Lexus’ new NX gets turbo power, and it reaffirms the brand’s dedication to refined, seamless motoring
SINGAPORE — The new turbocharged NX 200t is to Lexus what the X3 is to BMW: Both luxury mid-sized Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), though the Germans may have been doing this whole turbocharged thing for a long time, Lexus does it with typical Lexus-style acumen and swashbuckling panache.
It’s the Japanese car maker’s first foray into turbo territory, the NX turbocharged engine’s pull is strong without being rough. It also feels excitable and bold especially when you go above the 4,000rpm mark.
The reason for this is its new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out 238bhp and 350Nm of torque. At low speeds, it runs a modified Atkinson cycle (like other Lexus and Toyota hybrids) for better fuel economy, then elegantly switches back to regular operation at higher RPM.
The turbo NX is probably the most logical step to take for Lexus after having upped the ante in recent times by launching models like the outrageous RC F and sharp-looking RX, introducing a crossover like the NX to the family couldn’t come at a better time seeing SUVs are all the rage now.
“In America, this 2.0-litre model makes up for 85 per cent of NX sales,” Kirk Edmondson, Lexus’ Asia-Pacific division brand manager told CarBuyer earlier this year.
And if the numbers are anything to go by, the the luxury SUV is sure to sell. Some might find the styling extreme, but all the angles and aggression will no doubt win the NX its fair share of fans, especially since it looks totally different from any German product.
SUVs are fast becoming the staple of any respectable car maker’s line-up, even Bentley and Rolls-Royce are planning their own crossovers. And for Lexus to debut its first ever turbocharged engine, putting it in a luxury crossover makes total sense.
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This turbo technology has been refined over the last 10 years by technicians at Lexus’ advance technology group. Edmondson tells us that when the car’s chief designer Takeaki Kato first heard about the engine, he asked that its completion be moved up a year just so he could have it in the NX.
Compared to the NX 300h (as reviewed in CB224, which has the 2.5-litre engine-based hybrid system that also powers the IS and ES300h), the NX weighs 35kg less without the extra battery pack that sits under its electric cousin’s rear seats. This enables the NX 200t to zip in and out of traffic easily even for a car of its height.
You could say that the old Lexus’ exteriors were a tad boring in the past, but that’s definitely not what’s going on here. The NX’s enormous spindle grille made out of a honeycomb of ‘L’s looks twice as dramatic as any Continental. Its L-shaped LED headlights and impressive tailgate are sure to bring the younger set to Lexus’ showroom.
The NX 200t has decent power for driving around town. You can choose your drive mode (from Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+), and while they don’t completely transform the car, you will notice a difference in throttle response, shifting patterns and ride stiffness. The engine feels youthful and eager, and the acceleration’s a kick too, especially in Sport+ mode.
The Lexus NX 200t F Sport comes with a comfortable step-in height, light weight doors, easy-to-close trunk lids, larger seats with more hip room, oversized handles and buttons. Although a mid-sized SUV, it is a pretty big car with lots of headroom and a generous 500-litre boot. Its reclining rear seats offer good legroom and a higher seating position, so passengers can see what’s happening in front as well.
On our busy and congested roads, this tactile companion is a joy to drive. Its steering is dynamic and responsive. The automatic telescope steering wheel can be adjusted upward and downward, towards and away from you. So it doesn’t matter how tall or how short you are, you’ll be able to get in and feel comfortable enough to move out of the drive way.
So what does the ‘F Sport’ stand for you ask. Well, it basically translates to a more expensive genus of the NX. One that features a lot of extras including F Sport bits like a body kit and dark-alloy wheels and firmer sports suspension. A highly contoured dash highlighted with ‘Rose Red’ seams, and ‘3D F Sport’ metal film trimmings.
Though the NX 200t may not necessarily blow away the competition in terms of performance — it’s around 10bhp less, and costs about $24,000 more than the X3 — it is sure to pick up new Lexus devotees with its avant garde design and lively disposition.
Lexus NX 200t F Sport
ENGINE 1,998cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 234bhp at 4800 to 5600rpm
MAX TORQUE 350Nm at 1650 to 4000rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed automatic
TOP SPEED 200km/h
0-100 KM/H 7.1 seconds
FUEL EFFICIENCY 7.9L/100km
PRICE $264,000 with COE