Review: Lexus NX (2014)
High quality and impressively refined. Luxurious feel to interior. Usefully large boot. Cheaper entry-level model with 2WD. Relaxing to drive in traffic.
F Sport models get strange exhaust note symposer. More at home in the suburbs than on twisting A and B roads.
Lexus NX (2014): At A Glance
- New prices start from £31,145, brokers can source from £33,668
- Contract hire deals from £361.69 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 27–38
- On average it achieves 73% of the official MPG figure
According to Lexus, the story behind the name of its new NX is that it stands for 'nimble crossover'. This is after all a smaller counterpart to the big RX 450h that's designed as an alternative to the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
It's a neat looking design. Lexus says it wanted to give the NX more 'emotional appeal' and while it's far from handsome, those sharp lines work well to create a sophisticated look. The front end echoes the IS but according to Lexus, 90 per cent of parts used are unique to the NX.
Like all Lexus models, there's no Noxious diesel engine in the range. Instead Lexus offers a NX 300h hybrid that uses a 2.5-litre petrol engine alongside an electric motor. It's designed to be efficient with claimed economy of 54.3mpg in the majority of models with CO2 emissions of just 121g/km.
While it looks good on paper with a total of 195PS and a 0-62mph time of less than 9.5 seconds, the NX 300h is hamstrung by its epicyclic CVT gearbox which can make for a noisy driving experience unless you're feather-footed. Even gentle acceleration is accompanied by continuous engine whine.
This is a shame because engine noise aside, the NX is a good SUV. It's incredibly refined, beautifully built and has a superb quality interior. It's also spacious with good room in the back and a decent boot. And as with all Lexus models, standard equipment levels are very high with top models coming with pretty much every conceivable bell and whistle.
The NX is the first Lexus model to feature a Pre-Crash Safety system and Adaptive Cruise Control as standard on all versions. Other firsts for a Lexus include a wireless charging tray for easy charging of smartphones and a new Remote Touch Interface with a touchpad control that replaces the awkward mouse controller. However it only comes on top versions.
An NX 200t model, with a new turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol with 235PS, joined the line-up in 2015 and comes with a six-speed automatic. This is available as a higher performance version in F Sport trim.
What does a Lexus NX (2014) cost?
Lexus NX (2014): What's It Like Inside?
The interior of the NX follows the same pattern as the IS with a high quality feel and a sleek design. It's fairly button heavy and some elements do look a touch dated - the old school digital display for the air conditioning for example - but overall it feels like a luxury vehicle.
The leather finish on top models covers the dash and door tops and has a lovely soft feel to it while the plastics that are used feel solid. Other highlights are the thick metal surround on the air vents and central console plus the neat analogue clock. Like the IS it has the feel of a high-end stereo system.
As you'd expect from a Lexus, refinement is excellent with a superbly insulated cabin and hardly any wind or road noise. It's a shame that the excessive engine noise from acceleration ruins things as that aside, this is one of the most refined SUVs around. There's an real attention to detail and precision to everything so while it may not have the wow factor, there is no denying the superb quality.
There's plenty of space too - this is, after all, designed as a family vehicle. Up front it's spacious while those in the back get well catered for with plenty of headroom and comfortable legroom. The boot is a good size and user-friendly with a wide opening while top models get an electrically opening tailgate, although like many it can be frustratingly slow.
Overall boot capacity is 475 litres although that's some way behind an Audi Q5 at 540 litres. But on the plus side, all NX models come with a space saver spare wheel as standard, the competition all make you pay for this as an optional extra or don't offer it at all.
There are plenty of advanced systems on the NX including a wireless charging tray on top models. This sits in the cubby that doubles as an armrest between the front seats and lets you charge your smartphone by simply placing it in the tray. There's no need for wires.
The second interesting feature is a head-up display, something we first saw on BMW models. This projects speed data onto the windscreen along with navigation information if you want. It works very well with a clear and sharp display, plus it means you can focus more on the road than looking at your instrument dials.
Thankfully Lexus has also revised its Remote Touch Interface control, ditching the awkward mouse controller for a much slicker touchpad. It's much easier to use on the move and comes with the optional Lexus Premium Navigation which is standard on Premier models.
NX 300h S models come with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights, adaptive cruise control, pre-crash safety system, reversing camera, dual zone climate control, Lexus Media Display with remote dial controller, DAB, electric folding door mirrors, hill-start assist, eight airbags, USB, remote double door locking and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management.
SE adds all-wheel drive, integrated roof rails, 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/60 R18 tyres, rain-sensing wipers and heated front seats.
