2015 Lexus NX200t F Sport
Lexus refuses to be typecast. Here’s proof
Since they burst onto the luxury car scene in 1989, Lexus has been carefully cultivating a reputation for its products, one that is founded on precise craftsmanship, obsessive pursuit of automotive serenity and attention to detail. No one is disputing those claims, but neither is anyone using the words “sporty”, or “edgy” to describe a Lexus, perhaps ever. OK, so there was the bonkers LFA of a few years ago (and to a lesser extent, the V8 powered IS-F/RC-F), but they only built 500 of ‘em and it cost $477,900 Canadian dollars- so, not exactly the kind of car you can put on the same plane of existence as an ES350. But the arrival of the LFA signified that the winds of change are blowing in Japan that Lexus is trying follow the path of so many halo cars before it- hopefully injecting some much needed sport into lesser-models DNA.
First, just look at this thing- did you ever expect a Lexus crossover to have the kind of styling the NX200 has? Neither did we. It’s quite a polarizing design-that gaping maw in the front didn’t make many friends over the course of our road test- and more than once we heard people quip that it looks a lot like the automotive incarnation of The Predator. Like it or not, you have to admit that a styling departure like this took some serious cojones on Lexus’s part. I think the NX200 neatly straddles the camps of edgy/ground-breaking design and the garish visual cues of Lexus’s own RC-F, and seeing it in person is more rewarding than beholding it in pictures. I’m particularly fond of the intricate LED headlights (who do a fantastic job at illuminating the road, mind you) and the equally intriguing manifestation of the taillights. Sharp scythes and creases pepper the sides of the trucklet, providing some visual wattage and do a nice job from keeping the NX looking like a kitchen appliance- something that cannot easily be said about its traditional, larger RX cousin.
PROS: Head-turning style, one of the best interiors in class, turbocharged engine calls zero attention to itself and makes good power
CONS: Torque steer in an AWD vehicle?, handling isn’t befitting of an F Sport badge, drinks fuel if you aren’t careful with the turbo boost.
THE VERDICT: Lexus lightens up a little and wades into new design territory.
Inside, Lexus stylists have tried to impart as much of an impact as the exterior duds. You know what? They’ve schieved their goal, and perhaps even surpassed it- I cannot remember the last time a Lexus cockpit was so enjoyable to be in. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the hands- check out all the sumptuous, contrasting surfaces. It wouldn’t feel out place in a vehicle commanding a much larger sum than does the NX. The standouts here are beautifully rendered seats, a perfectly sculpted and sized steering wheel and crisp gauges with fun graphics including an elaborate turbo boost gauge and a G-meter- yes, you read that right. All aspects of the interior work extremely well, and the user interface is made super intuitive by the mousepad, all made nice and easy to use by an ergonomic rest for your wrist.
Another area that includes a big departure from tradition from Lexus is under the hood. That’s a 2.0 turbocharged four cylinder doing its thing between the shock towers; the first artificially aspirated engine in Lexus history, and the last one to come from the Toyota group since the vaunted Supra. It’s tuned not for all out neck snapping thrust but rather smooth, linear power throughout its operating range. The NX steps off the line smartly and will achieve highway speeds without breaking a sweat, even strangely evincing a whiff of torque steer. It should perfectly satisfy those divers weaned on the teat of six cylinder power- it really is that smooth and refined. Sadly, in this era of Turbocharge All The Things, I returned disappointing mileage of 13.8L/100km. If you want to approach Lexus’ projections of 10.8/8.8 (city and highway, respectively) you’ll have to seriously adjust your driving style to keep out of the boost.
Yes, the NX200t F Sport does share a platform with the RAV4, but 90% of its parts are unique. There are obvious examples of part sharing- the NX uses the same gearbox and shift lever- but retrofitting 9 out of 10 parts will certainly impart a different feel while going down the road, and the NX doesn’t disappoint. The CUV feels like I was hewn from a block of solid steel, and goes down the road with a substantial feeling. It also helps that the interior is, just as you’d expect in a Lexus, library quiet. It’s hard to touch Lexus when it comes to making people feel like their luxury car dollars are well spent.
Other than the two horsepower-rich F Sport models we mentioned earlier, there isn’t a more convincing product in the lineup today that distances itself from the “Japanese Buick” stigma of the past. It’s got everything luxury CUV buyers will want, looks good, and feels like you spent your money smartly when behind the wheel. Lexus is still amongst the best when it comes to the luxury stuff- it’s nice to see them taking care to send a much-needed dose of Sport to permeate the lineup.
2015 Lexus NX200t F Sport
- Price as tested: $23,353
- Body Type: 4 door, 5- passenger CUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 235@ 5,600 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft): 258 @ 1,650 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,755 kg (4,050 lbs.)
- Observed combined fuel economy: 13.8L/100 km (17 mpg)