JAPANESE luxury car brand Lexus threw out its own design rule book in creating the NX in late 2014, and has kept the trend of pushing the design barriers with the new 2017 variant of the NX200t, a vehicle packed with ‘attitude’ in its styling, that gets passers-by gawking.
Curiously, the Lexus NX line-up is classified in Australia as a ‘compact’ SUV, however it feels rather spacious compared to other manufactures’ models in its class.
The NX200t Sports Luxury we drove had the premium Sonic Quartz paint job, and along with a host of aero and design add-ons, it feels sophisticated and refined. Up-front, it scores the latest Lexus ‘spindle grille’ and the trendy ‘hawk-eye’ piercing headlights. There’s also lots of aero work to be seen with ducts and crevices.
Side view sees the tapering roof line, curved glasshouse, flared wheel arches and nicely styled 18-inch alloy wheels. At the rear, you will notice an aero shape for the jewel like tail lights and a tailgate spoiler. The luggage area was shallow but still easily handled the three sets of golf clubs for our road test. That’s 500 litres with the rear seat in-place or 1545 litres when folded flat.
Over the entry-level ‘Luxury’ grade, the Lexus NX 200t Sports Luxury adds even more extras, including leather/wood grain-look interior, moon roof, 14-speaker premium Mark Levinson audio system, 360-degree panoramic view monitor and LED headlights with auto high beam.
The ‘Sports Luxury’ also scores some impressive technology inclusions such as a wireless induction charger for phones and mobile devices, head-up display, pre-collision safety, radar cruise control, adaptive variable suspension, Stop and Start System, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning, Rear Performance Damper and SPORT+ Drive Mode.
It also comes with Lexus Enform, a suite of apps that allows you to feel connected and informed in a number of ways. Utilising compatible smartphones, Enform allows you to remotely send destinations to the Navigation system, search for local businesses, locate nearby service stations, view the weather, gauge your travel time, create the perfect soundtrack with Pandora and even contact a Lexus concierge representative.
The team at Exhaust Notes Australia did find the new wireless induction charger for phones and mobile devices was not quite fit for purpose for all ‘Smart Phones’. Most phones on the market these days are considerable in size, however the new induction charger does not cater for these.
This reviewer has a Samsung s6 Edge Plus and this didn’t fit in, nor did the standard Samsung S7 Edge. The centre console would not close with either phone, which was slightly disappointing for such a technology packed SUV.
The cockpit layout of the NX200t, including seat height and steering wheel adjustment, ensured a great driving position and the leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel was just the right size. To the left, the thick centre console provided good bracing and padding for your knees in cornering and we can think of some high-performance cars with six-figure price tags that don’t offer that.
As usual with Lexus, the satellite navigation screen provided a great display and its operation (as well as the audio system) didn’t require a doctorate in IT. Lexus has also introduced the new ‘Lexus Remote Touch’ (LRT) interface which debuted in the 2017 NX, a simple-to-use touch pad with pinch and swipe gesture recognition to control the multimedia and navigation system.
This LRT interface is an easy way of navigating yourself through the Entertainment and Navigation applications, but does take a little getting used to. The touch pad is highly sensitive and only requires small out of intervention from the user to navigate. If too much pressure is applied, you find yourself navigating into areas you did not want to select.
The all-wheel-drive Lexus NX200t Sports Luxury features a new sequential six-speed automatic transmission, and a tubo charged 2.0-litre engine. Maximum power is 175kW and peak torque sits at 350Nm. Claimed fuel consumption scores 7.9L/100km, however, the best we could manage was 10.5L/100km.
The combination of performance, fuel consumption, weight and package size sees the automotive world trending to forced-induction 2.0-litre engines for a variety of vehicle segments. Lexus has been onto this trend for some time and, in the Lexus way, developed its own top-shelf version of a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine entirely in-house.
Debuting on this engine for Lexus are a cylinder head with an integrated four-into-two exhaust manifold and a fresh version of variable valve timing called VVT-iW. The ‘W’ indicates this engine can switch from James May to Jeremy Clarkson as required (‘w’ider range of inlet timing variation…get it?).
We certainly liked the turbocharged petrol engine, but there was a touch of latency and turbo lag when trying to poke the power out of the 2.0-litre. The Sports Luxury NX 200t – like the F Sport model – scores the adaptive variable suspension (but a different calibration to the F Sport’s sporty settings).
As well as the usual parameters (speed sensing, roll control, rebound control and anti-dive/anti-squat control), the Lexus system has a clever control in the vertical G sensor which detects when you’re not on a sealed road to provide a more refined experience inside.
The adaptive variable suspension responds to the settings of the Drive Mode Select System which (in the Sports Luxury and F Sport models) has ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport+’ settings. The centre screen within the dashboard confirms your selection.
During our road test, it was easy to pick the differences in damping force and throttle actuation, and in ‘SPORT+’ mode we did find the Lexus NX200t quite dynamic (for an SUV). Of course, at the limit, the AWD configuration meant under steer was inevitable, but easily controlled via the throttle.
In that context, the Sports Luxury model doesn’t quite match the traction of the lower profile 235/55R18 rubber fitted to the F Sport variant, but initial turn-in was good and there was a pleasing lack of body roll. The standard rubber did however produce some unwanted road noise which was considerably noticeable.
The NX 200t was refined around town and provided the extra creature comforts for long open road stretches. We think Lexus has hit a ‘home run’ with the NX 200t. We like the looks, we like the luxury kit, we like the drive and there’s no doubting the value-for-money.
Priced at $82,315 (drive-away) the Lexus NX 200t Sports Luxury is exclusively all-wheel-drive (AWD). It comes in nine colours including Onyx, Sonic Quartz (as tested), Mercury Grey, Premium Silver, Titanium, Vermilion, Graphite Black, Deep Metallic Bronze, and Sparkling Meteor. Some six interior leather/trim combinations are also available.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Lexus Australia. To find out more about the 2017 Lexus RX200t Sports Luxury, contact your local Lexus dealer. Pictures courtesy of Dan Cantero Photography.