2015 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport : Lexus Enthusiast Full Review

mikeavelli

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The new 2015 Lexus NX has taken its class by storm for a variety of reasons -- stunning looks, a new turbo engine, and aggressive pricing have all been mixed with the usual Lexus qualities.

I had the opportunity to test one for a week to get up close and personal with the latest Lexus SUV. Here's the Cliff's Notes: It's a near-perfect small SUV for people that want to stand out and not blend in. Funny how things can change!



This entire class of compact SUVs pretty much wear the same grey suit & white shirt uniform at a private school, safe and predictable, and here we have a kid that decides to dress in a stylish Italian suit and doesn't care one bit about other people's opinions. Only the Range Rover Evoque has the same presence in this class.

Pictures cannot capture all the design details, especially the aggressive spindle grille. In person, it works like magic. I was stunned by how many people, mostly guys, described the exterior using words like "aggressive" or "good looking". Time will tell how well the design ages, but I think it will be fine.

Straight from the front, there isn't a more aggressive car in the class. Like all the new Lexus designs, the F-Sport grille features a L-Shaped mesh with the bumper support set behind.

This particular NX arrived with stock HIDs and not the optional LEDs, which gives the SUV a slightly tamer look.



In a darker setting, you can see the bright separate LED DRLs:



With the headlights on, the LED DRLs dim like on all Lexus and the LED Fog Lamps match perfectly. Overall, I would with the LED headlight option as it completes the look and the light output matches the DRLS. LEDs also burn less energy than HID bulbs.



The LED DRLs actually wrap around the front bumper, and it looks sensational:



Some brands have their DRLs turn off and then use them for the turn signal -- it reminds me of a black eye, and comes off as cheap. The NX features a full separate amber LED turn signal, along with a small marker in the sideview mirrors:



The F SPORT has gloss black sideview mirrors, something I normally dislike. But while I prefer body colored, the black seems like a growing industry trend, and it didn't bug me all in person. The sideview mirrors also seem proportionate to the NX body, and lacks the "dumbo" look of some older Lexus models.

Also note the tiny glass window in front, similar to the RX:



I woke up bright and early to take photos at the Knight Concert hall in Miami:



Even though this is a FWD based vehicle, Lexus has managed to make the front overhang not look too big, a visual trick Audi has mastered.

Some people noted the black plastic surround around the wheel arches, which doesn't bug me but does seem rather cheap compared to the rest of the vehicle. Visually, it adds a rugged look and nice contrast. If you are curious to see a body colored NX, here's what they're selling in Japan.



To be honest, I could look at the NX all day -- it is just striking. The F SPORT offers upgraded 18" wheels over the standard 17" ones, but YOU KNOW I'm thinking 20" Vossen Wheels and a drop (shameless plug).



I just love this upper body scoop, it adds real flair to the body:



This is now the third Lexus (CT, RC, NX) where the moonroof pops outside the body. The silver roof rails flow with the body, but there's no gap and I'm not sure how you would tie something down (maybe someone can chime in). I honestly didn't notice any difference in wind noise or buffeting.



I thought this was clever detailing, the LED rear taillights flow inside this black plastic. No Altezza's here! :D

It works well, looks aggressive, and you are not stuck with larger looking red taillights



The rear wiper is small, but otherwise Lexus has done a great job with the rear. For too many cars, the rear is an afterthought. Note the dual chrome tipped exhaust outlets:



One of my "things" is always seeing where the rear view window drops in the door, because I love driving with my windows down. The NX rear window does not drop all the way.



A stylish city for a stylish vehicle.



Interior

Continuing the theme outside, the interior of the NX 200t offers a ton of style as well. This F SPORT NX came with the Rioja Red color scheme also offered in the IS, and it offers even more style for those want some color inside.

Personally, I loved the red and was super happy to try it out. I wish I could have optioned my LS with it.



There's some wonderful red stitching throughout the dash, it's a really nice touch and gives the interior a premium look. The plastics on the top of the dash and doors are good quality material. The lower doors and some lower trim around the console is a harder plastic, to be expected in a vehicle at this price point.

There are F SPORT touches like the aluminum pedals and badging.



