For 2022, the Lexus NX has been completely redesigned with new styling, tech and powertrain options.
There are new fascias both front and rear, a vastly re-designed interior and specifically for the purposes of this review, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model to go along with the hybrid seen previously. That’s why there’s a “+” in my tester’s model name, the “+” referring to the owner’s ability to plug in and charge the vehicle for full EV driving over a claimed 61 kilometres.
While the latest NX still gets the big “hourglass” grille emblazoned with the traditional Lexus “L” badge, there are new headlights that now house the DRLs and headlights under the same lens, fog lights, clamshell hood, different wing mirror design and a more tailored look overall. My car’s Executive Package, meanwhile, adds tri-beam auto-levelling LED headlights and special 20-inch wheels.
That Lexus badge we were talking about? Nowhere to be found on the rear deck, where it’s replaced by large “LEXUS” scripting, in keeping with a popular trend seen in the crossover world these days. It’s complimented by a full-width taillight bar which provides a lower, wider look overall.
Inside, however, it’s a different story as the debut of the new NX also sees the debut of a new Lexus infotainment system – dubbed “Lexus Interface” -- which Lexus needed. Badly.
Gone is the fiddly, sort-of-but-doesn’t-really work touchpad-slash-cursor system, replaced by a touchscreen interface – and what a screen! It’s an optional 14 inches of swept area (up from 9.8 inches as standard), angled towards the driver and sitting closer than previous. It's also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. Both interfaces are wireless, and both span the entirety of the display. Even though the apps take up that much space, the climate controls remain, made up of a combination of a touch interface and traditional dials. It’s all good, but a couple of buttons either side of the volume knob below all that for your seek/skip controls would be nice to have.
Other displays include a digital rear-view mirror (important in smaller vehicles so tall rear passengers or loads don’t obstruct your rear outward visibility) and heads-up display.
Which brings us to a bit of a curiosity when it comes to the NX.
You see, unlike what you’d typically expect, the steering wheel-mounted controls that are used to navigate your gauge cluster (partially digitized, in this case, and not much different looking than previous) are actually used to navigate your head-up display, which is where you look to modify your gauge cluster’s contents. Seems a bit backwards, doesn’t it?
Other slight interior issues include the lack of the optional full-length moonroof seen in other NX models as it would add too much weight to a vehicle already weighed down by a heavy hybrid system. There’s also some slightly weird control placement. It took me a good two minutes to find the engine on/off button, for example, and I repeatedly reached for the leftmost climate knob instead of the actual on/off button when I would climb in and prepare to set off. The electronic door releases – both inside and out – took some getting used to as well.
The lack of the full-length moonroof does, however, mean more rear headroom. The seats are comfortable – as you’d expect from Lexus – and there’s no less passenger space in the PHEV than there is in other NX models.
I’m also rather a fan of the virtual assistant you get, which allows to issue commands ranging from turning up the heat, to finding and navigating to the nearest sushi joint. The system also recognizes a multitude of accents, can send ETA messages to those at your destination and can tell whether it’s the front passenger or driver issuing commands.
The most I saw after a full charge was 57 km, which shrunk to about 51 km in the real-world after my test drive. A drive which, I grant you, took place over undulating mountain roads, clogged city streets and open, flat highway. Of course, I’ve driven most every NX-sized PHEV there is out there, and actually hitting an OEM’s claimed mileage figures is rarely realistic as driving conditions are just never going to be perfect.
The NX does, however, make it nice and easy to get the most out of your range thanks to a button marked “HV-EV HOLD CHG” mounted below the shift lever. It allows you to save your charge for later in your drive, perhaps one that starts on the highway but ends on clogged city streets, where an EV motor is more beneficial. There’s also a button marked “Auto EV/HV” which allows you to go the other way and force the vehicle to use its EV motor only.
Beyond that power is rated at 305 combined horsepower fed – immediately - to all four wheels through a CVT transmission. Thanks to its gas backup, it doesn’t run out of steam at speed, either. This is a small crossover that punches far above its weight when it comes to its powertrain.
Of course, it is also a Lexus crossover, meaning it has to ride comfortably as well. Which the 450+ does, even without the optional adaptive dampers you get with the F-Sport Series 3 package my car didn’t have. Bumps are swallowed up with gumption and body roll, dive and squat – even with the quick off-the-line speeds – are pleasantly reduced.
The NX is the first model to get redesigned in the “new Lexus” era (with the IS being more of a hefty refresh) and it’s a darn good starting point thanks to its great interior tech, easily manageable PHEV system and ultra-comfortable in-cabin and on-road experience. Sure, it may not have gone too far down the well styling-wise, and there are a few interior bugaboos, but darned if the NX isn’t a job well done.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.