Lexus may be late to the luxury compact crossover party but it was worth the wait as the NX 200t proves to be a stellar performer.
Stylish interior and exterior
High beltline limits outward visibility
Smallish back seat
Distracting infotainment controls
2016 Lexus NX 200t
Lexus may have created the midsize luxury crossover utility vehicle in 1998 with the midsize RX, it was noticeably absent from the compact CUV segment until earlier this year, when it introduced the NX.
The newest crossover from Lexus is available with either a first-for-the-brand turbocharged gasoline-only version (the NX 200t) or with a hybrid powertrain (the NX 300h). Both can be had in either front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive configurations.
Outside, all versions of the NX feature LED-lit headlamps and tail lamps. On the 200t, the standard setup consists of LED low beams and halogen high beams. Optional on the 200t and standard on the 300h is an all-LED light array for both low- and high-beams.
Up front, the NX features the most aggressive interpretation yet of the Lexus spindle grill and L-shaped headlights. The F-sport, of which our tester was an example, goes a step further by replacing the standard model's horizontal grille bars with a more menacing, blacked-out, cross-hatch design. The F Sport package also adds an aggressive chin spoiler as well as re-shaped, horizontal fog lights.
In back, the corporate L-shaped theme is also expressed in the three-dimensional taillight lenses that ride high on the fenders, while the lower fascia is highlighted by uniquely-shaped twin chrome exhaust ports that are integrated into a blacked-out lower valance.
Inside the spindle shape is cleverly integrated into the centerpiece three-dimensional upper center console. Luxury touches also abound with both the upper and lower dash areas featuring textured soft touch surfaces. Even the center console sports soft "kneepads" on either side of the tunnel.
Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard as is pushbutton start, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, rear privacy glass, an acoustic glass windshield, automatic headlights, a 10-way power driver's seat with power lumbar, 8-way power passenger seat and Siri Eyes Free Mode that's displayed on the 7-inch multi-information center screen.
There isn't much in the way of bad news here, but while the console-mounted touch-sensitive pad is easier to use than the joystick found on other Lexus models, it's still more distracting than any system needs to be and accidentally touching it can cause all manner of unintended changes to the infotainment system.
Putting that gripe aside, the dashboard is well laid out and the gauges are simple, straightforward and easy to read. Nice luxury touches include soft touch LED dome and spot lights as well as the round analog clock on the center stack.
Up front there's a good amount of leg, hip, shoulder and headroom for the driver and passenger, and we also found the front seats on our F sport tester to be nicely bolstered. Moving rearward, there's also a fair amount of room in the back seat for two adults, although it appears that with a third, accommodations might get tight – especially on longer road trips.
Despite a fairly high beltline the view out the front is very good with views out the sides and back also good. But despite the fact that it contains a small window, the thick C-pillar and sloping roofline combine to make visibility out the rear three-quarters difficult. Thankfully, it's mitigated somewhat by the fact that a rear view camera is standard in all NX models. That condition in our tester was further improved as it was equipped with an option package that included a blind spot monitor.
Under the hood
The NX 200t is powered by Toyota's 8ARFTS 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged, intercooled, in-line 4-cylinder engine that produces its maximum 235 horsepower between 4,800 and 5,600 rpm and generates 258 lb.-ft. of torque in a very broad range of between 1,650 and 4,000 rpm.
The EPA estimated fuel economy for an AWD (Lexus refers to it as all weather drive) NX 200t is 21/28/24 city/highway/combined, while our own observed fuel economy in city driving turned out to be much better than the estimate, ringing in at 25.1 mpg.
On the road
In the handling department, we were pleasantly surprised, to put it mildly. The NX 200t's on-road manners are crisp, with very little body lean in corners. The ride is firm – especially on the F Sport model, not surprising considering its larger 18-inch wheels and sport-tuned suspension.
If you're looking for the plush ride of the RX350, you won't find it here. On the other hand, what you will find is more direct steering with a decent amount of feedback through the steering wheel. The brakes are also very strong with a nice bite to the pads. In addition, they're easy to modulate and there's plenty of feedback to the driver through the brake pedal.
At high speeds the NX 200t tracks nicely down the road and it's unaffected by grooved pavement or crosswinds. The turbo spools up quickly with virtually no lag so there's also never a problem passing or merging into traffic.
Cabin noise is one of the NX 200t's high points and it's especially quiet in city driving. But even at freeway speeds we noticed very little in the way of wind, road, tire or engine noise entering the cabin.
2015 Lexus NX 200t prices
Pricing for the 2015 Lexus NX 200t, including shipping, starts at $34,480 for a base (if you can call it that) FWD model and can top out at close to $49,000 for a fully optioned and accessorized AWD F Sport model.
Our Ultrasonic Blue F Sport AWD tester – a color, by the way, exclusive to the F Sport trim - was close to the top of that range with a base price of $37,980.
$6,309 in options and accessories included a Qi wireless charger ($220), Homelink ($125), Navigation package that featured the remote touch interface, Lexus Enform Remote, 1 year of Lexus Enform Destination, app suite, and premium sound ($2,140), light-sensitive, heated, memory outside mirrors with blind spot monitor and reverse tilt, and rear cross traffic alert ($660), intuitive parking assist ($500), power back door ($400), the F Sport premium package with sunroof, heated front seats, memory power tilt and telescope steering wheel and memory driver's seat ($2,045), a heated steering wheel ($150) and cargo net ($69).
Along with a $925 delivery, processing and handling fee that brought the total price to $45,214.
The Bottom Line
There is a lot to like about the new Lexus NX 200t. It has taught and agile handling, a very responsive engine that offers up plenty of power and a stylish exterior that compliments a quiet, nicely-detailed, luxurious interior.
On the other hand, its high beltline compromises the driver's sightlines, the accommodations in the back seat are tight, and the infotainment touchpad, although an improvement over the joystick, is still a distraction.
But when all is said and done, the new Lexus NX 200t certainly represents the nicest and most well-rounded luxury compact crossover we have ever driven.
Finally, a word of advice: if you're looking for a vehicle like this you'd better get to your Lexus dealer quickly, because we predict they'll be selling as many NX 200ts as they can get their hands on.
Yes. It is that good.