The new-generation Lexus NX is a big deal, considering the success of the current RAV4 with which it shares the bulk of its DNA, the brand has a big opportunity to take its new platform and powertrain into the premium segments.
While the bulk of people will have a hybrid as their first choice – be it the NX350h or plug-in NX450h+ – there’s a more athletic choice available in the form of the 2022 Lexus NX350 F Sport.
No, there’s no a free-revving V6 under the bonnet like the badge suggests, but the NX350 packs a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that might make you think twice committing to an Audi Q5 45 TFSI or a BMW X3 xDrive30i.
It’s not just about the powertrain, either. The new-generation NX packs a fresh, aggressive design outside, and an overhauled cabin which brings the latest and greatest tech Lexus has to offer.
While looks are subjective, our test car’s pearl white exterior with red leather interior looks the business in my opinion, and the huge 14-inch central infotainment system makes anyone go ‘wow’ when you first hop in.
Has Lexus finally shaken its “tarted up Toyota” image with this new NX? Should you be considering this $80,000+ mid-size SUV over German-badged rivals?
Well, there’s only one way to find out.
The new-generation NX range opens at $60,800 for the base NX250 with its naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine and front-wheel drive, but our high-spec 2022 Lexus NX350 F Sport AWD with Enhancement Pack 2 is priced from $83,900 plus on-roads.
We’ll detail the full list of inclusions in the next section, but you can do without the contents of the EP2 specification and pocket the $6000 difference – provided you can do with out the panoramic roof, heated steering wheel, digital rear-view mirror, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio.
It’s worth noting the equivalent previous-generation NX, the NX300 F Sport AWD, started around $10,000 cheaper than the new version, but that’s offset by the gamut of upgrades that have come with this new-generation model.
2022 Lexus NX pricing:
- Lexus NX250: $60,800
- Lexus NX250 with Enhancement Pack: $63,800
- Lexus NX350h Luxury 2WD: $65,600
- Lexus NX350h Luxury AWD: $70,400
- Lexus NX350h Sports Luxury 2WD: $73,100
- Lexus NX350h F Sport 2WD: $73,100
- Lexus NX350h Luxury AWD with Enhancement Pack: $73,400
- Lexus NX350h Sports Luxury AWD: $77,900
- Lexus NX350 F Sport AWD: $77,900
- Lexus NX350h F Sport AWD: $77,900
- Lexus NX350h Sports Luxury AWD with Enhancement Pack 1: $80,900
- Lexus NX350 F Sport AWD with Enhancement Pack 1: $80,900
- Lexus NX350h F Sport AWD with Enhancement Pack 1: $80,900
- Lexus NX350h Sports Luxury AWD with Enhancement Pack 2: $83,900
- Lexus NX350 F Sport AWD with Enhancement Pack 2: $83,900
- Lexus NX350h F Sport AWD with Enhancement Pack 2: $83,900
- Lexus NX450h+ F Sport AWD: $89,900
All prices exclude on-road costs
Key rivals include:
- Audi Q5 45 TFSI quattro Sport: $80,800
- BMW X3 xDrive30i M Sport: $89,900
- Cupra Formentor VZx: $66,490 D/A
- Genesis GV70 2.5T AWD: $68,876
- Jaguar E-Pace 300 Sport: $84,500
- Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic: $88,700
- Porsche Macan: $84,800
- Range Rover Evoque P250 R-Dynamic HSE: $82,699
- Volkswagen Tiguan R: $68,990
- Volvo XC60 B6 R-Design: $82,490
Prices exclude on-road costs unless specified (D/A)
NX F Sport highlights:
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- 14.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- “High-grade” 8.0-inch driver’s display
- Head-up display
- Surround-view cameras
- Ventilated front seats
- Wireless phone charging
- Adaptive suspension
- F Sport performance dampers
- F Sport seats
- Incl. driver memory function
- F Sport pedals, scuff plates, steering wheel and shifter
- F Sport grille and bumpers
- Tri-beam LED headlights with adaptive high-beam
- Hadori aluminium trim
- Selectable drive modes including Sport S+ and Custom
Enhancement Pack 2 ($6000) adds:
- Panoramic sunroof
- Heated steering wheel
- Digital rear-view mirror
- 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system
- Semi-autonomous parking assist (NX350h F Sport AWD only)
Specification carried over from lower grades includes:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- LED headlights with auto-levelling
- Automatic high-beam
- 8.0-inch driver display
- Satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wired)
- DAB+ digital radio
- 10-speaker sound system
- Lexus Connected Services
- Power tailgate
- Dual-zone climate control
- Lexus Climate Concierge
- Eight-way power front seats
- Incl. two-way driver’s lumbar support
- Heated front seats
- Keyless entry and start
- Electro-chromatic rear-view mirror
- Selectable drive modes
The new Lexus NX was recently awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating with a 2022 date stamp, based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP earlier this year.
The mid-sized SUV scored 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 83 percent for vulnerable road user protection and an impressive 92 per cent for safety assist.
ANCAP praised the NX’s impressive AEB performance as well as its protection of the driver and front passenger in the side impact and frontal offset tests respectively.
