (or not care) I cringe when I accidentally look at the CT steering wheel center - but one can't have it all in a budget car.
  11. I'm glad to hear Lexus is once again paying attention to the little things - the details. This has been missing for a few years now. I am looking forward to this vehicle, but won't buy one until the panoramic roof comes to the US. I'm tired of always having to compromise.
  12. Dub

    Krew, Great article. I was able to see both the NX and RC today at the Arizona sales ralley. I agree with you on the NX. After reading many articles over the past 6 months I was excited to finally be able to see and go through the NX. The "wheel thing" that everyone is talking about, you were completly correct its an after thought when you see it in person. The NX is a stunner, I cant wait to present it to my clients.
  13. I posted this on our Lexus sales chatter just a few minutes ago... Regarding the all new NX, can anybody confirm the design directly in front of the RTI touchpad as (menu, up/down arrows, home) as all the pictures have shown or will it be (home, menu, back) according to this quote on lexus enthusiast... "(Biggest news, the RTI touchpad now has a Back button. I campaigned hard for this addition over the years, and I’m thrilled that it’s now a part of the controller.)" If the latter is the case will the map have perhaps pinch to zoom for map scale cuz that would be really nice and modern. :) Also this doesn't look like a difference between nav & non-nav which is what I first thought unless the touch pad in non-nav replaces the control knob found in the RX non-nav versions. Your thoughts??? ;)
  14. Ok I just sacred someone driving the F Sport in downtown Seattle that was right in front of me. I got out of my car and approached him while yelling 'Sir' to get his attention, he drove away hastily. He had California plates. What the heck! How is that car already on the road here? Can someone explain. Btw, it looked awesome! The biggest surprise was how subtle it actually looked.
  15. Appreciate your straightforward review of a solid driving experience. Wish I was lucky enough to get to see this car before Oct-Nov. Wonder what 085 Eminent White looks like compared to Ultra White 083. Did anyone mention? For the Turbo, regular gas, premium gas recommended, or premium gas REQUIRED ?? Also, did your side mirrors "kneel" down in reverse ? I'm ready to drive my 5th Lexus.
    • Don't think there was any non F SPORT white NX models at the event, so I don't know what the new white looks like. Whether the NX requires premium gas, I don't know. I would imagine the engine is built with premium gas in mind. As for the side mirrors, I don't recall.
    • Thank you krew !!
  16. Krew, any thoughts for an article comparing the NX to the RX?
  17. Looks quite similar to my 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T....
  18. If u have to estimate the price of NX300h, what would it be?