By Cars.com EditorsOctober 11, 2021
About the video
The Lexus NX has been redesigned for the 2022 model year and now comes in 4 different flavors. We get our first chance behind the wheel of 3. Watch out video to find out more.
(soft upbeat music) For 2022, Lexus has redesigned the NX compact SUV, for the first time since its debut in 2015, and it is a substantial redesign.
It has a whole bunch of Lexus firsts that foretell some changes that might be coming to other Lexus models in the future. There are now four separate Power Trains. There is the NX250 with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The NX350, which has a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder. That's a new engine. And in the hybrids, we have both the NX350h and the first-ever plug-in hybrid Lexus, which is the NX450h+. All have standard all-wheel-drive except the 250, which offers front or all-wheel-drive. We're at a Lexus event outside of Phoenix, all of these vehicles are available except the NX250. We got a chance to drive all three others. Now to give you a little bit of history. when the NX came out in 2015, we were a little disappointed. We found it was a little tight, rode a little bit harsh. In fact we had a multi-vehicle comparison test. Most recently, three years ago, or four model years ago, and out of seven contestants DNX came in seventh. So we'll be looking for some of those things to see if Lexus has addressed any of them. But first, let's take a look at some of the things that have changed that might help you recognize a new 2022. Well, here it is, looks totally different, doesn't it? Um And probably not, unless you're a real aficionado of Lexuses. It has the same spindle grill or distorted hourglass grill, if that's what you want to call it. It's really kind of grown on us, or at least we've gotten used to it. The Nike swoosh. Daytime running lights are now over the headlights instead of under, one of the big changes, and this is how big the changes are. Instead of the Lexus L on the lift gate it now spells out in letters, Lexus. So not a giant change there. Now there's one thing that scared me when I read about it, which is that Lexus went with a button release system for the doors. And oftentimes this leads to you, you, instead of a door handle that actually pulls out and has a real positive feel to it. A button happens and you yank and the door doesn't move, and then it lets go and it's annoying. I have to say, this is one of the best executions I've found because the button is right in here. You'd never even know it. You go to pull and it opens. The same is true on the inside where the release is like a button with a positive throw, it's not like the little button in like a Corvette, which I never understood. Where you push it and then the door kind of opens. The company says this is partly for a feature that prevents the doors from opening if the sensors, sense that say, a cyclist or a vehicle is coming when someone tries to open the door. This allows the system to prevent the door from opening, so there is a reason for it. It's not just, oh, we want switches to open our doors. The fact that they didn't make the actual use of the door a negative in the process, I think is a big deal. Cause I've seen a lot of new-fangled door releases and said, "Why did they even do that?" And why did they make it worse to use the door in the process? Here Lexus didn't. (door opening and closing) One of the big things we were looking for, believe me, we've been looking for years, is the replacement of Lexus's remote touch interface. That is the touch pad on the center console or the mouse or whatever it is they've had for so many years, controlling what's on screen. Finally, in the NX it's gone. Now the NX has either a 9.8 inch diagonally measured or this optional 14 inch touchscreen. That's it, finally success. And this is something that everyone I know, certainly everyone at cars.com has complained about and many shoppers have complained about, owners as well. It's partly a cultural thing, we think. In Japan, they seem to prefer the controller here. They don't want smudges on a a touchscreen, which is understandable, some Americans don't either, but we prefer the touchscreen. This was designed in North America for North American tastes. And honestly, beyond that, it's going to be used elsewhere around the globe, I'm told, except Japan. And I really think this is going to remove one of the big deal breakers for a lot of shoppers. It was one of the big problems in our comparison test a few years ago. So that removes one other thing. Now usability wise, it's decent. I think the menus could be better and this system cries out for a simple home button. But honestly, once you get away from that remote touch thing and go to a touch screen, it's a lot easier to overlook a few menu problems. This is a huge game changer. And if it spreads around the Lexus lineup, I think Lexus is going to be doing a lot better in the market. while we're on one of our favorite topics, usability and controls, there's not an overabundance of capacitive touch sensitive buttons, which we also don't like. Now there is some of that in these touch pads on the steering wheel, but they are to control the optional head-up display, so only with the head up display. Which actually like when you run your fingers over them, different things show up on the display, and it's an interesting approach. I need more time to experience it and experiment with it, decide whether I like it or not. But by and large, there are much worse control systems out there on the market than what we're seeing in the redesigned NX. Among the things our judges criticized about the earlier NX300, were it's acceleration because it was the slowest in our test, as well as its ride quality, which was busy without much payoff and handling. Now considering that the