The NX was, however, only awarded a marginal rating for driver chest protection in the frontal offset test and was penalised accordingly (-1.21 pts out of 4.00 pts).
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian detection (day/night)
- Cyclist detection (day)
- Junction assist
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane Tracing Assist (centring)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Emergency Steering Assist
- Safe exit assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
- 10 airbags
- incl. driver’s knee and front-centre inflators
While the exterior design is more of an evolution rather than the revolution, it’s pretty hard to see any genetic links to the previous NX inside.
The overhauled cabin minimises switchgear, ups the prominence of digital displays, and does more to separate itself from the related Toyota RAV4.
Lexus products are known for their vault-like build quality and high-end materials. A criticism of the last car was that while it was solidly screwed together, the mix of materials left a bit to be desired in places. Further, the look and feel was dated for some time.
This new model certainly presents better, and our tester’s red-on-black interior certainly brings a sense of ‘wow’ factor. I’m a big fan of the new steering wheel, the clear digital instruments, and of course the look of that huge 14.0-inch central infotainment system.
It seems that some of the glossy stuff has come at the expensive of some interior elements, however. The hard, scratchy glovebox trim feels cheap, also used around the switches to the right of the steering wheel, as do some of the gloss-black parts on the centre console.
In all fairness, it’s a little nit-picky to call these things out and owners aren’t likely to care given these aren’t necessarily high-contact surfaces, but it didn’t really scream ‘Lexus’ to me.
The seating position is great. Lexus F Sport seats are some of the best in the business, with figure-hugging bolsters and supportive cushions, complete with a wide range of electric adjustment and memory presets.
A personal highlight of Lexus interiors is the electrically-adjustable steering column, which is something of a rarity at this end of the market. The fact it forms part of the seat memory feature is also handy, as is the convenience entry and exit function that shifts the seat back and steering wheel forward to allow easier ingress and egress.
Storage is pretty good, with a large cubby under the front-centre armrest, door bins capable of storing standard-sized bottles, two cupholders in the centre console, as well as a cubby ahead of the shifter with the lid doubling as a wireless phone charger.
Annoyingly, the new Lexus infotainment system doesn’t offer wireless smartphone mirroring, so the wireless phone charger is basically a shelf when you’re wired to the infotainment using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Beyond the smartphone connectivity, the software is a vast improvement from previous Lexus technology. The load times and graphics are better, and distance the premium Lexus brand from its Toyota parent. Resolution and response from the 14.0-inch display is excellent, with smartphone-like pinch to zoom inputs and smooth animations between menus and functions.
However, it still lacks the high-end feel of rival systems from Audi and BMW, as well as Mercedes-Benz, though the “Hey Lexus” intelligent voice assistant can perform party tricks like adjusting the climate or opening the sunroof.
A real highlight is the optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system – it’s worth ticking the Enhancement Pack 2 box alone for the sound system. Mark Levinson systems are consistently some of my favourites, with deep and clear surround sound.
The second row is less impressive than the first, and highlights the NX’s dimensional shortcomings against competitors like the GLC and X3.
At 6’1 I didn’t have particularly comfortable accommodation behind my own driving position, with limited knee and legroom. I can only imagine the (lack of) space behind someone like my silly-tall colleague Scott Collie.
Kids and smaller adults should be fine back here if the front occupants are average height, and there’s ISOFIX anchors for the outboard positions as well as top-tether points across all three rear seats.
Amenities in the back include a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, directional rear air vents (though no third zone of climate), USB charging points and a 12V socket, as well as map pockets behind both front seats. There are also bottle holders in the rear doors.
The new-generation model’s boot measures an impressive 520L with the rear seats in use, a handy 20L increase over its predecessor. Drop the second row and the quoted volume raises to 1141 litres.
It’s worth noting, however, the BMW X3 (550L/1600L) and Mercedes-Benz GLC (550L) offer more space, while the Audi Q5 is similar in five-seat form (520L) but offers more capacity with the rear seats folded (1520L).
As you can see from the images above, the load area isn’t completely flat in two-seat guise, though there’s no annoying hump between the boot floor and seat backs.
Handy boot extras include a netted cubby in the side, underfloor storage, as well as a 12V power socket.
Power in the NX 350 comes from a new 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, teamed with an eight-speed torque converter automatic and standard all-wheel drive.
Lexus quotes outputs of 205kW (6000rpm) and 430Nm (1700-3600rpm), and claims the NX 350 AWD can complete the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.0 seconds.
Being petrol only, the NX 350 doesn’t have the impressive fuel economy figures of its hybrid counterparts – it’s the thirstiest NX variant with its 8.1L/100km combined claim, and is the highest emitter at 181g/km.
As with the wider range, the NX 350 requires minimum 95 RON premium unleaded for its 55-litre tank. The 2.4-litre petrol engine, as well as the wider NX powertrain line-up, is Euro 6b certified in Australia.
Given the ‘350’ badging and sporty looks of this NX variant, I was hoping for a budget warm SUV experience with the NX350 F Sport. Let’s just say those expectations weren’t really met.
