NX puts Lexus on the small SUV cutting edge

2016 LEXUS NX 200t F SPORT AWD

  • Price/As-tested price………………… $38,365/$46,440
  • Mileage…………………………………… 22 mpg/city; 27 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower…………………………… 235 hp/258 lbs.-ft.
  • Drive wheels……………………………………… All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………………………………… Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan

Lexus turned heads when it debuted its NX luxury compact sport-utility vehicle last year. The styling strayed from the norm with a sweeping appearance running from front to back that featured prominent creasing across the door panels stretching diagonally from the lower front wheel.

With some traits borrowed from the Toyota RAV4, Lexus wasn’t exactly going into uncharted territory. Because of that the 2016 NX has changed little except for more smartphone connectivity and a few new colors.

NX’s come in two turbocharged trims - there is also a hybrid version - each with front-wheel and all-wheel-drive options. The starting price is $34,965 for a Base FWD and increases to $38,365 for an F Sport AWD, which we drove. The F Sport comes with a black mesh grille in place of chrome strips across the front, different interior trim, sport seats, paddle shifters, sport-tuned suspension, drilled aluminum pedals and footrest and 18-inch wheels in lieu of 17-inchers.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine turns out 235 horsepower and 258 lbs.-ft. of torque. Those are snappy numbers comparable to its competition. A six-speed automatic transmission performs well and the paddle shifters can enhance the driving experience. The NX is a bit noisier in the cabin than the larger Lexus RX but that’s understandable with the sportiness incorporated within. At just a smidgen more than 15 feet in length and with its low profile, the NX is able to attack twisting roads.

Inside, there’s a nice mix of smooth leather, crisp materials and visible gauges. With transmission, cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel and a head-up display, the cockpit is definitely user friendly. The one aspect that is difficult to get used to - and maybe it’s because of my short testing time - is the Remote Touch pad included with the Navigation Package. The pad is touchy and not something to be messed with while moving.

Front-seat passengers have multi-powered positions at their disposal and bolstered bucket seating. The rear bench splits, folds and reclines. The cargo area has 17.7 cubic feet of space, not a lot for an SUV but part of the sacrifice to have a lively entry in this category.

Our tester exhibited the full gamut of what an NX can hold. Other options included heated front seats, power moonroof, a pre-collision system with all-speed cruise control that can bring the vehicle to a stop from speeds up to 37 mph, lane-departure warning system, blind-spot monitor and wireless mobile phone charger.

The Lexus NX 200t F Sport brings the finer touches and an inviting wheel-turning performance into a compact SUV. There’s no reason why it can’t be a move-up step for RAV4 owners and others.

David Mikesell is a free-lance automotive reviewer based in Indianapolis.