Lexus will launch its new generation NX in Australia early next year. Here’s what buyers can expect from the Japanese SUV.
Lexus will be hoping its all-new replacement to the old NX proves a hit in the luxury SUV market, tempting buyers to opt for it over rivals including the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
It’s certainly deserving of buyers’ attention, particularly in NX450h+ guise, which is Lexus’ first plug-in hybrid model. A pity then that it is so far not confirmed for Australia, with only the NX250, NX350 and NX350h to launch in January 2022. However, the hybrid offers frugal motoring and at an expected competitive price point.
The styling of the new NX is slightly softer and less angular than the outgoing model but it still has the unmistakable spindle grille. At the rear, there’s now a full-width light bar and ‘Lexus’ script across the boot. The NX has also grown by 20mm in length, with 30mm extra between the front and rear wheels giving shorter overhangs for a more sportier look.
This has also boosted interior space, not only for passengers but also for luggage. Its 545-litre boot (for both the NX350h and NX450h+) is larger than even most PHEV rivals and the hybrid version of the NX can tow up to 1500kg.
There are big changes for the dashboard, which features a new infotainment system. With a large central touchscreen, this should be easier to use than the fiddly setup in its predecessor, particularly thanks to the arrival of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Pricing is yet to be announced but will be more than the old NX300 and NX300h variants for the equivalent NX350 and NX350h.
While not on the list of debutants at launch next year, we’ll quickly go over the PHEV which is the first time Lexus has released a plug-in hybrid model and could be an addition later on for Australia. The NX450h+ is fitted with an 18.1kWh battery, which requires charging using a home or public power supply. Using a 6.6kW wallbox, this takes just under three hours and a full battery gives an electric range of up to 64km. In theory, this is enough to allow most drivers to tackle their commute without using any petrol. Official economy figures for the 450h+ are up to 0.9L/100km, with CO2 emissions as low as 20g/km. It’s quite a good drivetrain and impressed us on this launch drive in Europe.
The hybrid NX350h has a more traditional powertrain for the brand, which recuperates energy as the car brakes and uses the petrol engine as a generator for a small battery. This powers 134kW front and 40kW rear electric motors under acceleration, making life easier for the petrol engine and resulting in economy of a claimed 5.0L/100km.
The car is very quiet when accelerating and refinement is particularly good with the hybrid, the transition between the two power sources being very smooth. The engine is not particularly urgent when accelerating with a heavy right foot despite the 179kW headline figure, though. For outright performance, the PHEV is quicker and the NX350 (non-hybrid) with a 2.4-litre turbocharged petrol four producing 205kW/430Nm is a lively unit, however, it lacks the silky refinement on offer from the 350h.
Refinement from the chassis is quite good too. The second-generation NX sits on Toyota’s all-new TNGA-K platform, which is also found under the Toyota RAV4, Toyota Kluger and Lexus ES. While we haven’t tried the latest NX on Australian roads yet, these models all offer neat handling and a driving experience that excels in stop and start traffic, and when the car is driven in a fairly relaxed manner. Ultimately, driving enthusiasts are likely to be better served by the likes of the BMW X3 which offers sharper handling.
But then things are quite attractive inside. While Lexus interiors have long impressed owners with their build quality and materials, the brand’s infotainment has come in for some criticism. For a long time, it has used a touchpad and mouse-style cursor, which can be tricky to use while driving. It’s all change for the NX, however, which gets a large 9.8-inch touchscreen instead. F Sport see this upgraded to a large 14-inch screen, sitting next to a 10-inch display for the instrument panel. Both setups also come with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, so familiar smartphone-style apps can be used.
Thanks to its new underpinnings, the NX has grown slightly in size, and this translates to a more spacious interior. There’s plenty of room in the front and rear seats for average-sized adults, and the driver should find plenty of adjustment to get their ideal position behind the steering wheel. Boot size has increased to 545 litres and folding the rear seats down increases space to 1436 litres.
The third-generation ‘Lexus Safety System+’ suite of safety technology is fitted across all trim levels, which is reassuring. New technology includes Lexus’ ‘e-latch’ door locks, which replace a mechanical door handle with an electronic setup that prevents occupants opening the door into the path of oncoming vehicles.
The adaptive cruise control system has also been improved, so it will no longer allow the vehicle to undertake traffic in other lanes, and it can help the driver change lanes. Sensors can also detect crossing traffic at junctions, helping to prevent collisions with unseen vehicles.
Overall, the all-new Lexus NX is highlighted by new powertrain tech and a much-improved infotainment to the premium Japanese brand’s recipe for a mid-size SUV. Material and build quality are still great, while the NX is also now a more practical machine. It now offers more than ever, especially if you’re after an alternative to some of the mainstream German manufacturers.