CAREFREE, AZ – Lexus wants to reinvent itself around four foundational pillars: bold design, leading technology, electrification and driving dynamics honed on the company’s new test track in Shimoyama, Japan.
Fine-tuning its vehicles on this track, which replicates some of the most challenging parts of Germany's Nürburgring, produces what the company calls a Lexus Driving Signature.
Lexus says the redesigned 2022 NX midsize luxury CUV reflects all four of its new brand pillars and hopes it will attract younger, more diverse and more affluent customers.
Immediately identifiable as a Lexus, the ’22 NX leads with a familiar spindle-style grille and a slightly less jutting nose. Overall, the styling is toned down and tightened up, reminding us of last year’s restyled IS sports sedan.
Offering more passenger and cargo room than the previous-generation NX, the ’22 model features comfortable front and rear seating and a 22.7 cu.-ft. (643-L) cargo area, a 14% improvement in space, Lexus says. Fold the back seat down and maximum volume measures 46.9 cu.-ft. (1,328 L).
Most new NX models feature NuLuxe, a synthetic leather that looks and feels like the real thing. Upgrade from the base, Premium or F Sport trims to the Luxury version, and genuine leather is standard along with open-pore wood trim.
Heated and ventilated front seats (pictured above, left) and a heated steering wheel are available. The F Sport models have sport bolstering and additional interior details to convey performance, including a g-force meter.
The previous NX’s cluttered, layered dashboard is replaced by a driver-oriented cockpit with a minimalistic control layout (pictured below). Unfortunately, Lexus may have taken the Marie Kondo approach a little too far; sometimes, it’s hard to determine what a given control does.
There is no complaining about the new Lexus Interface infotainment system, aside from its propensity to collect fingerprints and cast odd reflections. Touchscreen sizes range from a standard 9.8 ins. (25 cm) to 14 ins. (36cm), and Lexus Interface includes an outstanding new Intelligent Assistant technology with responsive and accurate natural voice recognition.
It’s good that Lexus Interface is operable by voice because it has precious few physical controls. Apart from temperature dials for the dual-zone automatic climate control system and a power/volume knob for the stereo, Lexus bakes everything into the screen.
Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 (LSS+ 3.0) is also aboard the ’22 NX. New features include evasive steering assistance (helps stabilize the CUV during emergency maneuvers), intersection turn assistance (helps prevent unsafe left and right turns) and curve speed management for the adaptive cruise control (automatically slows the NX for curves).
While driving the empty backroads near Carefree, AZ, LSS+ 3.0 proves accurate and refined. The NX 350 F Sport test vehicle has a standard 10-in. (25-cm) head-up display densely packed with status data for the driving assistance systems.
Four versions of the new NX will be available: the NX 250, NX 350, NX 350h and NX 450h+.
The NX 250 features the same normally aspirated 2.5L 4-cyl. found in the Toyota RAV4. It makes 203 hp and 184 lb.-ft. (249.5 Nm) of torque and delivers power to the front or all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Drivers can choose between Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes.
Turbocharging brings added urgency to acceleration in the NX 350 (pictured below). It features a turbo 2.4L 4-cyl. generating 275 hp and 317 lb.-ft. (429.8 Nm), with peak torque available from 1,600 rpm to 3,600 rpm. It has a paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic and comes with standard all-wheel drive. Get the NX 350 F Sport, and Lexus supplies additional Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom driving modes.
The NX 350h features a gas-electric hybrid drivetrain pairing a 2.5L 4-cyl. with three motors and a 259V lithium-ion battery. Combined output measures 239 hp, and Lexus says the NX 350h will return 39 mpg (6.0 L/100 km) in combined driving.
Additional electrification arrives in the form of the NX 450h+. This model is a plug-in hybrid version of the CUV based on the NX 350h powertrain. It utilizes an AC 650V electric drive motor in addition to two motors and swaps the NX 350h’s battery for a 355.2V pack.
Total output measures 302 hp, and Lexus says the NX 450h+ can travel 37 miles (60 km) only on electricity before reverting to gas-electric hybrid operation and averaging 36 mpg (6.5 L/100 km) in combined driving.
Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to sample the new NX 450h+. Our test vehicles included the NX 350 F Sport and the NX 350h Luxury.
In addition to the turbocharged 4-cyl., the F Sport adds extra performance-oriented driving modes, a sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension with performance dampers and standard 20-in. wheels with 235/50 all-season run-flat tires.
Lexus says the NX F Sport accelerates to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.6 seconds, a claim that rings true on the road. This is a quick, athletic CUV featuring the smooth, capable and enjoyable driving dynamics associated with Lexus Driving Signature tuning.
Still, the Sport+ driving mode and g-force meter don’t align with the NX’s overall purpose and character. The NX 350 F Sport is a sporty CUV, not a performance model.
Driving the NX 350h Luxury variant suggests most people will be happiest with the hybrid. The hybrids cost $500 less than the turbocharged gasoline variants and are far more fuel-efficient. Immediately available electric motor torque makes the NX 350h feel responsive in urban and suburban driving situations, and the combined 239 hp is perfectly agreeable on the highway.
You cannot get F Sport trim and equipment with the hybrid powertrain, but the softer-feeling Luxury model with its attractive 20-in. multi-spoke wheels is nevertheless pleasurable to drive. Plus, our experience suggests the fuel economy benefit is well worth the sport-tuned trade-off.
When the ’22 Lexus NX goes on sale in December, prices will start at $37,950 for the NX 250 with front-wheel drive and rise to $56,900 for the NX 450h+ in F Sport Luxury trim.
In addition, Lexus will charge $1,075 to ship the new NX from the Cambridge, ON, Canada, factory that builds them to your local dealership.