The 7-inch screen is stationary -- it would have been cool to have a larger motorized display. Using it as a split screen just wasn't great, the screen was too small for so much information.



The new Lexus clock is at the center of things, and while buttons are at a minimum, they are very easy to use and reach due to the raised center stack. There was a slot for my iPhone, and it didn't slip out while driving.

There are buttons for heated seats, but cooled seats would be a great option especially in Miami. Hopefully the 2016 NX model year gets them.



Ahhh, the new Lexus RTI Touchpad. Where other Lexus models offer Remote Touch with the mousepad, this lets you use your finger. I had no issues with it at all, it worked well and the feedback you felt when you pushed it was great. If anything, it is still distracting to use since you tend to glance down or at the screen, which a few members here have noted.



A few things I want to note. First is that exposed screw which would drive me crazy. Under the handrest is a cover which you pull open to offer more storage, maybe to keep change in. Here, the armrest is open and you see the wireless phone charger. All in all, storage space wasn't great.

The cupholders are advertised as Lexus as being able to "grip" your cups, and it worked very well for me.



Unless I missed it, we couldn't see a 9-Volt plug in the rear and we had to use the one in the armrest. However, with the wireless charger, only the smallest 9-Volt devices will fit. I am unsure if the wifeless charger can be removed to offer more room, but I think all vehicles should have 3-4 ports for charging in this day and age.



Rear seat room is average for class. Its fine for 4 people, 5 would be tight. Rear headroom is also not great, but given the body style it's to be expected.



As you can see, the seats do recline 60/40 with the manual handle. There is an available power-rear seat recline/fold option, which is first in this class. The seats do not more forward/rearward, so you cannot create more legroom.

Cargo Room/Family Usefulness

The NX is in the fastest growing segment in the luxury field, with more flexibility than a sedan with a similar footprint. I owned a first generation RX 300 briefly, and the dimensions are quite similar except for cargo room as the RX was just boxier.

1999 RX 300
  • 180 inches long
  • 71.5 inches wide
  • 65.7 inches tall
  • 103.1 inche wheelbase
  • Cargo Capacity with Seats up 39.8
2015 NX 200t
  • 182.3 inches long
  • 73.6 inches wide
  • 64.8 inches tall
  • 104.7 inch wheelbase
  • Cargo Capacity with Seats up 17.6

Here's a general idea of room -- note the cargo cover is not in place. Also note the twin gas hinges, the rear door is power operated. Moving the rear seats in a recline position makes a serious impact with space.



I'm not going to beat up the NX or any other CUV but they don't hold much:



In the GS or LS I had no issue fitting two boxes, this bag and plastic storage. In the NX I had to drop the rear seat:



My wife and I had checked the NX out to possibly replace her GS F-Sport, but she was concerned about room. I thought it would be fine. As usual she was right, I was wrong :D The biggest test came when we brought baby Michael out to the park.



I tried initially to put the seat in the middle, but could not figure it how to install the rear facing car seat.

Even with this rather large Recaro seat, I had no issues driving with it behind me. However, compared to the GS or LS, two more people in the rear would have been tough. Also I noticed the baby can easily reach drinks in the armrest because it's is elevated compared to the GS/LS.



Mini-Mike though loves red interiors and he is a biased Lexus baby :D



I had to put the seat in the full recline position to fit the car seat. You can judge on how much more you could fit inside -- there is room for groceries or the baby stroller. With the 2016 RX gaining in size, Lexus really has done a great job differentiating the two models instead of them being too close to one another.



The cupholders in the doors are great to have.




The new Turbo Engine


The NX debuts a new 2.0 Liter I-4, which offers the power of a smaller V-6 engine. 235 peak horsepower is a around 5000 RPM, with 258lbs peak torque at a very low 1600 RPM through most of the power band.

The industry leaders have moved to turbos, and Lexus has now joined the fold. I have always been a fan of naturally aspirated engines and their power delivery, which feels more linear to forced induction. The NX pulls pretty well at any speed, though acceleration from a stop is slower than at speed.

The NX also weighs near 4000 lbs, and this hurts performance and MPG. I am still unsure why it's so heavy, but I assume its safety additions and technology. This is still a ULEV rated engine for low emissions and MPG is rated at 25 MPG total (22 city/28 highway). I observed 23.3 MPG in mostly city driving. The engine was very smooth most of the time, and didn't feel like a 4-cylinder unless I was in park (where I noticed a bit of vibration, which I attribute to being such a small engine).

