You’ve probably seen the new NX by now, whether you watched the global reveal last week, saw footage on YouTube, or have been scanning the galleries here and through the Lexus Enthusiast forum. From hybrids and multimedia to design and hardware, there’s a lot to digest with the all-new NX. In fact, if you want a full breakdown – first impressions, specs, speculation and more – tune into the latest episode of the Lexus Enthusiast Podcast where we cover the NX in extreme detail.
Earlier this month, I attended the Product Showcase Event at Toyota/Lexus headquarters in Plano, TX, and the NX was certainly Lexus’ grand finale. After seeing the IS 500 F SPORT Performance Launch Edition, new 2022 ES, the LF-Z Electrified and even a few LFAs, it was the new NX that left the strongest impression on me. After spending several hours with the vehicle in person, here are some observations and first hand experiences with the new NX.
After seeing the new NX earlier this year in the infamous YouTube leak, I thought I had a pretty fair idea of what to expect… but just like so many Lexus designs, this is a vehicle you have to see in person to truly appreciate.
The words I would use to describe the exterior of the new NX are mature, elegant and assertive. After so many different spindle shapes, headlight designs, LED DRL formations, and grill mesh patterns, this NX shows that Lexus has hit their stride and is confident in how they are designing vehicles. I say the same things about the LC and 2021 IS – the new NX feels that good.
We were in a fairly intimate presentation room at Lexus headquarters when we were shown the reveal video and then the NX drove onto the stage in front of us and stopped on the turntable. There it was, in the metal, finally! The first thing I noticed was the rear end, which starts with strong character lines that wrap from the rear fenders into the back end, highlighting the tail lights and creating stronger looking haunches than any previous Lexus crossover. The L-shaped tail lights and full-width connected rear lamp bar create a presence that’s both upscale and interesting. If you liked the rear end of the 2021 IS, you will like this new NX too. So many compact CUVs have similar lines and shapes, but the rear end is one place where the NX really stands out.
We can’t address the rear without talking about the new “L E X U S” script on the back of the CUV that replaces the circle-L logo. It looks great. In person, the written brand name looks upscale and sophisticated. Journalists had some questions about this design cue and Lexus replied, “Almost every car has an emblem on the rear – as we were thinking about the next iteration of our design language, we wanted something that was different and more sophisticated, just like the rest of the vehicle. Future vehicles will also follow this trend.”
Walking around the rest of the new NX, you get the sense that this is a different kind of Lexus crossover vehicle, and it certainly isn’t your mom’s RX. The stance is significantly more aggressive. The wheels are further out in the fenders and pushed towards the corners. The front end is unmistakably Lexus. Even the details like grill patterns, trim colors, wheels, and door handles pull the package together in a way that is imposing and still elegant.
Compared to the first-generation NX, the design of the new model is a little more restrained and mature in my opinion. When it debuted, the original NX was a stunner that nearly looked like a concept car, whereas the new model is good looking but now entering a crowded field with many similar shapes. Even then, the detailing and personality of this new NX shine through.
Reading the comments and first impressions from many of you, it seems that the integration of the new Lexus Interface and its 14″ screen have drawn people into two camps: you love it or you hate it, and I don’t see many folks in the middle. When the pictures of the interior first surfaced from the YouTube leak, I did not feel the same sense of worry about the dashboard or overall interior that others did. In person, any fears of “too much plastic” were certainly assuaged. While the optional 14″ screen seems to dominate the interior in photos, in person, it’s well integrated, well placed, and certainly brings new functionality to Lexus cabins. The passenger side of the dash is a plush injection-molded plastic but the Lexus Interface screen is still within reach, and if you’re looking for detailing, the adjacent door panels dress up the rest of the passenger experience.
