LEXUS has revised its striking NX SUV. Jack Evans travelled to Madrid to put the updated hybrid SUV to the test.
What is it?
The Lexus NX was first launched in 2014, and has gone on to be somewhat of a success for the brand, making up more than 30 per cent of the Japanese manufacturer’s sales in Europe since it hit the market.
Now, it’s been revised, with a range of exterior tweaks added along with a variety of adjustments to the suspension and improved safety features.
We’ll admit, the changes to the new NX are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them subtle. Up front, you now get a new-look grille, along with redesigned LED headlamps and indicators.
The rear bumper has also been restyled, as have the rear lamps. You’ve also got a variety of new alloy wheel designs to choose from, giving the NX a little more visual impact than before.
Lexus’ Safety System + has also been introduced, which includes a range of semi-autonomous assistance systems.
Features such as a pre-collision system, lane-keeping assist and road-sign assist all work together to make the NX a little safer than before, while adaptive cruise control and adaptive high beam contribute to a more relaxing drive, too.
What’s under the bonnet?
The headline powertrain on the new NX remains unchanged from the previous-generation car. It’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit linked to an electric motor.
Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the engine puts out 195bhp in total, along with 210Nm of torque. Economy figures are respectable – Lexus claims that you’ll reach 53.3mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions are 121g/km.
All-wheel-drive cars benefit from Lexus’ E-Four system, which uses an additional electric motor to drive the rear axle, while the front utilises power from the engine, electric motor or both combined.
The system can actively distribute power to the rear wheels, giving more traction in slippery conditions.
All four wheels are only driven when needed, meaning better fuel consumption and lower emissions without having to sacrifice traction.
What’s it like to drive?
Around town, the NX is – as you’d expect for a hybrid – quiet and relaxing to drive. There’s very little sound intrusion, while the ride is very comfortable, ironing out imperfections in the road. Under electric power, there’s a good amount of shove, too, making it adept at nipping in and out of inner city traffic.
However, longer journeys somewhat undo the overall driving experience. Despite there being close to 200bhp on tap, any sustained press of the accelerator is met by a lot of engine noise, but not a lot of forward progress.
Unfortunately, the CVT is once again the car’s undoing, and makes for strained acceleration.
Even those who are unlikely to ever drive the NX in a ‘spirited’ fashion will, from time to time, have to use half or even full throttle – and it’s at moments like these that the Lexus really doesn’t do all that well.
That said, when coasting or cruising it remains refined and quiet, while the steering is actually really rather pleasant thanks to a good degree of weight and a surprising amount of feel for a car in this class. It’s just a shame that this can’t really be exploited due to the SUV’s reluctance to accelerate without fuss.
It’s worth mentioning that though the previous-geneartion car was available with a non-hybrid 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, this is no longer available with the new car.
How does it look?
The original NX was somewhat of an edgy-looking car and this hasn’t been lost with the latest version.
The new additions and changes to the light units have given it a little more edge than before, while updated alloy wheel designs do improve the overall look of the car.
F-Sport cars in particular have a fair amount of presence on the road, with the large front grille now even more impactful than before.
The NX’s relatively compact dimensions do not negatively impact the car’s overall looks.
Whereas some SUVs rely on their large size in order to be visually appealing, the NX manages to be interesting despite still being on the smaller side of things.
What’s it like inside?
The interior of the old NX always felt like a well-made but cluttered place to be, and the same can be said of the new car’s cabin.
All of the materials are of a good standard, but the location of key buttons makes the interior less than intuitive to navigate.
It has been brightened up with a new silver frame, however, with higher-grade cars receiving either wood or carbon-fibre-look trim pieces.
Unfortunately, despite the refresh, the NX’s interior is still littered with a dizzying variety of controls – it’s a little like someone sneezed buttons over the dashboard.
It makes even simple inputs – such as changing media options or selecting a radio station – quite tricky, while the trackpad used to control the infotainment system can’t really match rival manufacturer offerings for ease-of-use.
Buyers are now able to choose from a wider variety of interior colour options, with cream and ochre upholstery shades available.
Boot space remains respectable at 475 litres, though this can be increased by lowering the rear seats.
What’s the spec like?
Prices for the NX start at £34,895 for a car in SE trim. You do get a decent amount of standard equipment for that bottom price, with features such as a premium navigation system with large 10.3-inch colour display and 10-speaker system included as standard. Dual-zone climate control and a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel are also included in the base SE-spec car.
Move up, and you’ll find features such as a 360-degree panoramic parking camera added to the standard equipment list, while parking sensors are included on Luxury-spec cars and above.
The Lexus NX remains an interesting prospect.
It’ll likely appeal to those who are often undertaking shorter trips, where the car’s hybrid technology will come into play, while its out-there looks are good for those who want to stand out from the crowd.
However, those with longer journeys in mind could find the NX’s powertrain draining, with its droning engine note under hard acceleration not exactly what you’d want from a relatively large, comfortable SUV.
It also sits in a very competitive segment, with more plug-in and mild hybrids than ever before – and this could make things very difficult for the NX.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: NX300h F Sport
Engine: Four-cylinder petrol with electric motor
Power (bhp): 195
Torque (Nm): 210
Max speed (mph): 112
0-60mph: 8 seconds
Emissions (g/km): 121