Lexus, the upmarket division of Toyota, continues leading the charge combining together luxury and environmentally-friendly alternate-powered choices.
The relatively new two-row NX crossover debuted in the 2015 model year and welcomes an all-new second-generation effort in 2022. It follows in the footsteps of the uber-popular mid-size RX five-door crossover introduced in the late 1990s that’s largely credited with bringing high-volume luxury crossovers mainstream. The RX, built upon a car-based unibody structure, showcased the value of such underpinnings when compared to bulkier body-on-frame truck platforms popular with the buying public prior to RX’s arrival.
While spec sheets from Lexus, pin NX as a subcompact; consider it a larger-framed subcompact or diminutive compact as ‘subcompacts’ have grown in stature and size during the past two decades. Gen Two sees NX wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) grow by just over an inch. Overall length increase but by a bit less than an inch. Lexus also markets a smaller UX unibody (car-based) crossover.
Since the luxury brands birth in 1989, it set the industry bar for interior quiet, a trait paid forward in this second-generation NX. The ride experience is smoother compared with Gen One thanks to the extended wheelbase improving comfort and handling combined for a calming experience. Generation Two’s ridged chassis keeps riders better planted during turns.
Exterior nuances remain evolutionary, not revolutionary when compared to the first generation, although when looking closely, a few differences become apparent. Outdoor handles update to include digital latches (E-Latch in Lexus speak). Instead of a mechanical pull, a simple touch of a square pad instantly unlatches door. Interior door handles disappear as well with a similar, flat, smooth touch-sensitive region.
Other cues include a steeper raked front windshield. Returning once again; the sizeable spindle grille now the face of the brand with Lexus logo front and center dominates the grille.
The hatch door replaces the circular ‘L’ logo with block letters spelling out L-E-X-U-S. Also new outback, a full-width taillight bar replaces two arrowhead designs. Open the hatch and this second generation gains 5 more cubic feet of cargo space for a total of 46.9 cubic feet with the 60/40 split second row backrests upright.
Powertrain options grow in 2022 with the introduction of a plug-in hybrid electric version (PHEV) combining an all-electric range of 37 miles backed up by a potent turbo-charged four-cylinder engine. Just about all other luxury PHEV competitors settle for a naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) four cylinder variant with less thrilling driving results.
In the 2022 model year, NX offers two distinctive gasoline versions and two compelling alternative-powered opportunities extending travel further. Case in point, the NX 350h, a self-charging gas-electric hybrid never in need of a wall-socket, registers an impressive 39 miles per gallon of combined city/highway travel, six miles better than the 2021 NX gas-electric hybrid version. The second hybrid offering is the aforementioned plug-in electric hybrid vehicle, the NX 450h+, the first ever PHEV ever offered in the Lexus lineup.
In addition to numerous propulsion opportunities, NX circa 2022 offers a wide range of pricing with the NX 250 front-drive, 203-horsepower, naturally-aspirated in-line four-cylinder edition squeaking in under 40 grand at $39,025. All other NX offerings in 2022 come with Midwest-friendly full-time all-wheel drive standard.
Our 2022 NX350 all-wheel drive tester of the week gets a boost up in power and numerical suffix reference thanks to an upgraded turbocharged, inline four-cylinder engine upping the horses to 275. In 2021, NX’s turbocharged, 2.0-liter four cylinder (marketed as NX300) connected with a six-speed automatic transmission delivering 235 horses. The NX350’s 2022 trim levels include Base, Premium, F Sport and Luxury with Base checking in at $43,025. Our Luxury NX350 tester had a starting price of $50,475, ending at $53,340.
The inline turbo four under hood includes an engine start-stop feature temporarily shutting down engine activity at prolonged stops to cut emissions while saving fuel. With this NX, the process is seamless and relatively imperceivable, better than many vehicles recently tested. A button near the transmission shifter deactivates this feature if desired.
This turbo four’s fuel economy falls short of the hybrid, but still delivers a workable 22 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway while requiring upgraded 91-octane premium fuel. The smallish fuel tank tops out at 14.5 gallons.
The top-shelf Luxury package/trim adds 20-spoke alloy wheels with silver finish, perforated leather-trimmed interior with seat quilting, four-way lumbar support driver seat, 10-inch heads-up windshield info display, upsized touch screen, and adaptive front lights. The tester also featured red leather-like interior inserts on all four doors, seats and between front buckets.
Kudos for ditching the cumbersome, clunky ‘remote touch interface,’ a non-touch screen design requiring buttons, dials and far-removed touch pad to motivate an in-screen curser for summoning sound and sometimes climate functions. In its place, a 9.8-inch touch screen (upgrading to a huge 14-inch variety). This screen provides an added benefit of opening room between the front buckets for a wireless charging area.
A complete interior redesign also saw the retirement of a distinctive, round analog clock. Disappointed to see the hands and face fade away, but a small price to pay for elimination of the remote touch interface. The new all-digital instrument panel snares cues from the LS Lexus flagship sedan. Headroom remains plentiful.
Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone compatibility come standard and now include wireless connectivity allowing instant pairing to the new touch-sensitive flat screen. Standard Bluetooth connectivity speeds along the hands-free phone function. Standard Voice Assist also allows climate controls to update via voice commands, but touch commands remain the dependable choice as voice command connection remains sporadic. Two USB ports are standard in front and back as is three months of Satellite Radio.
The push-button electric start/stop button resides far and high enough away from the steering column allowing for unfettered access when needed. Climate controls mostly monitor through the sizeable touch screen, with touch-sensitive buttons below the screen summon front and rear defrosters. Only one dial is found below the screen, controlling volume/on off functioning. It’s easier adjusting volume utilizing secondary steering wheel functions. A sweet-sounding 10-speaker audio system comes standard.
The newly designed electronic gear selector located between front buckets monitors the upgraded eight-speed automatic transmission and includes a dedicated push button to signal ‘Park.’ A small, stubby knob taps forward to signal reverse and backward for drive. Three drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport) select via a dashboard twist dial below the flat screen.
Both Lexus and Toyota load their vehicles with a goodly number of passive/active radar-inspired electronic safety features. The 2022 NX ups the ante further with standard ‘Lexus Safety System 3.0 Plus’ replacing the outgoing 2.0 version. What does this exactly mean? System fine tunings include adaptive cruise control detecting an upcoming curve and responding automatically with virtually no driver input. NX is the first Lexus promoting this advanced 3.0 technology.
Another high-tech newbie is found hiding in plain sight when peering into the rearview mirror. A digital rear-view video feed streams rear-time activity of happenings behind the rear window. Best time to activate this feature is when two or three folks occupy row two. This feed overrides any interference from heads, shoulders, arms or other body parts that might block visual access when using the conventional mirror thanks to tiny cameras mounted behind row two. It easily turned off via a manual toggle switch under the mirror frame. When driving solo, a switch back to the traditional non-digital feed works just fine because starring too long at the video feed induces headaches.
Lexus covers most powertrains (including our NX350 tester) with a 72 month or 70,000-mile warranty, longer than some rivals. The basic new car warranty also rates as above average with a 48-month 50,000-mile time horizon.
Price as tested: $53,340
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder turbo
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Overall Length: 183.5 inches
Overall Width: 73.4 inches
Overall Height: 64.6 inches
Curb Weight: 4,035 pounds
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway