by Tony West and Daryl Payne
Lexus refines their flagship NX compact lux utility whip and hit a home run. With a bolder new low-slung design and aggressive- yet efficient powertrain, the NX goes from obscure rookie to a major competitor to Volvo and BMW’s CUVs.
The 2014 model was awkward with a raked hood and sloped rear, and a cumbersome interior with more upholstery than legroom.
The 2015-2016 Lexus NX 200t has its own sporty-lux identity. The CUV now has a bold black grille with chrome accents and big 17 inch blacked-out alloy wheels. The fresh new interior is leather-clad with contrast stitching, wood and brushed-metal trim.
Lexus gives the new NX the low turbo-aggression of the RC, with the efficiency of their hybrids. I’m always impressed at how Lexus keeps improving their whips, taking in feedback, and then stunting on their stagnant competition the next year.
We reviewed the 2016 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport that has a MSRP of just $38k. The carry-over model has grown in popularity, and I’ve seen this CUV on the road a lot in Chicago this year. With its advanced dynamic driving tech, standard all-season tires and supreme efficiency it’s great for a Midwest winter.
Stylish Sporty New Flair
The great thing about the 2016 Lexus NX 200t is that it’s not the baby RX anymore. The NX has a compact lil body, but a lot of T & A. A big spindle grille consumes the front fascia and shapes the NX’s arrow frame.
The 2016 NX is low to the ground with a 6.9 inch clearance. Yet the 2016 NX 200t has great front legroom and decent rear legroom with its 104 inch wheelbase and 182 inch length. I like its new lower stance. It’s sporty for a tall driver, yet a short person can climb in easily.
New exterior colors available include Autumn Shimmer, Blue Vortex Mica, and the Ultra White NX we reviewed. The NX’s piercing front and rear fascia offers 2 types of L-shaped LED light clusters. The CUV uses LEDs for the low beams and halogen lights for the high beams. LED daytime running lights, turning signals, brake lamps and fog lights are also standard. The headlights have this dope ultra-thin LED strip that wraps around the daytime running lights and vertical fog lights. I also dig the cool double boomerang look of the LED tail lights.
There’s also a cool LED strip on the door handles that illuminates with the side mirror as I approach the car. The low-slung stance with its sporty grill and aggressive lighting gives the NX a new identity, and gives its compact body an edge on the highway.
Also cool are the dual exhausts, front spoiler and integrated rear spoiler. Arrow-shaped power folding heated side mirrors are standard and help to eliminate blind spots. And an aluminum hood saves weight and enhances sporty driving.
The F-Sport model is even more stylish with a big black mesh grille, aluminum scuff-plates and F-Sport badging inside and out. Split-five spoke 18 inch alloy wheels are included with a machine-brushed finish or a dark metallic finish with all-season tires. The $2k F-Sport Package also adds a metallic coating on the lower bumper, and black side mirrors match the grille.
Astounding Versatile Performance
The most innovative feature of the 2016 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport is its powertrain that can be smooth and tranquil at low speeds, and slice through the air on the highway.
Thanks to its compact body, roof-mounted spoiler, and six aero panels in the underbody the lil turbo NX boasts an impressive .34 drag coefficient. Its low menacing stance, emboldened with its monocoque steel body gives the CUV added rigidity and dynamism.
The 2016 NX 200t F-Sport has an ultra-efficient 2 liter turbo 4 cylinder engine with port and direct injection. The innovative powertrain uses an advanced valve control system to switch between Atkinson Cycle and Otto Cycle to optimize performance and enhance fuel efficiency.
The turbo engine features dual variable valve timing with intelligence and boasts 235 horsepower at 4,800 – 5,600 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1,650 – 4,000 rpm. The 6 speed automatic transmission helps to optimize a great balance between performance and fuel economy with the torque-demand control logic that calculates required engine torque.
The 2016 NX also features G-force Artificial Intelligence that anticipates the needed gear and can downshift if needed.
The NX is not as sporty as the RX, but the whip feels youthful on the highway. MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension give the 2016 NX 200t resilience over bumps and dips, and helps the lil-turbo CUV maneuver like a sedan at high speeds.
The 2016 NX again has the Drive Mode Select with Normal, Sport, and Eco modes to optimize power steering and throttle response. Eco mode will encourage lower revs and level out the A/C. An eco-driving indicator light will turn on in the driver’s dash during low revs to encourage efficient driving.
Normal mode feels like an Eco mode with an open throttle, so it’s smooth on the highway and still efficient in stop-and-go traffic. Sport mode is fun and peppy, enabling fluid steering, tight cornering, and great high-speed stamina. The pointed fascia helps the NX tear through the air.
