Competes with: Infiniti QX50, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, BMW X1
Looks like: Lexus developed a design around the grille
Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder or hybrid powertrain
Hits dealerships: Late 2014
If there is one sure trend in the luxury-car marketplace, it is the development of the compact luxury SUV. Lexus is officially joining the club with the just-introduced production model NX.
The company has debuted concept versions of the NX a few times, with the most recent being a radical-looking design at the Tokyo Motor Show in November 2013. The 2015 Lexus NX 200t and NX 300h are toned down from the concept but signify a big move by the brand.
The NX is debuting at the Beijing Auto Show next week and will not be at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, which is running at the same time.
When talking about new Lexus models these days, it's hard to forgo mentioning the now-trademark spindle grille. The NX makes it impossible to miss the darn thing. It is the prominent design element up front — if not on the entire car — but Lexus didn't get lazy with the rest of the SUV's styling.
The headlights are stealthy and narrow, creating a wedge as they reach toward the spindle's top. A small eyelash of LEDs wisps beneath them at the point where the grille actually spindles (if that's accurate).
Both the NX 200t F Sport and 300h models shown here — there will be a 200t non-F Sport as well — are dramatic, but the 300h looks better prepared for a front license plate.
The car's profile and rear are far less interesting and follow other recent designs from Lexus and Toyota SUVs such as the current Toyota RAV4 and Highlander.
Inside the NX it's much harder to see a comparison to other models, but it still follows the overall style of recent Lexus models like the GS and IS. The center stack is reminiscent of the aging CT 200h, as well.
The F Sport's interior looks appropriately sporty with black leather lined with red stitching and red and black leather seats with a unique steering wheel.
The 300h shown here is more opulently treated with a mix of tans and blacks and wood inlays.
Both show a two-gauge cluster with digital elements in between. The gearshift is located high in the center console ahead of the cupholders, with Lexus' latest multimedia controls positioned closer to the driver.
Seventeen-inch wheels are standard on the NX; 18-inch wheels are optional.
It's somewhat surprising that Lexus didn't release images of the rear seats or cargo area. In other compact luxury SUVs these areas tend to be rather cramped, and we expect that the NX is inline with that trend.
Specs for the U.S. version haven't been released.
Under The Hood
Lexus also hasn't revealed much about the engines powering the two models that are coming to the U.S. later this year.
What has been confirmed is that an all-new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine will power the 200t. This is not just a new powerplant to the current lineup; this is the first time Lexus has ever used a turbocharged engine in any of its cars or SUVs.
The NX 300h has a hybrid powertrain that we believe to be the same one found in the ES 300h. In that sedan, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine and electric motor generate 200 total horsepower and return a combined mileage rating of 40 mpg.
Also not mentioned is whether these compact SUVs will be available with front- or all-wheel drive or both.
We'll have more information on both models in the coming weeks.