Drive: 2015 Lexus NX 200T Review

We review the 2015 Lexus NX 200T – the luxury compact SUV boasting the first ever Lexus with a Turbo

Pros

  • Stylish design inside and out
  • Excellent combination of performance and fuel economy 
  • Superb user interface to infotainment system 

Cons

  • Steering could use more feedback 
  • Keyless-entry touch sensors don’t always react well to gloved hands
  • Heads-up display’s bezel could be better integrated into the dash top

The origins of Toyota’s luxury brand date back to 1983, but most of the cars turned out over those 32 years — including the first, the LS in 1989 — focused on providing the Toyota mantra of ultimate reliability, if not necessarily driving exhilaration, in a leather-wrapped, wood-endowed, impeccably painted luxury package.

So with few exceptions, most of the Lexus vehicles I’ve driven have been very nice, very luxurious and very well-built. Only a few I’d say were really fun to drive.

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Every variation of the IS are the exceptions to that rule. I particularly enjoyed the first model, with the boxy edges and chronograph-watch instrument panel. Especially when it later came out with a stick.

Still, between the early RX and ES and GS models, none really left me thinking ‘Wow. That was one fun ride.’

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But in the past three weeks, I’ve driven two models that prompt me to ask the question: Who are you and what have you done with Lexus? And it all seems to be following from the Toyota president’s mandate to stop building mere appliances.

First was the RC 350, a brilliant, sexy coupe with power and handling to match. Today’s subject, the NX 200 T crossover, is the other. I can hardly wait for the next.

The NX is one of the most-fun-to-drive small crossovers on the market. The 2.0-litre turbo engine is both thrifty and powerful, able to save fuel when you need and burn rubber when you don’t. It gains a lot of its driving enjoyment from the use of a conventional automatic rather than a CVT, of which even the best aren’t exactly thrilling.

Combine that with excellent handling, sharp steering and a sporty ride and it’s part crossover, part sports car.

The NX starts with the 200T at $41,450. The 300h, a hybrid, ups the price to $59,450 and offers, in Lexus’ words, V-8 performance with hybridesque fuel economy.

Lately, Lexus has done an excellent job of making sure models don’t come off as warmed-over Toyotas. There was, previously, a lot of truth in Robert DeNiro’s line from Analyze That: “That’s like a Toyota.” (To a couple who just said they drive a Lexus.)

Like the other Lexus models, the NX starts in the front with the spindle grille. Behind that is a pleasing contrast of sharp lines and curvy parts, leading to a raked windshield and a roofline that tapers at the rear.

Inside, the NX also looks like no Toyota that has come before.  The new design language of long, shallow air vents, aluminum trim and accent pieces that mimic the spindle grille continue from other models. It’s one of the classier interiors in the business. The lack of any contrived woodgrain trim means it’s elegantly minimalistic, too.

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The NX starts with the 200T at $41,450. The 300h, a hybrid, ups the price to $59,450 and offers, in Lexus’ words, V-8 performance with hybridesque fuel economy. The tester was the F Sport Series 2 at $53,550. The F package adds toys such as rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, heated steering wheel, 10-speaker sound system, paddle shifters, navigation, a G-meter, sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels, among other options.

The engine is a 2.0-litre turbo with 235 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Heated seats, back-up camera, LED headlights and smart key with push-button start are standard.

That engine offers some pretty decent fuel economy given its excellent acceleration: my calculated mileage, 326 km and 36 litres of fuel, works out to 11.2 litres per 10 kilometres for about a 50-50 mix of city and highway. I burned just a hair more than a half tank in my week in the NX. The official numbers are 10.8 city and 8.8 highway for the F Sport as driven and 10.6 and 8.4 for the non-F Sport models.

There was, previously, a lot of truth in Robert DeNiro’s line from Analyze That: “That’s like a Toyota.” (To a couple who just said they drive a Lexus.)

The steering is electric, and while it isn’t the most tactile, it’s no video game, either. The feel is one of tautness, with no overboosted power-assist to feel disconnected from the road and there’s some feedback from the wheels.

Suspension is independent all around and that gives the NX excellent grip. It holds the line around a descending-radius cloverleaf even when pushed, and transitions from grip to no grip predictably without the squirrelyness of some other crossovers. Best of all, it feels as though there is very little chassis flex.

The only sour bits are very minor: Toyota and Lexus touch sensors for the keyless entry are often rendered in inoperable by gloves, meaning you have to take your glove off to unlock or lock the door. Kinda defeats the purpose of keyless entry. In the NX, the optional head’s-up display projects a handy display of speed on the windscreen: the only problem is the cover is laid on top like an afterthought.  Perhaps in future models this could be addressed.

The NX 200t quickly became my favourite little crossover. It’s fun, nimble and luxurious.

2015 Lexus NX 200T Gallery:

2015 Lexus NX 200T Specs:

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder

Power: 235 horsepower

Torque: 250 pound-feet

Transmission: six-speed automatic with optional paddle shifters

Brakes: four-wheel disc brakes

Steering: electric power-assist rack-and-pinion

Suspension: MacPherson struts (front); double-wishbone (rear)

Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 10.8/8.8

Fuel economy, observed (l/100km): 11.2

Price: $41,450, starting MSRP.

How I’d order it: I’d stick with the gas model, but I’d upgrade not to the F Sport Series 2 on the tester, but rather to the Premium at $44,900. That adds a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, driver seat memory, aluminum roof rails, compass, power liftgate, powered sunroof and memory mirrors with auto-dimming.

Visit here for more info on the 2015 Lexus NX 200T

Kelly Taylor has been writing about cars since 2000. His favourite ride has been the Audi R8 from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, where he nearly traded the car for a Ford Ranger, a Greyhound Bus and the Blue Heron Gift Store in Kenora, Ont.