Moving on to the broader interior, there’s a sense of minimalism about this new NX that’s refreshing and feels grown up. Lexus interiors have varied from ornate (LX and LS) to charismatic (LC and UX) to utilitarian (IS), and the 2022 NX turns a new page taking the best from each of them. For all of the technology that is engineered into this vehicle – Lexus Interface, Lexus Safety System 3.0, digital tachometer, wireless charging, ambient lighting, so much more – it is all integrated in a way that feels complementary and clever instead of overwhelming or too complex. The focal point of the dash is the new Lexus Interface but the steering wheel, center console and even door panels have a simplicity that feels uniquely Lexus. Door panels seem like a particularly mundane part of interior design, but the layering of trim pieces offset by speaker grills and leather, ambient lighting and contrast stitching all create something that’s easy to appreciate instead of overlook.
Digital Latch is a new technology that’s both sleek and tactically pleasing to use, and it again streamlines the design by integrating the handle into the arm rest. I was able to see a demo of the Safe Exit Assist technology and will vouch for the real world usability of this system. Living in a city and frequently parallel parking on busy streets, this technology will help prevent damage to your new NX as well as pedestrians or bikers. Another good example of Lexus’ ingenuity.
The rest of the interior was what we’ve come to expect from Lexus: high quality trims and plastics, soft leathers and seating surfaces, comfortable seats, doors that close with the right type of “thud” and much more. I was not able to experience all of the features in the new NX’s interior, but first impressions were very, very positive.
While it may be the single most interesting innovation from this new NX to some, I won’t spend too much time digging into the Lexus Interface system simply because I think it’s better experienced in person or by watching it on video. A few things to note though:
- It really, truly is a game changer. Lexus teased this technology on the first night of the Product Showcase Event before ever hinting at the new NX, and the amount of research, dedication and resources put into developing this new system is extremely impressive. Lexus scoured the globe, asked various divisions, interviewed engineering teams and meticulously planned out the functionality of this new system before deciding to launch the product under the North American team. They have done an incredible job.
- How we’ve been using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto generally seeks to mirror capability of our phones on our cars, and we’ve been pretty happy with that (ok, aside from using Remote Touch to do it). Lexus Interface brings some of those capabilities natively into your car — a big step by giving your car’s multimedia system the same true functionality as your phone. You can sign into Pandora and Apple Music accounts natively in your car. Maps are always refreshed and download the latest data. You can set user profiles on your cars that will automatically apply seat and audio presets, ambient lighting, and more. This is not just a new multimedia system – it is bringing your car to parity with your phone for intuitive, easy, connected access to everything.
- As has been noted, you can still use CarPlay and Android Auto with this system – as well as many other integrations. The team is so excited about this open framework that they are continuing to build new functionality and integrations into the system until it launches, and will be doing so for many years to come. Over the air updates, anyone? Yup – they’re already planned. With Lexus Interface, you will always have the best of everything.
- All of this is hard to appreciate if the system itself isn’t natural and friendly to use. With Lexus Interface, it is. For as much complexity and functionality is built into the system, it’s incredible how Lexus has distilled all of it’s capability into a few core menus and sub-menus that make using your car easy. And most importantly? There are physical buttons for core functions like HVAC so you don’t have to navigate through screens to cool down or warm up.
- Last but not least: The system is beautiful to use. The screen is high definition, clear and bright. It responds naturally to inputs and looks great while doing it. It’s also heavily customizable so you can make your version of Lexus Interface match or contrast the rest of your interior as much as you want.
Even though I’m not usually a person who gets too jazzed over multimedia and infotainment, Lexus Interface really is the game changer they make it out to be.