The new 2.4-litre turbo offers pretty strong outputs, more than the likes of the Audi Q5 45 TFSI, BMW X3 xDrive30i or Mercedes-Benz GLC300, but the real-world performance and soundtrack leave a bit to be desired.
Little has been done to make the NX350’s powertrain sound or feel particularly sporty, with a buzzy engine note and strong, but not super eager engine response better suited to relaxed driving and touring. Lexus claims a 7.0-second dash from 0-100, which feels right by the seat of the pants, but it’s slower than the aforementioned Germans.
The eight-speed auto has also been tuned more for efficiency, so rolling response can be a little laggy if you suddenly punch the throttle. The drivetrain has a bit of a boosty feel and isn’t as linear, nor does it feel as responsive, as BMW’s excellent 30i four-cylinder powertrain.
You can flick it into Sport mode for enhanced throttle response and weightier steering, but this is a Lexus at the end of the day and it’s best suited to more relaxed inputs and cruising down straights.
It’s also worth noting the NX is front- rather than rear-biased like most rivals, meaning it sometimes spins up the front tyres under hard acceleration. It has that pull feel, rather than the push you get from a rear-driven vehicle.
Refinement is usually a Lexus strongpoint, but again I felt the NX was lacking.
Tyre roar from those big 20-inch alloys and skinny 235/50 Bridgestone Alenza rubber is worse than expected of a Lexus SUV, and as noted earlier the petrol engine can get vocal when pushed. Considering this badge has historically been used on silky smooth, brassy sounding petrol V6s, I thought Lexus would have put in more effort.
It’s not all bad, though.
The Toyota GA-K architecture forming the foundations of the Lexus NX is a proven platform that forms the basis of well-regarded products like the current RAV4 and Kluger, and the NX F Sport’s sporty appointments improve the dynamics further.
Sharp turn in and responsive, accurate steering makes the NX a cinch to thread through city streets and winding B-roads, and body roll is nicely minimised when you navigate a sharper bend.
It rides decently, if not with the finesse of smaller-wheeled platform mates, with a fairly stiff rebound particularly at the rear end over sharper hits. I’d suggest keeping the Comfort mode engaged in the city, as the F Sport’s Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) strikes a good balance between comfort and control over pimpled inner-city streets.
Lexus’s assistance systems received high praise from ANCAP, and in practice they do a good job helping the driver without completely taking over like we’ve seen in previous Lexus products.
The adaptive cruise and Lane Trace (centring) systems combine nicely for semi-autonomous highway driving, and aids like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist and surround-view cameras all have daily benefits.
What’s not so great, at least for me, are the tricky control sequences. Lexus has made the switch to configurable touch-capacitive controls on the steering wheel that are fiddly on the move when using adaptive cruise – and when cruise is active you’re unable to switch through views or menus in the instrument cluster.
It’s perhaps less fiddly than the stuff you’ll find in the latest Volkswagens, for example, but while colleague Mike Costello warmed to the Lexus on the Australian media launch, I wasn’t so fond even after a week of living with the NX.
Every Lexus is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Capped-price servicing for three years or 45,000km is set at $495 per visit. The NX can be collected from the owner’s home or place of work, with a complimentary loan vehicle delivered door-to-door.
You also get access to the Lexus Encore ownership program, which gives owners access to Caltex fuel discounts, invitations to luxury dinners and events, as well as luxury hotel partnership benefits
Lexus Australia is rolling out a new smartphone app that lets owners track and check up on or control aspects of their vehicle from the couch.
In terms of real-world fuel consumption, we saw an indicated readout in the 10L/100km in mixed city and highway driving. That’s about double what you’ll get in an NX350h hybrid, which is something to consider given today’s fuel prices.
The latest Lexus NX looks the bee’s knees, and continues to offer a more value-driven alternative to established German players in the premium mid-sized SUV segment.
However, I’m a firm believer the NX does its best work in 350h hybrid form, as this NX350 F Sport left me quite underwhelmed.
The turbo petrol NX isn’t as fast, fun or refined as its German rivals, and when specified with the optional Enhancement Pack 2 (a must-have for that sweet Mark Levinson audio) it’s asking some serious coin.
Lexus models are best served without the sporty bits; either an NX350h Luxury or Sports Luxury with Enhancement Pack 2 suits the brand’s relaxed, luxurious vibe and are thousands cheaper than the car you see here.
That said, Lexus already has lengthy waiting lists for the hybrids, meaning the NX350 F Sport AWD could be your quick ticket into the NX range now – and while it isn’t all bad, there are better options for the money.
Have a test drive of the turbo petrol to see if you like it, and I’d also recommend having a back-to-back steer with something like an X3 xDrive30i or Q5 45 TFSI quattro to see if they better suit your tastes.
Then again, if you’re looking for a proper performance SUV experience it could be worth putting your name down for the much more affordable Volkswagen Tiguan R, which may not have the badge cred of a Lexus but more than makes up for it in punch and offers similar equipment levels for quite a lot less.
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MORE: Everything Lexus NX