Price, low tax, looks, interior quality. Engine sometimes silent
It's not sporty, if you want that. Engine often noisy
What is it?
This is the second generation of Lexus’s midsize NX family SUV. It’s the Japanese luxury carmaker’s best-selling model across Europe no less, so it’s important to get a replacement model right. It ticks all the boxes at first glance though – the styling has been sharpened up and the awful old infotainment is fixed. Everything else is as expected, a “smooth evolution", as Lexus puts it.
So what has smoothly evolved on the new NX?
Well, the hybrid option remains, but now there’s a fancy plug-in version of the car available – Lexus’s first – that will get you up to 45 miles on a charge, although Lexus says that this will increase to around 55 miles if you stick to the city. All very smooth. And it gives enormous tax savings, and enormous real fuel savings for people who stay mostly near a home charger.
The new NX is 20mm longer (with an extra 30mm in the wheelbase to the benefit of passenger space) and the car is 20mm wider. More relevant are what that means versus rivals. It actually sits between the steps of the Germans: bigger than a GLA, X1 or Q3, smaller than a GLC, X3 or Q5.
The full-width light bar at the back of the car is set to be a new Lexus signature styling touch, and its old signature styling touch, the fishhook-DRL at the front of the car, has been neatly integrated into the headlights, which are better LEDs.
What’s the NX like inside?
The Lexus’s interior is decently plush, if spec sensitive. We wouldn’t want the red upholstery ourselves, but each to their own. There’s a giant screen available, naturally, but the screen surround on the dashboard is the same whether you’ve got the 14in or the 9.8in screen fitted to your car. Bigger is definitely better in this case. And no-one will miss the awful old touchpad-controlled infotainment from the old NX.
The NX’s real party piece is the new electronic door opening system, though – the handle has essentially been replaced with an electronic latch that springs the door open if you squeeze in the right place.
So far so whatever – the really clever bit is that Lexus has integrated this opening system with its blindspot warning set-up and the car will stop you from opening the door if there happens to be a cyclist, pedestrian, large bus or some such missile about to fill the space where your door is headed. Every car needs a party piece you can show off to your passengers, doesn’t it? Especially now the Highway Code mandates the Dutch Reach door opening technique.
How does it drive?
The NX's suspension does a solid job of being a sensible, middle of the road drive (though not literally, the lane keep assist will see to that), which isn’t such a bad thing. It’s billed as a luxury drive, not a sporty one. It’s actually a very comfortable car, matching up well with the low-emission powertrain. That powertrain, as we'll see, rewards gentle driving. If you're spirited with the accelerator when the engine's working, the noise is grim.
What's the verdict?
This NX is a solid cash cow for Lexus, so it’s going to be more of the same from a brand-new version. Hence the smooth evolution. And it’s a successful one, too – the car provides a suave alternative to the usual fare and helps Lexus to stop haemorrhaging company car sales to other carmakers offering bigger-batteried plug-ins. The full-hybrid or PHEV drive definitely saves fuel and tax, but does still make an odd noise. And the NX is still an SUV, so forgive us if we don’t get too excited.