What's hot: Faultless Lexus interior, premium features, turbo engine and proper six-speed auto.
What's not: No sporting 'burble' at the pipes, thirsty when pushed hard.
X-FACTOR: Better buying than the sporting German SUVs at this price, and individual looks.
Vehicle style: Medium SUV Wagon
Price: from $52,500 - $72,500
Engine/trans: 175kW/350Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol | 6spd auto
listed: 7.7 l/100km (2WD), 7.9 l/100km (4WD)
tested: 11.2 l/100km (2WD), 11.8 l/100km (4WD)
"What a difference the right engine makes." It's a comment we laid on the updated Ford Kuga just a few weeks ago.
It's catching on; now Lexus has put 'the right' engine and drivetrain into its edgy NX SUV.
That engine, nine years in development, is 2.0 litres of twin-scroll turbo putting out a respectable 175kW and 350Nm.
It spins like a top, and, unlike the NX 200t's hybrid stablemates, is not sapped by a 'porridgy' CVT droning away under the bonnet.
Instead, the 2.0 litre turbo is hooked-up to a proper six-speed automatic that can be rattled through the gears via a plus-minus plane sports shift, or will happily do so itself.
The front end is also better. The wallowy feel of the NX 300h hybrid is gone, and instead, revised spring and damper rates provide superior handling with a more controlled and flatter front-end.
So, yes, a transformation dynamically.
Of the other things that matter, this new NX is all-Lexus.
Inside these doors you will find one of the best-finished and best-trimmed interiors in the business, and it offers the same three-model range, of Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury.
But the 200t is cheaper, by $2500, than each in the equivalent NX 300h range.
We drove two variants at launch: both the 2WD F Sport and 4WD Sports Luxury. Beautiful cars, and very good buying at the $52,500 entry point to the range.
The new Lexus NX 200t is one we'd happily recommend you take a long look at.
NX 200t Luxury:
- LED headlights and daytime lights, fog lights
- Leather-accented interior trim
- Heated and power-adjusted driver and passenger seats
- Reversing camera and parking sensors
- Satellite navigation
- 10-speaker audio with digital radio, Bluetooth, audio streaming
- Automatic climate control
NX 200t F Sport:
- 360-degree panoramic camera display, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert,
- Wireless phone charger
- 10-way adjustable power front seats with driver memory,
- Heated and cooled front seats
Enhancement packs for F Sport (optional): moon roof and 14-speaker Mark Levinson Audio system, pre-collision safety system (PCS), all-speed active cruise control, lane departure warning, widescreen colour heads-up display (HUD), auto high beam, smart card key
NX 200t Sport Luxury:
- Power-folding 60:40 rear seats
- PCS, all-speed active cruise control, lane departure warning,
- Widescreen colour HUD
- All-LED headlamps with auto high beam,
- Smart card key, moon roof and 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio.
Sumptuous, and simply beautifully appointed, there is no model - surely - in the NX range that can disappoint for the accommodation.
Style, of course, is subjective; some may find the angular, stepped centre-stack a bit over-designed and busy, but there can be no argument as to the craftsmanship and quality of the build.
Neither can the seats be faulted. Not too firm, not too soft, and shaped 'just right' for an effortless day in the saddle, they also look sensational in duo-tone leather or NULUX (leather-look) trim.
Both driver and passenger seats are electrically adjusted and heated (of course); rear seats can be manually-adjusted for rake - something that sleepy-heads in the back will really appreciate - and can be split-folded to open up extra cargo space.
The instrument binnacle, with clear chronograph-style dials and graphical display for the driver (which includes a boost meter and g-force meter), looks nice and sporty, and the manual controls are well laid-out and right where they should be in the centre-stack.
The HUD, head-up-display, is also clear and a boon in these days of zero-tolerance speed limits and ever-changing highway speeds.
We're not so keen on the touchpad for the screen; it's a tad awkward to use (and a bit 'jumpy'), especially for this all-thumbs correspondent.
It accesses and controls all of the tech-functions of a high-tech feature list - like audio, Bluetooth, climate, sat-nav, etc. - and is logically structured and easy-enough to find your way around.
