Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 2, 2022
The Lexus NX was always a flawed SUV. Its cramped interior, infuriating infotainment system, and lacklustre powertrains kept us from recommending one over more polished and better packaged examples like the BMW X3 and Acura RDX. But Lexus has managed to remedy most of our concerns with the new second-generation NX. Armed with combustion, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid powertrains, handsome new looks, and a heavily updated interior, we wouldn’t be surprised to see NX sales quickly catch up to the popular RX.
The new 2022 Lexus NX has evolved into a more mature looking SUV. The front nose has been massaged into a less offensive shape, we’re a fan of the ‘LEXUS’ script on the trunk lid, and the rear lights are especially distinctive, linked together by a LED light bar that seems to be the norm on every SUV these days. But it’s the interior that steals the show, and is a major improvement over its predecessor.
There’s less visual drama this time around, with bolder centerpieces and an airiness to the cabin. It’s no longer cramped and overly complicated - those that forgot what that looked like can refer to the cabin of the current-gen Lexus IS.
The leather is nicely stitched and the build quality is much better. But the biggest upgrade is with the infotainment unit. Gone is the messy haptic trackpad and in its place is an enormous touchscreen with a more fluid and friendly interface. It’s no longer a guessing game when you want to input a command - everything is clearly labelled and ergonomically arranged. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available too for those who prefer a more familiar layout.
Lexus was clever in keeping the volume and heating controls, two of the most heavily used functions, as real dials - none of that touch slider nonsense like what the Volkswagen Golf and BMW iX use. There are real button controls embedded into the steering wheel spokes, ensuring a low learning curve and effortless integration for Lexus newcomers.
The cabin details in the NX justify their own paragraph. The new gear shifter design, first used in the LC 500 Coupe, is a delight to use. It feels substantial and provides a sense of occasion everytime you flick it into drive. Furthermore, the steering wheel and door panel arrangement reminds us of the luxurious LS 500 Sedan, and the electric door handles, which open at the push of a button, saves space and reduces operating effort. Even the drive mode dial is cleverly positioned for optimum reach, and sticks out prominently like it was meant to be pushed.
The NX comes in four configurations. The NX 250 and NX 350 are equipped with the traditional four-cylinder combustion engines, the NX 450h+ is a plug-in hybrid that can run on electricity alone for up to 60 kms, and the NX 350h, which we have on test, is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder mated to a hybrid system with 240 hp, all-wheel drive, and a CVT transmission. That’s 45 more horses than the outgoing NX hybrid, and 20 more horses than the mechanically equivalent Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
As with every Toyota and Lexus hybrid, the transition between gas and electric propulsion is smooth and seamless, but when the engine wakes up, it’s a bit rough on the ears and lacks sufficient low-end torque to inspire overtaking confidence. The CVT transmission is the weakest point - non-hybrid models use a more refined and quieter 8-speed automatic. It’s brash at high RPMs (not that it ever gives you a reason to go there), vibrates the gas pedal under heavy loads, and unleashes an unflattering wail when not properly warmed up.
The NX 350h lacks the athleticism and driver engagement that its more well-rounded rivals proudly demonstrate. Yes, the NX 350h weighs 40 kg more than the non-hybrid NX 350, but it feels heavily handicapped because of it. The NX shares its chassis with the planted and solid Toyota RAV4 but it just doesn’t turn with as much verve and vigour. Instead the NX 350h prefers a more relaxed drive, to be caressed carefully down the motorway where drivers can take advantage of its stable and competent ride, and to take pride in low fuel consumption numbers rather than laptimes. Not that we are surprised - those who prefer winding around a snaky road would be opting for an BMW X3 or Alfa Romeo Stelvio anyways. On the bright side, the 6.7 L/100km average we yielded over a mix of both city and highway driving was impressive, and the NX hybrid only requires 87-octane fuel as well, unlike some other premium hybrids like the MINI and BMW.
The key takeaway? Avoid the hybrid and go straight to the plug-in NX 450h+. It’s more refined, more efficient, and while more expensive, actually feels worth the premium. Or just go with the livelier and more polished non-hybrid NX 350. Still, whichever route you do choose, it’s safe to say the NX has come a long way with this second iteration, and it has clearly impressed us with its clean interior, improved ergonomics, and a genuinely usable infotainment system.
Model: 2022 Lexus NX 350h Luxury
Paint Type: Cloudburst Grey
Base Price: $49,900
Price as Tested: $56,900
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,660 / 1,865 / 1,640
Curb weight (kg): 1,800
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder with hybrid system
Horsepower: 240 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 176 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 5.7 / 6.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 6.7