While most of the press coverage of the new NX has focused on the top-level NX 450h+, I’m going to – maybe shockingly – ask you to brush those questions and comments aside for a moment. There are a lot of exciting new things happening under the sheetmetal of the new NX, and while the plug-in hybrid electric powertrain is certainly among them, there are many other headlining details to cover. This NX offers five powertrains which is the most of any Lexus vehicle, ever: NX 200, NX 250/260, NX 350, NX 350h and NX 450h+. And that’s only what has been released so far, so let’s take a closer look:
NX 350: Here it is, finally. 15 years with the 3.5L GR V6 and its replacement has now arrived. Should we take a moment of silence? Whether you have owned an RX, LC hybrid, or anything in between, chances are very high that you’ve driven some version of this V6 and whether you love it or hate it, it’s reign is now coming to a close. The NX launches an all-new Dynamic Force 2.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is estimated to produce 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. Sure, this might be ~30-40 horsepower shy of the V6, but it’s also packing 40 more lb-ft of torque with turbocharged power delivery and that’s something many Lexus fans and owners have been asking for. Details on this engine were strangely sparse, but I was told that it has drastically lower tailpipe emissions than the V6 while producing similar or better performance. Quickly running the specs shows that the NX 350 has best-in-class power among its top competitors: Q5, RDX, GLC 300 and X3 30i. Bravo, Lexus. The NX 350 will also come with a full-time AWD system that can actively control the torque split according to driver needs and inputs. If you’ve been hoping for a more performance-focused Lexus CUV, your vehicle has arrived and the future is looking very bright.
NX 350h: Very much overshadowed by it’s bigger 450h+ brother, I think the NX 350h actually hits the sweet spot for most buyers. 239 combined horsepower, standard AWD and 37MPG is a compelling formula for everyone from hypermilers to driving enthusiasts. There’s no doubt that the 450h+ will be faster, but if the RAV4 lineup is any indication, the NX 350h will actually be better balanced, less expensive and you don’t have to plug it in, which might be advantageous depending on where you live. The NX 350h also gets a 20 horsepower boost over the RAV4 Hybrid which should make its performance even better. Acceleration was a common complaint with the current generation NX 300h and Lexus has certainly solved the problem, and then some.
NX 200, 250 and 260: Global models and volume players, these two naturally-aspirated four cylinder engines in the NX will help to make it affordable, broaden its appeal in displacement-conscious markets, and give consumers more choices. If you don’t frequently find yourself in the left lane, a base NX 250 might be just fine. None of these would be my first choice, but I’m happy that Lexus is building out the entire NX product line with so many options.
NX 450h+: Ok, thank you for waiting. Here we are. I’m probably most glad that Lexus is building this car so we can say the company is taking bolder steps towards electrification. Could they be doing more? Sure, but 36 miles of electric range, more than 300 horsepower, standard AWD, and a hybrid gasoline engine for when your charge runs out is a formula that the market can’t get enough of (hint: try to get your hands on a RAV4 Prime). For eco-friendly folks or straight-line speed demons, this is probably the perfect NX… but it’s going to be pricey.
As a person who has mostly driven rear-wheel drive Lexus sedans like the IS, GS and LS, or body-on-frame SUVs like the GX and 4Runner, the Lexus NX has never been on the top of my shopping list. Will the 2022 NX change that? Due to my 6’1″, broad frame fitting better in a GX 460, probably not, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it more than ever before when standing next to the dark gray NX 350 F SPORT. More than that, the new NX made me think a lot about the future of Lexus and just how far the company has come with one single model. We’ve heard complaints for many years about engines that need more power, infotainment that is clunky and outdated, designs that look too dramatic or silly, and technology that has fallen behind the competition. The NX trounces all of those complaints in one fell swoop.
Consider packing Lexus Interface, a line of powerful and efficient new powertrains, full-time AWD with performance credentials, and clever safety and convenience technology all into a package that looks more at home next to a Porsche Macan than ever before, and you realize that the NX is more than just the sum of its parts – it is our first look at the new Lexus and what else we’ll see in the 20 vehicles coming over the next 4 years. This NX is truly impressive in every way, and coming from a person who doesn’t generally like or drive crossovers, that’s a heavy endorsement.
Still looking for more NX content? Join the NX discussion on the Lexus Enthusiast forum.