Test Drive: 2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Lexus might be late to the premium compact ute party, but they’re making one hell of an entrance. The NX 200t busts in with some crazy duds. In lieu of the classic lamp shade on the head, it’s got a big black one on its nose.

The NX 200t is a riot of show car angles and ginsu-sharp creases, all dominated by a huge “spindle” grill that not only looks like it could ingest all competitors, it seems in danger of swallowing itself.

We must give Lexus points for bravery.

True story. While approaching the NX 200t with a group of friends in an underground parking lot, one glances at the front corner says “Ooh. Somebody hit your car.” I assured her it is supposed to look like that.

“This is Lexus’ new design language.”
“Well, go big or go home.” She said.

Precisely. Whether you think the NX looks cool or OTT, bold or bonkers, we must give Lexus points for bravery.

The 2016 NX 200t starts at $41,950 and runs with a 2.0L aluminum block turbocharged and intercooled four banger featuring both port and direct injection. This is Lexus’ first turbocharged engine and it makes 235 hp and 258 lb-ft at 1,650 rpm, which lines up favourably with similar engines from Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Ford. It mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is standard.

Here we’re looking at the F Sport model, and this particular designation adds a hefty $12,250 to the bottom line. In the world of Lexus, F Sport points to performance, and while in the NX’s case there’s no extra power, the ute does benefit from a sport tuned suspension with adaptive variable dampers, shift paddles, higher effort steering, specific 18-inch alloys and terrific F Sport front seats.

Regarding the rest of the goodies this F Sport package bestows, the list is long. For safety we get blind spot warning, front and rear parking assist, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure assist, adaptive cruise, full LED lighting, pre-collision system, rain sensing wipers, heated steering wheel, head up display and auto dim exterior mirrors. Convenience features include navigation, upgraded audio, wireless phone charging, 120V outlet, auto leveling system, power lift gate, driver’s seat memory, mirror memory, G meter, sunroof and a host of F Sport trim bits.

Short of ventilated seats, your $54,200 nets the full complement of kit expected in this class of vehicle. Most customers will consider the F Sport package necessary, as without it the spec is pretty barren.

Out on the road, the NX is every inch the Lexus. That is to say comfort, compliance, quietness and creamy operation are its foremost virtues. This lux crossover will never jar, despite its F Sport moniker. The 2.0L turbo four is commendably smooth, as is the transmission. Dial up Sport or Sport+ on the rotary Drive Mode Select controller and the ride makes a slight adjustment from velvety to velvety/firm. Still, despite its ever so polite comportment, the NX turns in sharply via nicely weighted steering and shows good body control. It flows nicely on a twisting road, but get too enthusiastic and you’ll find the limits fairly low and the tendency to understeer high.

This is only a criticism if you intend to drive your NX hard. Lexus has judged the dynamics of this crossover perfectly for its core audience. If you want more athleticism, check out the new BMW X1. Just don’t come to me complaining about the ride quality.

The NX does not feel underpowered, but neither is it particularly swift as the engine is up against 1,824 kg. Combine some turbo lag with the tranny’s tendency to run in the highest gear possible, and you’ve got the wait-for-it throttle response that is endemic of the modern small-displacement turbo automobile. Yes, Sport mode helps in this regard but don’t bother with the shift paddles – cog swapping demands are met with tardy indifference.

That said, the little Lexus is a champ on the highway – serene and very stable, lasering down the road with nary a wobble. Official fuel economy figures are 10.6 L/100 city, 8.4 highway and 9.6 combined. Premium fuel is required.

Like the NX’s exterior, the cabin is a tad challenging. No complaints with the fabulous seats, excellent build quality or finely contoured heated steering wheel, but restraint is not a word that comes to mind when describing the architecture. It’s a crazy mess of nooks, crannies, protuberances and mixed materials. And there’s a bizarre element on the passenger side dashtop that looks like something oozed out between the panels and hardened. Let’s just say this cabin is a dream gig for a paid-by-the-hour detailer.

Every auto manufacture has a strategy for managing the ever more complex problem of interfacing the human element with all the stuff that has nothing to do with physically driving the vehicle. The Germans like rotary controllers, while touchscreens seem to be the other default (and mostly faulty) solution. Lexus comes at it from another tack with its laptop-like haptic Remote Touch pad by the shifter. A pointer on the display screen follows finger sweeps on the pad as you hone in on various icons. Once located, press down on the pad and bingo, selection granted. It works okay once you get the hang of it, and I’ll say it’s better than poking away at a touchscreen, but not by much.

The driving position is excellent, and forward visibility good, although those stylishly pinched rear quarters take a toll on rear visibility. Also on hatch space which is pretty skimpy. The NX may be based on the Toyota RAV4’s structure but it sure doesn’t share that lesser sibling’s generous cargo capacity.

As a total package the NX F Sport impresses. It’s a quality piece with fine road manners, high levels of comfort, all the kit and crazy bold styling that screams for attention. That old lampshade gag works every time.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Acura RDX
Audi Q5
BMW X3
Infiniti QX50
Lincoln MKC
Mercedes-Benz GLA

2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
articles_PricingType 2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
Base Price $41,950
Optional Equipment F Sport Series 3 Package – $12,250 (Heated Steering Wheel, Power Tilt & Telescopic Steering Wheel , Steering Wheel Paddle Shifters (A/T), Sport-Tuned Suspension, Adaptive Variable suspension (AVS), F SPORT 18-oinch Alloy Wheels, 10 Speakers, Blind Spot Monitor System, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Driver Seat Memory System, F SPORT Seats, Wireless Charging, Power Back
Door, Garage Door Opener, Clearance and Back-up Sensors, 120V/100-watt Power Outlet , Head-Up Display, Remote Touch Interface, Voice-activated SD Card Based Navigation System with Remote Touch, G Meter, Power slide / tilt Moonroof, Aluminum Roof Rails, F SPORT Front Grille, F SPORT badging, Memory Mirrors, Autodimming Side View Mirrors, Rain Sensing Wipers, Aluminum Sport
Pedals with Rubber Inserts, F SPORT Shift Knob, F SPORT Scuff Plates, Premium LED Headlamps, F SPORT LED fog lamps, Pre-Collision System, Automatic High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert With Steering Assist
A/C Tax
Destination Fee $2045
Price as Tested $56,345
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.0
9 Exterior Styling
8 Performance
7 Interior
9 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy