Lexus NX200t Review
The new turbo-charged petrol variant of an already-solid performer, exclusively in F sport trim.
- F sport Spec comes brilliantly equipped
- Clever interior material choices
- Involving driving experience
- Offers worse fuel economy than the petrol-hybrid model
- Plastic Body trim around wheel arches - even on the top spec
- Tyre Squeal when cornering at speed
Lexus have recently celebrated two record years in the UK in terms of new-vehicle sales and they are statistically the fastest growing premium brand on our shores. In 2015 they’re hoping to achieve their 3rd year of consecutive growth in Europe, and 5th year of consecutive growth in the UK. Chief Engineer, Takeaki Kato explained that the key points which will excel the NX200T to success are “driving pleasure, outstanding response with the absence of turbo-lag and low-speed torque with quietness.”
On the Road
This new NX comes with an ultra-light 2 litre petrol engine with a complex turbocharger which assuringly drags the car from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds and on to an electronically limited top-speed of 125 mph. The turbo’d unit alone weighs just 160kg thanks to clever material choices, such as the aluminium alloy block and head- yet it is substantial enough to produce a solid 235bhp and 350Nm of torque. In real-world terms these figures come together nicely, especially at low revs. Turbo-units have traditionally suffered from turbo-lag as pressure builds in the engine however Lexus have overcome this with intricate air-intakes, a watercooled cylinder head and a twin scroll turbocharger. Acceleration is smooth and consistent throughout the rev-range so torque feels progressive and encouraging as the occupants are eased back into their seats.
The NX200T is solely available with a 6-speed automatic gearbox which seems to suit the vehicle and compliment the engine well, although the driver only really feels engaged when in Sport+ mode (available with the £750 optional extra: ‘Available Variable Suspension’) on the paddle shifts, when gear changes feel sharp and measured and the snappier throttle response.
We tested the Lexus in the Cote D'Azur, southern France. The route we took allowed us to put the NX through its paces in rural villages, swooping A roads and motorways also. The NX excelled at the latter and performed modestly in the former. The large dimensions of the NX (4,630mm long & 2,130mm wide) aren’t all that hard to handle, even in twisty french alleyways, due to the precise steering and great visibility. The 4x4 system does well to really push the NX out of corners and this is heightened by the torque from the turbocharger. Exiting corners is a lot of fun in this car.
The only question mark raised about the NX’s Ride & Handling would be the body roll when attacking corners at pace. In fairness, all performance 4x4’s suffer from this with their higher centre of gravity and greater suspension travel. However, the NX is supposed to have a ‘superior ride’ courtesy of the Adaptive Variable Suspension which is 30-way adjustable, it really isn’t as you would expect. With this comes an awful lot of tyre shrieking if you accelerate through bends, instead of just out of them, but no loss of traction or stability.
‘Smoothness and quietness’ were two of the fundamental values that Chief Developer Takeaki Kato insisted upon while developing the NX200T and both aspects have been achieved under normal driving conditions. In comfort mode the NX glides over blemished road surfaces as if they were marble and while sitting at a constant 70 mph the vehicle remains deadly silent. It’s only when really pressing-on that the car becomes a bit more loose. As mentioned, when cornering at speeds the tyres let out an unsettling squeal, the car doesn’t lose any composure and no correctional steering is needed, but the car does slightly feel as if its being ripped from the tarmac. Another minor flaw would be that the large wing-mirrors begin to generate significant wind noise while exceeding 80mph. The noise isn’t distracting or annoyingly loud at all, but it is definitely noticeable and worth mentioning.
In the car
Life behind the wheel of an NX200T, or any other modern Lexus, is extremely relaxed while driving sensibly. The leather seats are brilliantly ergonomic, as is the whole centre console. I personally have only driven a handful Lexus’, but I innately knew where all the buttons and controls would be, because they are where they should be. Other Japanese manufacturers have valuable controls hidden among menus and submenus behind unresponsive touch-screens which only leads to driver distraction and inevitably frustration - all in the name of technology.
Lexus have kept it simple using sensible, physical, buttons within arms reach controlling a sat-nav display at the foot of the windscreen - you barely have to take your eyes off the road. Text entry and in-screen controls are managed by a touch pad, similar to any laptop of the last 10 years, mounted beneath the gear stick. Very easy to use.
Another cool feature was the wireless mobile device charging tray in the centre arm-rest (next to the removable handheld mirror…) which works with compatible smartphones. This is useful new technology which should prevent drivers from playing on their phones behind the wheel as it relies on the device being placed inside the console on the magnetic tray.
The NX200t offers room to comfortably transport 5 adults without any real problems, as you would expect from a vehicle of this size. The front seats feel more like arm chairs as they swallow the occupants into the premium leather upholstery. Which has rd stitching on the F sport trim. Rear-seated passengers will have no complaints either. Head room is lofty, almost feeling infinite with the optional panoramic roof, and leg room can’t be faulted either with the absence of a transmission tunnel impeding the middle seat. Much more facilitating than both the Porsche Macan and Range Rover Evoque that it rivals.
Boot space is substantial, 580 litres with the rear seats up, and almost triple that with the seats down - 1,625 litres. Accessing the Boot is easy also, with both hands full of shopping you can open and close the boot with just one touch of a button. Not revolutionary, but helpful.
On a motorway journey - sitting at 70mph with cruise control - you can expect to achieve around 43mpg, which is not bad at all by any stretch of the imagination for a petrol SUV. On a combined cycle this will drop around the 35mpg mark and spirited driving will have this plummet considerably, so you’ll do well to get over 350 miles from the 60 litre tank. Road Tax in the NX is £225 a year - not cheap and BIK rate this year is 29%. This car is not really built for company-car use and it’s only really a viable option for those who aren’t covering more than 15,000 miles a year. For these consumers though I’d recommend the petrol hybrid Lexus NX300h - which easily achieves above and beyond 50mpg and starts cheaper than the 200t, albeit with a lower spec.
All materials inside and out are high quality and well selected, you can simply feel that this is built to last. Lexus have been a safe bet for consumers for a number of years now. Japanese reliability partnered with brilliant aftersales and affordable servicing mean this will be a sure bet for those who are longitudinally apprehensive. One of our few niggling irritations about the NX200t is the body-trim over the wheel arches. While these might be for protective purposes, there’s no reason they can’t be body coloured instead of a contrasting plastic-y black. This styling flaw could put off prospective buyers who want a top-spec vehicle to have top-spec styling throughout the vehicle.
The Lexus NX achieved 5 stars on the Euro NCAP safety ratings, which is the best crash test performance of any model in its class. That fact alone should clear up any uncertainties. The F sport trim of the NX200t comes heavily airbagged for passengers in both the front and rear. The NX also boasts countless driving aids in various acronyms; ABS, EBD, BAS, VSC, TRC, HAC to name but a few…
As brilliant as new safety technology is, it can become a little overbearing. For example, when overtaking a car on an A-road a large red light appeared on the dash saying ‘BRAKE!’ just as I was about to pull out, causing me to abort the overtake and remain in-lane. This was triggered by the front mounted collision sensor (quite rightly) detecting that I was accelerating towards a car ahead, which was the car I was trying to overtake...