Here’s one we’ve been waiting for: the NX crossover with an all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. We test the 200t in flagship Limited form.
Base price: $94,900.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, 175kW/350Nm, 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.9 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 7.1 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4630mm long, 1630mm high, 2660mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 500-1545 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/60 tyres.
We like: Sprightly engine and gearbox, likes corners, sheer quality of cabin.
We don’t like: Styling tends to polarise, Remote Touch Interface is tricky at first.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The NX is a compact crossover that’s quite a big deal for Lexus New Zealand: a contender in the most important premium sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment in the country and a rival for the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and forthcoming Mercedes-Benz GLC.
The NX was launched last year in 300h specification only, which was fine if Lexus equals hybrid to you. But Toyota’s premium division has aspirations of being sporty as well, which is why it has now launched a 200t version of the NX, featuring a brand-new 2.0-litre petrol-turbo powerplant.
We test it here in flagship Limited specification.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? This is an important new engine for Lexus. It’s been introduced in the NX, but will also be used in the IS sedan (replacing the current 2.5-litre V6) and even the RC coupe.
It’s a clever piece of kit. It’s the first-ever petrol-turbo engine that can run in either the Atkinson cycle (which is used for super-thrifty-but-not-powerful engines such as the Prius 1.8) or the conventional Otto configuration.
The turbocharger is computer controlled, with the boost modulated depending on not only performance demands but also the real-time operation of rest of the powertrain – including the gearchanges of the six-speed automatic transmission.
Stuff like this is all very well, but what really matters is the driving experience. The 200t is crisp and sprightly – not just by the standards of the rather vague-feeling 300h hybrid, but also compared with other conventional petrol-turbo engines. Sporty, even.
Being a Limited, our test NX model is only available with all-wheel drive. It’s actually a tad slower than the front-driver (which only comes in entry specification), but you do get the benefit of that extra traction.
More to the point, the NX 200t is an engaging drive no matter how many wheels are taking delivery of torque. It’s based quite on the Toyota RAV4 platform, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The RAV4 is a good drive and it’s been turned into an entertaining one (at least in an SUV context) with the NX.
The Limited doesn’t have the extra Sport Plus drive mode and adaptive steering/suspension of the F Sport model, though. Will you miss these features? We’d say no. It’s still an SUV rather than a sports coupe and the classier styling of the Limited compared with the lurid body addenda of the F Sport is compensation enough.
The Limited is loaded with driver-assistance and safety technology. It gets adaptive cruise control (good, not as good as the Mercedes-Benz Distronic Plus system), lane-keep and blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a pre-crash sensor that will assist with emergency braking in a worst-case scenario.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Interior design is certainly a Lexus strength. The retro-futuristic layered styling might polarise but you cannot argue with the fit and finish: it’s stunning.
The Limited includes genuine leather upholstery (have to say that, as some NX models have synthetic leather-alike trim), head-up display, an excellent audio system and heating/ventilation for the front seats. The provision of a Qi-format wireless cellphone charger in the centre console is a neat touch, although the pad is too small for some of the larger handsets that are popular these days.
The information-screen interface is dominated by the idiosyncratic Lexus Remote Touch controller, which is like a trackpad. You navigate the screen by running your fingers around the pad, clicking to select and even using pinch/swipe movements like a smartphone. Sounds great in theory and you get good haptic feedback from the surface, but it still takes a lot of getting used to. A lot.
The fashionably high (and rather angular) waistline doesn’t do a lot for rear-seat visibility, but the NX is pretty practical all the same. The rear seatback can be adjusted for rake and the Limited boasts a power-folding function for the back chairs (they’re split 60/40) as well.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The NX has been a boon for Lexus and the 200t has been a boon for the NX. The NX range led the premium-SUV segment for the first half of 2015 (admittedly in a market devoid of new mid-size entrants) and the 200t contributed half of all NX sales.
It’s success that’s well deserved. Leave the 300h for the hybrid people and the 200t stands out as an NX with a touch of sporting spirit. Recommended.
- Blind spot warning: Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes
- Cruise control: Adaptive
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/yes
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40