AUTO REVIEW: 2022 Lexus NX SUV Boasts 36-Mile Plug-In Hybrid, Connected Navigation and More

PHOENIX (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -
Lexus NX
The 2022 Lexus NX

Lexus adds a welcome plug-in hybrid, among other useful features, to its 2022 NX compact SUV. Brief tests also suggest significantly improved infotainment and connectivity systems.

The new NX should join its big brother — the RX, without which no higher-end preschool pickup lane is complete — as the mainstays of Lexus’ lineup in a post-sedan, increasingly electrified auto industry.

The NX is already popular. It sold 62,079 in the U.S. in 2020. The new lineup, which includes two gasoline-powered models, a hybrid and the plug-in hybrid, as well as both front- and all-wheel-drive models, should increase the NX’s appeal.

Competitors include the Acura RDX, BMW X2, Cadillac XT5, Lincoln Corsair, Infiniti QX50 and Mercedes GLC.

I drove varieties of the NX from suburban Phoenix through neighborhoods and desert scrub to quirky sundials and sculptures of nearby Carefree, Arizona.

What’s New?

The 2022 NX is 183.5 inches long, on a 105.9-inch wheelbase. Both figures are 1.2 inches longer than the 2021 model.

The NX uses a new platform that makes the new models significantly lighter than their predecessors.

The 2022’s styling is supposed to embody Lexus’ new dedication to performance and handling, but it’s an evolution of the outgoing SUV. Obvious changes include moving the L-shaped daytime running lights from below to above the headlights.

The current hybrid — EPA rating: 33 mpg city/30 highway/31 combined — accounts for 23% of NX sales. Lexus estimates the 2022 hybrid will score 41/37/49 when testing is complete.

Lexus expects the 2022 NX 350h hybrid to snag 25% of sales, the NX 450h+ PHEV another 5%. The 450h+ will be available mostly in California and other states that incentivize zero-emission vehicles. Lexus estimates it’ll go about 36 miles on a charge, everything many drivers need on a daily basis.

Official EPA figures for the PHEV and all the rest of the ’22s will be available later this year.

2022 Lexus NX

How Much?

The base NX 250 model has a 203-horsepower normally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $37,950. All-wheel drive raises the price to $39,950. Acceleration is a leisurely 8.6 seconds with front drive, 8.2 seconds for AWD.

The sportiest NX is the 350, which comes with a 275-hp turbocharged 2.4L engine, all-wheel drive and the eight-speed automatic. The quickest in the lineup, it accelerates to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. Prices start at $41,550.

The $41,050 350h hybrid has a 2.5L engine, electrically powered rear axle and continuously variable transmission. Total power is 239 hp. The 350h reaches 60 mph in 7.2 seconds.

The 450h+ plug-in hybrid also has an electrically powered rear axle, CVT and 239 total hp. Estimated 0-60 time is 6 seconds. Prices start at $55,560. EPA fuel economy estimates will be available before sales begin.

2022 Lexus NX Model Range Prices, Excluding Destination Charges

—NX 250 FWD – $37,950

—NX 250 AWD – $39,550

—NX 350h hybrid – $41,050

—NX 350 – $41,550

—NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid – $55,560

Lexus NX SUV Driving Impressions

The NX 350 is the sporty member of the family. The 350h hybrid’s acceleration is adequate, but its gasoline engine is a bit noisy when accelerating hard. The PHEV’s more powerful batteries deliver acceleration with less fuss.

Only the normally aspirated base engine — which Lexus did not make available to test — achieves its published performance with 87 octane regular gasoline. Both hybrids and the turbo recommend 91 octane or higher.

The base suspension provides a smooth ride. Available adaptive shocks reduce body roll and improve stability in enthusiastic driving.

2022 Lexus NX

2022 Lexus NX Safety and Driver Assistance Features

—Blind spot and cross traffic alerts

—Right or left turn and intersection oncoming pedestrian and vehicle detection/braking

—Dynamic Radar Adaptive cruise control with curve speed management

—Road sign recognition

—Emergency steering assist

—Collision alert with front automatic braking

—Pedestrian and cyclist detection

—Lane centering

—Lane departure alert with steering assist

—Automatic high beams

—Digital latch and safe exit assistant

—Digital rear view mirror

Vastly Improved Controls, Digital Assistant

All NX models benefit from a cloud-based infotainment system Toyota developed in Texas.

Reliant on touchscreens and voice commands, it’s a huge improvement from quixotic previous Lexus controls that included a joystick and a touch pad.

The climate controls include dials for temperature, but rely on the touchscreen to adjust fan speed. Audio controls have a physical volume dial and touchscreen tuning.

In addition to Google searches for destinations, menus, operating hours and the like, the cloud-based system can store multiple drivers’ preferences for audio, climate and more. Bonus: Those preferences will be available when you get into any Lexus or Toyota equipped with the new infotainment system.

The base touchscreen measures a generous 9.8 inches, with a gargantuan 14-inch one available.

The navigation system stores the destination when the connection to the cloud gets tenuous.

Activated by the command, “Hey, Lexus,” the new digital assistant consistently filled requests quickly and accurately.

Just about every interior surface is padded. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Wireless charging is an option.

A configurable 10-inch head up display presents information clearly, and can be adjusted from a convenient thumb pad on the steering wheel.

2022 Lexus NX

2022 Lexus NX at a Glance

Base price: $37,950

Front- or all-wheel five-passenger compact SUV

Primary model tested: NX 450h+ plug-n hybrid

Estimated price as tested: $59,615

On sale December 2021

Powerplant: 2.5L four-cylinder engine and two electric motors; Electric rear axle

Lithium-ion batteries

Total system output: 239 hp; torque not available

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic

Estimated EPA fuel economy rating: Not available. 91 octane or higher fuel recommended

Estimated battery range: 36 miles

Wheelbase: 105.9 inches

Length: 183.5 inches

Width: 73.4 inches

Height: 65.8 inches

Curb weight: 4,475 pounds

Cargo space: 27.4 cubic feet behind rear seat, 46.9 with rear seat folded

Towing capacity: Not advised

Assembled in Cambridge, Ontario

Photos courtesy of Mark Phelan/Detroit Free Press/TNS