Luxury comes with LED fog lights with cornering function, rear privacy glass, heated and electrically adjustable leather front seats, parking sensors, Smart Entry and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Premier trim has 18-inch bespoke alloys with 235/60 R18 tyres, LED high-beam headlights, auto-dimming door mirrors, driver's seat position memory, Mark Levinson audio system, Card key, Lexus Premium Navigation with Remote Touch Interface touch pad, 360 degree panoramic view, lane keep assist, head-up display, heated steering wheel and blind spot monitor.
F Sport gains two-tone finish 18-inch alloys with 235/60 R18 tyres, F Sport heated electric leather front sports seats with lumbar support, F Sport suspension and performance dampers, electric steering column adjust, powered tailgate and a wireless smartphone charger.
Child seats that fit a Lexus NX (2014)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Lexus NX (2014) like to drive?
As with other Lexus models there is no diesel available in the NX - instead there's the choice of the NX 300h hybrid or the petrol NX 200t which arrives in March 2015. The hybrid model is the mst popular and it's the same system that's used in the Lexus IS and RAV-4.
This means a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine alongside an electric motor which combined provide 197PS. That's less than the IS 300h that has 223PS and the NX is around a second slower when accelerating from 0-62mph, taking 9.3 seconds. Yet thanks to 270Nm of torque from the electric motor, which is available from a standstill, the NX 300h pulls effortlessly and keenly away.
Lexus has fine-tuned the hybrid system in the NX to deliver better response and make it better on long inclines. There's a new kick-down function for quicker overtaking using additional electric power while engine speed has been increased relative to the accelerator in order to create the feeling of a downshift.
The idea is to give a more natural feeling of acceleration but it's somewhat of a mixed bag. As with all Lexus hybrid models, the NX 300h has an epicyclic CVT gearbox and it's this that proves the main sticking point. It's fine at low speeds but, left to its own devices, even moderate acceleration is met with lots of engine noise at a continuous pitch which detracts from the sense of refinement.
Unless you use the paddles to hold the lower ratios, it means overtaking isn't as relaxed or as effortless as in a diesel. It could be forgiven if the performance was strong, as with the GS 450h, but it feels like it lacks grunt from around 50mph which is strange given the torque that should be available from both the petrol engine and the electric motor.
Things are even stranger on the F Sport version. This is the one to go for in terms of looks, plus it gets a different suspension set-up but it also adds a strange artificial exhaust noise.
The idea is to make it feel sporty. These kinds of exhaust sound symposers are nothing new; the likes of the Ford Focus ST and Porsche 911 have them, but it seems odd that the NX 300h - a car that's so refined - has such a set-up. Not only that but the noise quickly becomes tiring. Worse still, the exhaust noise bears no relation to the engine sound, so when accelerating you get two competing sounds. Happily there is a switch to turn it off.
On the plus side the NX boasts incredibly low emissions at just 121g/km for the AWD models with official economy of 54.3mpg. There's an entry-level S model that comes as a front-wheel drive only, and is even more economical with a claimed 56.5mpg and CO2 of 116g/km.
The AWD models come with a system which Lexus calls E-Four. Like the RX400h and 450h, this uses an extra electric motor to drive the rear wheels while the front wheels run from the hybrid system. It's an on-demand system so only kicks in when needs, such as if there's a loss of traction, otherwise the NX 300h runs in front-wheel drive to save fuel.
Where the Lexus impresses is with its ride quality. It's incredibly quiet and refined over rough roads with no vibration coming into the cabin. Body control is very good too with very little pitch or roll which means it feels safe and composed through corners. The steering is somewhat artificial but the NX 300h is relaxing to drive albeit it not especially involving.
Average fuel economy of 42.0 mpg was achieved on a run in a Lexus NX300h F Sport from Broadway, Worcestershie to Weybridge, Surrey. About 4mpg short of the same engine and drivetrain in the Lexus GS300h. Happily, if this car was fitted with the symposer, I couldn't find it. As mentioned, acceleration is sluggish and noisy if the CVT is left to its own devices. Far better to use the paddles to 'downshift' and hold the relevant ratios. The radar cruise control with autonomous braking worked well. Important to note that when using the satnav, you have to go to 'Dest' page 2 in order to input a full 7 digit UK postcode.
The truth about the Lexus NX300h came driving it on errands a couple of days later. It is not "rewarding" pushed to its limits cross-country over a winding A or B road. Instead, it's "relaxing" driven on the kind of pot-holed, speed-humped, congested suburban roads most of us have to live with. There, it's in its element. A haven of electrically motorised calm. And this is also where it's at its most efficient, delivering 44mpg. So goodbye all those NOx belching diesel engined battlewagons on the Surrey school run. Hello, sweet-natured Lexus NX300h. And, though the children carried in them to class may never learn to walk more than 100 metres, at least they won't be poisoned by exhaust fumes.
|200t||36 mpg||7.1 s||183 g/km|
|300h||48–57 mpg||9.2 s||121–135 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Lexus NX (2014)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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