CHATHAM, Mass. – Every time Lexus introduces a new or completely redesigned/reengineered model, it moves the luxury/technology/performance needle up several notches. One of the latest examples is the thoroughly re-thought NX compact sport-utility/crossover vehicle (SUV/CUV) range.
Interested consumers can choose from two different gasoline-powered versions, a hybrid one and the first Lexus crossover plug-in hybrid. I spent a week exploring with a 2022 NX 350 F Sport Handling, one of the two gasoline-fueled versions.
Powerplant – efficient, powerful and reasonably economical
At the heart of the NX 350 is a 2.4-liter (146 cubic inches) turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces 275 horsepower and 317 pounds-feet of torque. Controlled by an eight-speed multi-mode automatic, electronically controlled transmission with intelligence (ECT-i), the power flows to all four wheels through a full-time all-wheel-drive (AWD) system.
The powertrain engineering results in a crossover which can accelerate to 60 miles per hour from rest in 6.8 seconds (some half a second quicker than the previous version) and still return more than 20 miles for each gallon of gas consumed.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the NX 350 at 25 mpg overall (22 city, 28 highway driving) and I achieved the overall number during my time behind the wheel. And I did this while driving the NX in a very spirited manner – attacking the curving roads of Truro and Wellfleet and scooting around the traffic on the Mid Cape Highway.
A solid, responsive platform
Helping to make my motoring both safe and sure, the NX 350 F Sport Handling platform was engineered to provide excellent, responsive handling while maintaining a comfortable, controlled ride. It achieved its design goals as seemingly all newer Lexus cars and SUVs do.
The adaptive variable suspension components assigned to this task include MacPherson-type struts up front with a trailing-arm type double wishbone setup in the rear. Performance shock absorbers all around complete the list of key items.
The F Sport Handling package means my NX was equipped with 20-inch aluminum sport wheels mounted with 235/50R20 all-season performance tires.
Again, all of these pieces worked well together providing a smooth, comfortable ride along with very solid road holding when the NX was pressed.
Lexus Safety System+ 3.0: up-to-date ADAS
The NX was fitted with the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0; the 3.0 meaning a seriously updated collection of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) from its predecessor. The list of ADAS features included:
- Risk-avoidance emergency steer assist
- Left-turn oncoming vehicle detection/braking
- Right/left turn oncoming pedestrian detection/braking
- Pre-collision system with:
- Oncoming-vehicle detection – even in low light
- Pedestrian/cyclist detection – even in low light
- Dynamic radar cruise control
- Road-sign assist
- Lane assistance/lane-departure alert
- Intelligent high beams
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Backup camera
Technology, luxury and amenities on the inside of the NX
Like virtually every new premium vehicle, regardless of segment, digital display screens dominate the dash of the 2022 NX 350 F Sport.
On the left, behind the heated/electrically adjustable steering wheel, is the driver-customizable seven-inch color multi-information display (and duplicating much of this screen’s critical information, a very well-engineered heads-up display in the windshield).
In the center of the dash a 14-inch color touch screen (part of the $2,200 F Sport Handling/Luxury package) provides the control for the new Lexus Interface with cloud-based navigation and upgraded voice-activation.
Lexus describes key elements of the system with, “The Voice Assistant is intended to be the primary way guests interact with the new multimedia system. Designed with dual microphones, enhanced noise-cancellation, seat detection and speaker location capabilities, the system enables a voice-first approach allowing front seat occupants an expanded and interactive experience to access navigation, media, phone and certain vehicle settings such as dual-zone climate control and window opening/closing.
“With the ubiquitous use of smart phones, an intuitive and simple guest experience is now possible with Lexus Interface. With the Lexus Interface User Profile feature, the driver’s personalized settings and experience can be retained in the cloud and accessible on the go in other Lexus Interface equipped vehicles. Once a profile is created in the Lexus App, guests can use a Bluetooth handheld device, smart key or manual login to access.”
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help make the characteristics described work as advertised. The CUV awaits your command to set the automatic climate control features, audio selections and navigation destinations, to name a few.
We listened to the audio through an optional ($1,020) 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium system.
The front seats feature heating and ventilation along with electric adjustment with red F Sport trim. The rear seats can be folded completely or in a 60/40 fashion.
The environment is warm and comfortable, regardless whether the trip is a short jaunt to the store or beach or a long, highway journey. It is truly a luxurious ride.
Luxury, comfort, style in a compact SUV
The pronounced grille immediately identifies the NX 350 F Sport Handling as a member of the luxurious Luxury brand and a week behind the wheel confirms this compact SUV continues the brand’s legacy.
The price – as tested $55,325 (including delivery fees as well as $7,600 in key options) – puts it on par with other luxury/premium compact SUVs and the well-deserved reputation for quality and reliability make it a solid choice within this vehicle segment.