AUTO REVIEW: Better Late Than Never: Lexus NX 200t a Contender Among Luxury Compact Crossovers

(Tribune News Service/TNS) -
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t offers a distinctive look. (TNS)
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t offers a distinctive look. (TNS)
The leather seats inside the 2015 Lexus NX 200t are comfortable but supportive. (TNS)
The leather seats inside the 2015 Lexus NX 200t are comfortable but supportive. (TNS)
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t includes high-tech features such as Remote Touch display and an optional wireless tray that can charge your cellphone. (TNS)
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t includes high-tech features such as Remote Touch display and an optional wireless tray that can charge your cellphone. (TNS)

First off, a question for Lexus: What took you so long to join the party?

The compact luxury crossover segment is on fire. Somewhere along the way, folks with a little disposable income have decided that this is just the right size and price range they wanted.

So, finally, Lexus has arrived to the soiree, fashionably late, with the NX 200t (the ‘t’ is for turbo; a “300h” means you bought the hybrid version). So was it worth the wait?

Most will welcome the newcomer with open arms, despite a couple of its oddities. It has a snout that protrudes like a greyhound. And one can’t help wondering how you can make a car that is so quiet that they had to actually create some engine noise for good measure?

Still, Lexus likely will do well here, especially with the young and trendy. It’s overflowing with high-tech stuff, like an optional wireless charging tray in the center console for when the cellphone needs a boost. And low-tech stuff, too, like a small mirror on the center console to check your face.

The NX has a look all its own, perhaps because no other crossover wants it. Nah, it’s not that bad, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. That snout is long and weird, and the grille is large.

More important, how does it drive? In two words, comfortably and quietly — just like you’d expect from a Lexus.

It’s powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that gets 235 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s decent enough power and 0-60 comes in at 7 seconds sharp (7.2 with the all-wheel-drive version). Front-wheel-drive is standard, all-wheel-drive optional.

It’s quiet as a mouse from the get-go and smooth and controlled down the road. Opt for the F-Sport and it gets noisier, thanks to engine noise being pumped in via the Active Sound Control. It can be controlled with a rotary switch.

NX is competent on corners, not super tacky or flat, but uneventful. The F-Sport also provides a more road-compliant NX with the help of a well-tuned sport suspension. Steering is responsive, and braking is firm and confident. The F-Sport also includes aluminum pedals and a cool black headliner.

Despite its moniker, what you want to remember is that the NX is not really a sports car. Its ride is quiet and disciplined.

Power is distributed via a 6-speed automatic tray, helping the NX to put mpg numbers in the mid-20s combined. Highway riding, with reasonable demands, can get nearly 30 mpg.

Inside is typical Lexus refinement, with elegant, soft-touch materials and a clean, tight fit on all the parts and panels.

Soft leather seats are comfortable but supportive. Two-tone seats and contrast stitching offer a sporty flair.

Roominess is adequate — more than adequate in the rear. While backseat space is a breath of fresh air, with good leg, head and hip room, the cargo area falls a bit short, whether the sears are up or down. With just over 17 cubic feet of space with the seats up, it ranks under the compact crossover competition so, if cargo space is important, either check out the bigger Lexus RX or one of the other compact luxury crossovers.

Climate controls are mounted high and within easy reach.

I’m not thrilled with the Remote Touch display, which is too distracting. Sometimes the push-icons don’t cooperate. Maybe I’m cold-blooded.

But there is plenty of other high-tech stuff here: the optional wireless tray that can charge your cellphone, and safety tech like adaptive cruise control which can stop the car, pre-collision alert and lane-departure warning.

And, standard on the NX is a rear-view camera, plus Lexus’s Safety Connect, which includes stolen-vehicle location and an emergency assist button. Optional is blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The NX 200t comes in just one trim level, but it’s wonderfully equipped with automatic LED headlights and fog lights, keyless ignition, driver-select vehicle dynamics and 8-way power seats with lumbar adjustment. But not leather, just a premium vinyl upholstery.

Beyond that, there are packages that can be added: the Comfort adds memory settings, the Premium includes 18-inch wheels and sunroof, and the Luxury package adds on wood trim and leather seats, power liftgate and power folding rear seat.

Other options include navigation, front and rear parking sensors, and some of the extras in the aforementioned packages.

If you’re shopping this segment, the NX is worth a look along with the likes of BMW’s X3, Mercedes’s GLK and Infiniti’s Q5. The NX offers a distinctive look — one that will stand out as much as that greyhound snout. For your money, it may just win by a nose.

 

2015 Lexus NX 200t: $37,000

As tested: $46,000 (with Luxury package)