vehicle I'm driving is an NX350, that is not the F SPORT version, which typically rides more firmly. I still think it's a little bit firm and kind of busy, the ride quality. Now for 2022, the wheelbase has increased by just over an inch, as has the overall length of the vehicle. And the longer wheel base tends to make the ride better. And this is about an inch to two inches more track width, that's the width between the left and right wheels. All of that is good for ride quality. And I do think it's improved over the previous model. But by and large, I think it could be more comfortable than it is. Though there is one downside to not having the F SPORT package, and that is, this one doesn't have an adaptive suspension that is adjustable firmness, shock absorbers, which automatically adapt to the road surface. Which theoretically, can make it more comfortable. Though, typically in F Sport vehicles, they don't tune it to make it softer, they just tune it for more sport. Overall, not bad. Bear in mind, these are 20 inch wheels. The standard wheels on the NX are 18 inches. And when you have smaller wheels, you have taller tire sidewalls, which can have more compliance and absorb more shocks. So that's another way potentially to get a softer ride. Overall, I think the power is decent in this. Now the vehicles lost some weight, which is very important in acceleration, along with getting more power in its powertrains. The 2.4 liter turbo makes 275 horsepower of 40 horsepower increase over the previous generations, 2 liter turbo. And the torque rating at 317 pound feet is 59 higher than before. And that's a significant difference. Lexus says the 0 to 60 time is down 4/10ths of a second to 6.6 seconds. So, overall it's got good power. One thing you're going to want to keep your eyes on is the issue of responsiveness. And this is something we have to pay attention to nowadays with electronic throttle control and turbochargers and electronically controlled transmissions and all. Sometimes you'll just hit the gas pedal and there's a delay. For example, here we go, ready? (pushes peddle down) That took a second or second and a half for it to respond. I don't love seeing that. Unfortunately, it's much more common than you might realize. So if you're shopping multiple brands or multiple models, give it a try. You might first be appalled and then realize that it's actually pretty common. If that bothers you, keep an eye out for it At different speeds it's a little bit different here in the NX. Off the line, the cars all right. The steering has a decent feel, Lexus was actually pretty early to electric power steering. So they've had some time to refine it and it has a decent feel to it. The amount of assistance changes with the driving modes, which include eco, normal, and sport. When it comes to the sportiness of the driving, the NX I think a certainly sporty enough, even in this version, which isn't an F SPORT. It handles well. I would have erred a little bit more on the side of comfort and less handling in this, but it is what it is. Now I'm driving the NX350h hybrid, which currently makes up according to Lexus, 23% of sales, so it's quite popular. And I understand why. It is equipped similarly to the one I just drove. It is not an F SPORT, so it doesn't have an advanced suspension. It has 20 inch wheels. It rides better, in my opinion. It feels much more composed and much more comfortable. And sometimes the added weight of a hybrid system and battery pack and the different weight distribution can make a difference in that regard. And this doesn't really surprise me because, there's a close association between the NX and the Toyota RAV4. It is based on the RAV4. And we actually prefer the hybrid version of the RAV4 over the conventional gas only version of that vehicle. So, no surprise there. As for the acceleration, it's good. It does still have some of that hybrid feel where, you step on the accelerator and there's what we call the rubber band effect, where it's almost like you go to pull something and first you pull the rubber band and then what you're pulling comes afterward after a delay, there's that wind up. But it's, it's actually pretty good. Most drivers don't seem to care that much. And it is quicker, as well. The 0 to 60 time is 7.2 seconds, according to Lexus. Now that is not as quick as the non-hybrid, but it is a 1.5 second improvement over the previous generation hybrid. Which is great because it also improves by eight miles per gallon combined, according to Lexus, to 39 miles per gallon. So you do have the advantage of it being a little bit quieter, much of the time, because of the electric motors operating at lower speeds. But then there's always the surprise you occasionally get, of the engine turning on, maybe when you don't expect it, or maybe droning at times that just seem out of character for a vehicle if you're not familiar with hybrids. But by and large, I'm pretty impressed with the NX350h. Breaking is always an issue in hybrids because of regenerative breaking, it gives for sometimes a mushy pedal feel, a little bit less linear, a little bit artificial. And in that regard, it's still there. It seems unavoidable in hybrids, but for what it's worth, I didn't think that the non-hybrid NX50 that I drove was too great in that regard either. Lots of cars now, even when they're not hybrids, are moving toward a type of breaking called by-wire breaking that has a more artificial feel anyway, so you're by contrast not giving up as much when you choose the hybrid version of a model. Now I'm driving the NX450h+. Higher number for higher power and the plus, presumably because it's a plug-in hybrid, the first ever from Lexus. I haven't had the experience of plugging in, charging it, testing range. But the range is acclaimed 36 miles, on electric power alone, which is pretty healthy. But isn't