I liked the new power plant, but I cannot say I love it. This engine is headed to more Lexus products where it will replace the well known 2.5 V-6 engine and its 204-hp and 185 lbs of torque. The NX is quoted at 0-60 in 7.2 seconds, while the IS 250 is at 7.7 seconds, so I'm eager to try this engine in the lighter IS.

(Wishful thinking, but I think the 3.5 DI V-6 would be amazing in the NX.)

The Drive

The NX F-Sport handles pretty well for a CUV, and I think will make most buyers super happy. Steering feel isn't that communicative, but there's enough to feel good about the car. I took quite a few expansion ramps at speed and the NX was fine. If anything, I feel the stock tires are really timid and offer almost no feedback. I am really curious to add better quality tires, a lower ride height and wider/larger wheels. I think it would make a really big difference and give me more confidence. I still seem to prefer cars, standouts being the X5 or Cayenne for SUV's.

Riding around town or on the freeway is good in the NX, feeling like a proper new generation Lexus. The suspension did hit rather hard over speed bumps or large road irregularities, but I attribute the roughness to this class of car more than anything.

Gauges are easy to read. A HUD option would be great, especially since its offered up in Canada. The NX has pretty small dimensions for a luxury vehicle, so parking was a snap and something I could appreciate living in the city.

(I aim to give a review of a modified NX in the very near future to see if the additions I suggest help or hurt things.)

Technology

The NX is loaded with tricks, many I didn't use. One I did try was the voice navigation, which seemed to work very well compared to other Lexus models I've used, including my own. The Drive Mode Select dial to put the vehicle into Sport mode adds better throttle response and you get a small red glow on the dash.

Again, the wireless phone charger could prove very useful and the new touchpad worked very well. I tend to use the "Dynamic Cluster" quite a bit, mostly to show music playing since I don't like using a 7-inch split screen.



The sound system was rather weak in regards to clarity and overall crispness, even with 10 speakers (8 are standard). The NX debuted new technology that enhances the sound of bluetooth streaming, the NX did get quite loud compared to other base Lexus systems in regards to bluetooth streaming.



Conclusion

After a week, it was pretty easy to see why the NX is such a hit. In March, the NX was near the top of its class in only its fourth month of sales, and even broke the top 15 best selling luxury vehicles.

The F SPORT would be the way I would go, as it just looks the part inside and out. For my family needs, it's too small, but for its intended market it seems to be just perfect. It would be a great daily driver, and has a ton of potential as a cool project car. Lexus did their homework, and the NX is definitely a grand slam.

Big thanks to Lexus and the Lexus Southern Regional office as they provided the NX F-Sport for review!

All pictures can be found at the gallery here.

Mike Forsythe, aka @LexFather.
 
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krew

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Amazingly thorough review -- excellent job.

(I was surprised about the mention of 9V chargers -- I just use USB for everything nowadays.)
 

mmcartalk

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Great write-up, Mike. :) You've got as many (if not more) pictures and images in there as sentences.

I did an NX review over at CL (a non-F-Sport version). Still, I found it more agile and better-handling, but overall less refined, than the current RX.
 

RAL

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Great review Mike, especially all the great pics with sweet Miami in the background! Love the color! ;) I think that's good gas mileage for all-city constant stop/start Miami traffic. There are quite a few luxuries denied us in the US: panoramic roof, power-folding mirrors, un-cropped front fascia in non-F-Sport, 360 surveillance . . . very frustrating, but I assume this is to further distinguish the coming RX. All-in-all, we are yet still happy with our NX.
 

bnizzle87

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Appreciate the candid review, Mike! We've been constantly checking inventory with the NX at local dealers and are adamant that it will be the next vehicle in our family's garage. Such a handsome lil fella you got ridding in the back.
 

CIF

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Amazing review!!! Now that's what I'm talking about! :D

Awesome photos to complement the write up.

Also great job on the new section guys! Love it!
 