No doubt, you will have it mastered in a day or two (and won't have to holler for help from a 17-year-old).
The boot is big enough for three golf bags (without having to fiddle with the rear seats); it offers 500 litres of luggage space to the window line, expanding to 1545 litres with rear seats folded.
There are ample cubby holes and drinks holders spread throughout the cabin.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/trans: 175kW/350Nm 2.0 litre turbo petrol | 6spd auto
- Air-to-liquid intercooler, high-pressure direct injection, variable wastegate
- Variable valve timing (engine operates on both Atkinson and Otto cycles)
- 0-100km/h: 7.3 seconds (2WD); 7.1 seconds (4WD) (NX 300h: 9.2 seconds)
- Stop/start technology
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Adaptive variable suspension, front and rear performance dampers (FSport and above).
- Transaxle with flexible torque converter lock-up
- Limited slip, preloaded front differential
As we mentioned at the head, the new NX 200t might look all-but identical to the NX 300h hybrid range, but is an entirely different kettle of fish.
And better at the wheel in nearly every way.
While we strongly support the growth and development of hybrid and electric vehicle technology, the soggy CVT hooked up to the hybrid drive in the 300h range is pretty wearing.
And, in our view, not fuel efficient enough to make it the 'go to' choice.
The 2.0 litre turbo in the 200t changes the character of the NX 200t and gives it the opportunity to shine.
It feels alert underfoot, and hammers out a reasonably quick 7.1 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. Not bad for an upright square-rigged SUV.
More to the point, it puts a useable band of power underfoot when accelerating out of corners or when needing to overtake quickly. You can paddle it through the plus-minus gate with the sport-shift, or leave it to its own devices.
Either way, it's not a bad steer.
There is some body roll of course. The NX 200t is a premium luxury wagon first, not a sports car, and that little extra body roll is the result of a compliant suspension designed to iron out the rude intrusions of a ratty road.
And it is very comfortable. It is also whisper-quiet on road - much quieter than the equivalent Germans, and with less road noise and road 'shock' transmitted into the cabin.
Give it the beans, though, and you will quickly see the fuel economy suffer.
It's a simple matter of physics. In both 'two' and 4WD versions, we had it pushed to above 11.2 l/100km, but we were driving pretty hard, exploring the capabilities of the turbo.
Normal driving should see that fall to below 10.0 l/100km, at least.
This car, while it loses to its hybrid bro' for fuel consumption, is a sharper more satisfying steer. And we would find the $2500 price advantage of the 2.0 litre turbo pretty appealing if it came down to a choice.
The NX 200t is certainly the more dynamic drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While dynamically improved, and in the absence of other factors, the NX 200t is a solid 3.5 star performer on-road.
It has a terrific engine under its edgy bonnet, but so too are the petrol and diesel turbos inhabiting the equivalent Audi Q5 and BMW X3 SUVs.
But we've given it 'four-stars'.
The NX gets the extra half-point for the sheer premium feel of the interior - it is very well-trimmed and well-finished for that $52,500 price of entry.
And it consolidates its four-star rating for the quiet, comfortable and sophisticated way it swallows highway kilometres. At the wheel, or in the softly-trimmed passenger seats, there is an unmistakeable feeling of travelling 'first class' in the NX 200t.
It is, in fact, a beautifully engineered family wagon and genuine premium buying at little more than a mid-spec Kluger or top-spec Santa Fe.
So, yes, give this car some very close scrutiny if looking to buy in that $50k - $60k price bracket. There are a lot of good cars there, and the NX 200t is among them.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- NX 200t Luxury - 2WD - $52,500
- NX 200t Luxury - AWD - $57,000
- NX 200t F Sport - AWD - $63,500
- NX 200t Sports Luxury - AWD - $72,500
- NX 300h Luxury - 2WD - $55,000
- NX 300h Luxury - AWD - $59,500
- NX 300h F Sport - AWD - $66,000
- NX 300h Sports Luxury - AWD - $75,000