as long as the Toyota RAV4 PRIME's 42 miles. And when the battery is depleted, Lexus says it gets 36 miles per gallon combined. In addition to that, this is the quickest of the NXes. It does 0 to 60 in six seconds, according to Lexus. And you definitely feel it. It has a lot of guts. Because of that extra electric motor power, front and rear, It, it really responds more quickly to your accelerator pedal. It doesn't have as much of that rubber band effect as the regular non plug-in hybrid, which is really nice. It's almost like an automatic transmission. When there's enough power, you don't notice as much lag. Here, definitely not as much lag, despite the fact that this is the heaviest of the Nxes from the additional hardware, the additional battery weight, from a larger battery pack to give you all of that range. So good stuff there. You know, more weight can compromise road holding, but also having the battery pack seems to lower the center of gravity of this model and it leads to a little bit less body roll. At least that's how it feels to me on this drive. It's pretty impressive. Now there is a downside to this and the downside is, you probably won't be able to get one. All right, maybe I shouldn't say that. But our experience with the RAV4 PRIME is, that it is so popular, that it seems like buyers can never get them. And that was true even before the pandemic and the shortage of microchips that have made it difficult to find virtually any new car. The allocation has been toward the zero emissions vehicle states like California and in the Northeast. So that alone is a limitation. Beyond that, demand has been very high for the RAV4 PRIME. And I suspect the same thing will be true for the NX450h+. So if you're interested, you might want to get that order in quickly and cross your fingers. As I continue to put miles on the NX, one of the things I really appreciate is that it has Android auto. And if you prefer Apple CarPlay, and they have both wired and wireless CarPlay and Android auto and optionally, a wireless charging pad, which worked pretty well for my Android phone. So again, for Lexus, these things are pretty big developments, even if they were a long time coming, it's not a small thing. If you were a Lexus shopper or A Lexus fan, and these were the things that were holding you back. One of the areas where the NX was criticized in the past, was for having a smaller back seat than its competitors in our comparison tests. And unfortunately by the specifications, it looks like that hasn't changed. In fact, it's slightly narrower in the back seat. 1.8 inches of leg room is now gone from the front seat. So I didn't have any trouble up there. I got to say, I don't know if the specs lie or if it was just in relation to the other vehicles, but I don't feel like the back seat space is that bad back here for a small SUV. I've got the driver's seat in my driving position, which is all the way back. And I think it's reasonably roomy. If anything, it might be a little bit narrow versus some, but that comes into play only if you're trying to have more than two people or multiple child safety seats in the back, the choice is yours. Now cargo is another area that the NX was criticized for in the past, not having quite enough volume. And Lexus claims to have improved that with 14% more volume behind the back seat, which is good. But the overall volume measurement with the seats folded is down about eight cubic feet versus the previous generation. I'm not sure the specs tell the whole story here. It seems like a decent amount of space. And one thing that cargo measurements tend not to account for, is under floor space. And this has a fair amount, even in the hybrid versions, which have battery packs taking up space. And both of which relocate the 12 volt battery to the rear here from underneath the hood. In the non-hybrid even more of this is available. And this is space that normal people actually use, whether it counts toward the official SAE total or not. This is why cars.com measures cargo volumes on its own. This is something we will do once we get it back to the shop, we haven't been able to do it yet. We'll get you better numbers, in our opinion, once we can do that. But overall, I think the net cargo offering here has improved. And, as an option, you can get powered folding back seats. The NX is the kid brother of the Lexus RX, which made its debut in 1999 and is arguably the SUV that started it all. There had been a couple other car based SUV's, crossovers before that. But I can't tell you how many events like this one I attended an auto show introductions where manufacturers said they were benchmarking the RX300 and not just luxury brands either, just regular modest brands. Everyone wanted to be the RX300, and yet Lexus waited until 2015 to come out with a smaller version of the RX, the NX. And I'll tell you I was disappointed. So for 2022, they finally did a redesign, I'll admit, I wish they had gone a little bit farther with a little more roominess. Even though I do think the specs are a little bit suspect, but there's so many things they've done here that are really important, strong moves, in the right direction for Lexus. One, going to a touchscreen, is a gigantic one. And others that I think it's a really positive move and I don't want to just, you know, make it all about the touchscreen. There are a lot of other things to like, their improvements in mileage in a hybrid. And I think the hybrid is the strongest option still. The fact that you get high mileage and it costs $500 less than the non-hybrid comparable vehicle is also a big plus. So a lot to like here, we'll be spending more time with the NX once we get them for evaluation back home with our other editors. If you want more detail, check out my full review at cars.com/news.
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