Ruksac

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Awesome job Mike. So thorough. And I couldn't agree with you more about how cars with the LED DRLs look cheap when their turn signals are on. A black eye is a perfect description.
 

mikeavelli

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Thanks everyone! I really like the NX and since we live in the city it hits home how good of a small city SUV this is. If you go to the Flickr Link with the pictures, I even have some of the spare tire and where the tools are for those that are curious.

I've been reviewing cars for quite elsewhere so big huge thanks to KREW for giving me the platform to share on this level.

EDIT-KREW let me know that the exposed screw is the same thing inside the LFA.
 
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Great work here Mike! A very fair review, they do look great out on the road around other "normal" vehicles .
Do your cars in the US have the auto start stop of the engine at idle to help save fuel? I found this works much better than the BMW's I have driven with this system.
p.s nice Recaro baby seat for Mini Mike! No ISOFIX (Latch) though?
 

Andyl

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Great review, Mike. I particularly like the discussion of trunk space, child seat and bulky boxes related to GS insightful.
 

mikeavelli

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Thank you....a few things I also would like to mention and will be sure to include for the next review.

1. Engine noise is actually pretty sweet under full throttle, a pleasant surprise.
2. The paddle shifters on the F-Sport are great to have (I am a fan of paddle shifters, heck since "E-Shift" on the GS 400). If you are looking for swift gear changes, the traditional tranny here is slow compared to a DSG.
3. Seat comfort is really good. I am a fan of the new Lexus seats. The car has the usual 8-10 way adjustments for this class.
4. The "Nu-Luxe" as many of you have now experienced is very good and a great alternative to leather. Never thought I would be a fan of "pleather" in a luxury vehicle but it is very very well done. I do believe they are also made to be environmentally friendly compared to traditional leathers.
5. The NX has a spare, just not a full size one. There is also some storage space to keep things hidden. Pic below

 

CIF

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More underfloor storage space than I expected, great shot, thanks!
 

CIF

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Mike, about the lights, according to the spec sheet, those are not HIDs, but LED as well, just not the triple-beam. IMO, I'd be happy with those and skip the optional LEDs.
Interesting stuff, thanks! Toyota/Lexus does use both circular and the optional "angular" LED lights in their latest models, but that is good to know.
 
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Great review Mike! No Vossen test fit? :D

Question for you, that pic with the mini-Mike's car seat, whose seating position is that on the front seat? When I sat in the NX, I found the back a little tight, but was a little surprised to see how well that seat fit there. I hear you on the screen too. I was between the NX and the GS and gas savings be damned, I couldn't go from small screen in my IS to small screen in the NX. The GS interior is just a dream to be in
 

corradoMR2

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Mike, I love pics in a review. Makes it all the better. Awesome read!

I agree with the soft launch but it does pull very strongly to redline after about a second. Though with the engine note and responsive powertrain factored in, I prefer the antiquated but buttery smooth 2.5 V6 in my IS. I'd pick this engine for the NX if I had a choice. You also seem to be on the fence regarding the 2L Turbo.

I wish you guys down south would have AVS. It soaks up the bumps so well, in fact better than the RX F Sport I owned. Then flick it in Sport S+, and ride stiffens for reduced body roll and more responsive handling.

One of my pet peeves for which I've been reaching out to Lexus is to review and revise their advertised cargo capacity. What many don't realize is the 17.6 cu ft is measured BENEATH the rigid tonneau cover. I calculate between 26-28 cu ft with numerous pics, data, and measurements to show it. (I owned three RXs, latest gen topping at 40 cu Ft and no way the RX is two and a half times the size of the NX behind the seats :) )


Seats up, lots can fit:


Honda Fit: 16.6 cu ft. nearly the same as the NX... really? Pics don't lie :)


RX fits exactly 5 of these grocery bins with virtually no room to spare. NX fits 4 but with room for 3 or so more grocery bags in the net virtually equaling the RX's in floor space.
 

CIF

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Bravo corradoMR2 with the pics!

However I'll chime in as to why Lexus (likely) advertises their cargo capacity with such a method. I believe Lexus is being purposely conservative, and rating total cargo capacity without it affecting rear visibility through the mirror and rear glass. Suddenly then, Lexus calculating it below the tonneau cover makes a lot of sense ;).
 
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