The new Lexus NX: A compact crossover packing a turbocharged punch

Sep 3, 2014

Building upon its highly successful RX model—now in its fourth generation—Lexus is rolling out a new entry into the luxury crossover category that is designed to turbocharge the automaker’s foothold on high-end utility in a compact premium SUV.

The all-new 2015 Lexus NX will hit dealer showrooms by the end of the year with two powertrain choices, each with front-wheel drive or all-weather drive: the NX 200t and NX 300h hybrid. Built on a newly developed platform that is similar to that of the Toyota RAV4, the new NX is smaller than today’s RX – yet nearly the same size as the original RX introduced back in 1998, placing it in prime position to grab a spot in the growing compact utility segment.

The NX 200t offers an all-new 2.0-liter, 235-horsepower turbo gasoline engine, the brand’s first-ever turbocharged plant, that is matched to a new six-speed automatic transmission. An available Dynamic Torque Control AWD system is designed to vary the front and rear torque split for optimum traction and fuel economy.

The NX 300h hybrid version features a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle gas engine with a new automatic transmission and E-Four proactive all-weather drive system and a kick-down feature for improved mileage. Marking the sixth—count ’em, SIX—hybrid in the Lexus lineup, the NX 300h uses an electric motor to drive the rear axle while the front axle is propelled by either gasoline, electric or a mixture of both for optimum power and performance.

The E-Four saves energy and fuel by only using the all-wheel drive when needed. By sensing when there is a loss of traction of the front wheels, the system reduces the electric power to the traction motor in the transaxle and increases the supply to the motor in the rear axle. In addition, the rear motor acts as a generator when the NX is in regenerative braking mode, increasing the amount of kinetic energy recovered.

Utilizing the input of professional racers, Lexus developed its first-ever twin-scroll turbocharger that has a combination of water-cooled cylinder head and integrated exhaust manifold. The 2.0-liter turbocharged port and direct-injection engine uses an advanced valve control system that switches between Atkinson cycle and Otto cycle operation to optimize performance and fuel efficiency. Improved acceleration and a wide torque band is the result of a four-into-two exhaust manifold system that pairs cylinders according to their expansion and compression stroke to reduce pumping losses and eliminate exhaust gas interference.

In the NX 300h hybrid, the battery pack is split into two 44-pound modules – making it one of the lightest among Lexus brands – that are located on each side of the rear seat. This location improved space efficiency and also the center of gravity for enhanced control.

F Sport model

For increased performance, the Lexus NX is also available in an “F Sport” model that offers enhanced technology and offers a bolder appearance than the standard model. With a black, L-mesh grille that integrates with a metallic coated lower bumper and black side mirrors, the F Sport’s exterior design stands out on the road. There are two choices of wheels available on the F Sport model: A 10-spoke 18-inch alloy design with black paint on the lateral edges that features 225/60R18 all-season tires, and a Y-shaped spoke design that uses lower profile 235/55R18 summer tires.

For drivers looking to enjoy the throaty sound of a powerful twin turbo engine, but don’t want to give up the quiet ride of a Lexus, the F Sport features a system called Active Sound Control (ASC) that enhances the experience by pumping an engine roar into the cabin through a special speaker located under the hood. The sound system works best when the vehicle is engaged in “sport” mode and provides an F-1 type of roar that is clearly discernable throughout the cabin and can be adjusted in volume or simply turned off when not wanted.

There’s also a real-time driving performance display with the Lexus G-Force meter—or G-ball—that moves in response to the vehicle’s lateral and longitudinal forces. Display bars indicate the steering angle, throttle opening and brake pressure.

Some additional onboard technology highlights featured in the new NX include:

  • Remote Touch Interface (RTI) that uses a touchpad in the center console with palm rest to allow the driver to access functions while staying focused on the road.
  • Wireless charging tray: Available Qi (pronounced “Chi”) charging tray is hidden inside the center console that allows for wireless charging of a compatible smartphone or other device by just placing the device in the tray, thus eliminating the need to carry a cable or adapter.
  • HD radio and Bluetooth audio with automatic phone book transfer and vehicle information display with traffic and weather data. Also a radio pause function that allows you to save up to 15 minutes of a radio song or show and then listen to it later.
  • Eight channel amplifier with Digital Signal Processor to restore high notes lost through compression.
  • Optional Navigation system that includes detour preview, ETA calculation and low fuel coordination with nearby fuel stations as well as the Lexus Enform App suite and 3D building views.

Lexus anticipates building approximately 3,000 NX units per month in the U.S., for a total of 36,000 in the first year. While the exact starting price has yet to be made official, it’s expected to start at just under $40,000.