Whether in normal or eco mode, the NX is very efficient with an impressive 24 mpg combined EPA (22 mpg city, 27 mpg highway). Steering is responsive and fluid, and cornering is easy in and out of tight turns. Paddle shifters give the whip even more efficiency, though not much athleticism.
Dynamic all-weather drive returns to set-off the turbo powertrain and rigid body. AWD now includes Dynamic Torque Control that provides maximum torque to the front or rear wheels, monitoring road conditions speed, steering angle, throttle angle and yaw rate. When the NX turns too wide, Dynamic Torque Control AWD helps bring the vehicle back in line. A pre-loaded front differential help ensure optimized grip, control, and agility by ensuring straight-line drivabiity at low speeds and operating as an open differential at high speeds.
Superior Lux Compact Interior
Lexus really stepped up the NX’s interior. The CUV’s cabin boasts an impressive 42.8 inches of front legroom and 36 inches of rear legroom. The cockpit is more functional, and drivers tall and short can sit comfortably and reach the remote touch control and center stack controls.
Drivers have a 10-way adjustable seat, while passengers have an 8 way power seat. A Smart Access Entry System with push button start and auto dimming side rea view mirror are standard.
Sitting low in the NX 200t inspires more athletic driving. And the seat can be
raised up above the hood. It’s also cool how the ambient light can be dimmed. The dome lights are also LED illuminated.
Whipping the NX 200t is peaceful, even when I’m ripping the highway thanks to fantastic sound insulation on the doors, instrument panel, under carpet and engine. Active Sound Control is available with the F-Sport package.
The base 2016 Lexus NX 200t offers perforated crème, flaxen, or black NuLuxe leather seats with smooth bolsters with dark umber trim. The NX F-Sport we reviewed had a cocaine white paint job and stuntastic Roja Red NuLuxe leather with black accents, metallic trim, perforated NuLuxe inserts and smooth bolsters.
The 2016 NX offers heated and ventilated front seats and a standard dual-zone climate control that can sense occupants in the rear and only direct the a/c to the front if needed.
The Luxury Package – adds genuine leather in crème or black with black shadow wood accents.
The compact NX still has SUV traits, like the power lift gate, 60/40 split reclining fold/down rear seats and a 12 volt power outlet in the cargo area.
Drivers have a 4.2 inch TFT LCD digital multi-info display in the dash that shows important information like fuel consumption, average fuel, average speed, elapsed time, distance, oil pressure and compass.
The perforated leather steering wheel has controls for the MID, audio, and the forward collision alert.
The 2016 NX 200t has a cool 7 inch center screen for infotainment. The home screen can be customized into a tri-display with audio, climate, and navigation. The center screen is controlled with the remote touch interface, a small touch pad at the center console. The remote touch is still as hypersensitive as last year’s model.
Navigation features 3D illustrations along with helpful info like speed limit, predicative traffic, and weather forecasts.
One of the few drawbacks to the cockpit of NX is the lack of storage space. The whip just has a small center console, a hidden center compartment, and the side doors. Besides that, the NX cockpit has a lot of great standard features like the air filter, 4 twelve-volt outlets, and an 8 speaker audio system.
The 2016 NX features Lexus Enform with Safety Connect, Destination Assist, and App Suite that features OpenTable, MovieTickets.com, Pandora, and iHeartRadio Slacker and more apps. Lexus Enform Safety Connect, Lexus Enform Remote, and Lexus Enform Destination Services are subscription-based services and come with one-year trial subscriptions.
The F-Sport package adds sports-car swag like a brushed metallic shifter, non-slip aluminum pedals, perforated F-Sport steering wheel, plus a G-force monitor in the multi-info display.
Top-Notch Safety Rating with Add-Ons
The 2016 Lexus NX 200t scores a 5-star NTSC rating with its refined safety technology. A back-up camera is standard with dynamic grid lines, traction control, ABS, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, and vehicle stability control.
For $660 drivers can opt for a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert. A Pre-Collision system is available for $900 and uses the all-speed Adaptive Cruise Control system’s millimeter-wavelength radar sensor to determine impending collisions. The Pre-Collision Brake can slow and brake the NX 200t if a collision is unavoidable.
The 2016 Lexus NX 200t fully-loaded goes for $46k, pricy for an SUV – and especially high for a compact SUV. Luckily the style and substance of this CUV backs up its shocking sticker price. Moreover the F-Sport package add sporty flair but the NX at $38k is a very nice luxury whip without. The whip is a worthy competitor to the X3, the Acura RDX, and the Volvo XC60, which cost a few pennies more.