Lexus, as a premium marque, has at times been difficult for buyers to categorise. In the premium or luxury segment, Lexus has often struggled for air and had to live in the shadows of the German manufacturers. Finding an identity is challenging in the face of such competition.
Recently, Lexus has gone about the business of strengthening its local portfolio. More technology, improved performance and a consistent, yet bold design language have given Lexus the arsenal to provide a genuine point of difference in a competitive market.
Dividends are already being paid, Lexus is currently enjoying strong sales, especially with its SUVs. The brand was able to achieve record sales of its SUV range in June.
Standing out in a crowded market is never an easy undertaking. The NX200t looks to bring all the latest Lexus traits to the premium midsize SUV segment.
It must be said, Lexus was slow to respond to the demand for premium midsize SUVs. They have been in the SUV game with the larger RX range since 1998. Nevertheless, it’s better late than never.
On test here is the 2017 Lexus NX200t Luxury AWD variant. At $58,140 (plus on-roads), it has a price advantage when compared to the segment’s heavy hitters.
At first glance, the NX200t is reasonably well featured. 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, rain sensing wipers, powered tailgate, satellite navigation and dual-zone climate control are all standard inclusions.
The NX range is still enjoying its youth, it’s only been on the market since 2015 and the exterior is a long way from developing the wrinkles that will plague us in old age.
Design language can be an important thing for car makers, it’s often vital for building brand identity and awareness. The exterior of the NX200t is instantly identifiable as a Lexus. The L Finesse design language brings sharp angles and a uniqueness to the exterior. It’s a bold design where competitors tend to play the safer option and stick to the conservative approach.
Those sharp lines don’t just offer modern looks, they help to disguise the size of the car. When examining the exterior up close, it doesn’t look like a 4630mm long SUV.
In Japan, it’s all about the little things and there’s also some clever attention to detail. Door handles are not usually something to get excited about, however, the NX features a keyhole-less exterior door handle design. The key cylinder is hidden and can only be seen when the handle is at full stroke. Lexus says this is a world first.
Upon entering the cabin, the styling can seem a little fussy and over complicated. The stepped centre stack doesn’t appear to use the available space as effectively as it could. It’s not a deal breaker, as you become familiar with the layout it grows on you.
One of the nice touches is the absence of shiny black trim, the centre console and dash are covered in matte surfaces that look premium. Matte finishes are also practical as they don’t show dust or fingerprints.
The seats are trimmed in Nulux, this is the name Lexus uses for its artificial leather. It has a nice feel to it, definitely one of the better substitutes for real animal skin.
Speaking of seats, they offer plenty of adjustment and comfort. Up front, the seats are power-operated and heated. It’s disappointing lumbar support and memory function are not standard inclusions in this spec.
The 7-inch infotainment screen is perched at the top of the dash like it’s reached the summit of Everest. It’s well positioned in terms of the driver’s eye line, there’s no need to look down. It’s not a touch screen, which probably doesn’t matter in this case as it will be out of reach for most drivers.
Operating the various functions of the infotainment system can be frustrating at times. It’s cumbersome and nowhere near as intuitive as it should be. The pad style controller, officially named the Lexus Remote Touch Interface takes time to master. Another point to note, unless you have the hands of a watchmaker or surgeon, forget trying to operate the system on the move. Some sort of gesture control, like the one used by BMW, would be of enormous benefit.
Without a touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are unavailable, something more and more premium rivals are starting to offer.
The instrument cluster lacks the thoughtfulness and attention to detail found on the outside. The speedometer is well laid out and easy to read, the 0 to 60km/h markers are not squashed into a corner, but it lacks a digital speedo.
A touch of class in the form of an analogue clock conjures thoughts of the aristocracy in their Bentley or Roller. It’s nice to have, but I would happily trade it for greater functionality in the instrument cluster.
Moving to the driving experience, the NX200t offers a smooth and compliant ride. It’s a bit of a fence sitter, not offensive in any way but also not overly engaging.
Power comes from a new 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, it develops 175kW and 350Nm. It’s refined and easy to live with. There’s enough poke when you put the foot down. Being exclusively powered by petrol is another factor that differentiates the NX200t from its rivals, most of which have diesel options.
Lexus has opted for a conventional torque converter for the transmission. A premium model utilising a transmission with six gears seems a bit out of date in 2017, the majority of competitors have been using eight for some time. Despite missing two gears, it’s smooth and works well with the engine.
When Lexus uses the term all-wheel drive in the NX200t, it’s an on demand system that can split torque 50:50 if it’s required. There always feels like there is an abundance of grip, even when the body rolls around in the bends.
Steering isn’t as sharp as it could be and at times feels weighted too much on the heavy side for a vehicle of this type.
On choppy surfaces, the suspension calibration is hit and miss. It struggles to smooth out larger bumps and the odd thump will find its way into the cabin.
Putting the suspension to one side, for the most part, peaceful is the best way to describe the cabin. It’s a quiet place that’s well insulated when negotiating city traffic. It’s the same story on the highway, occupants are well protected from tyre roar and wind noise as the speed climbs.
After a week behind the wheel, we returned a consumption reading of 9.0L/100km. A good return when compared to the official combined figure of 7.9-litres. If the majority of your driving is in town, expect the figure to sit around 9.5L/100km.
When considering the NX200t in Luxury specification, there are lots of things missing that buyers should expect in a luxury car, both in terms of comfort and safety. Like other premium cars, the NX200t needs to be optioned up to get a proper luxury experience and the latest safety technology. Lexus does offer F Sport and Sports Luxury options, along with enhancement packs to unlock more features.
With no options selected, in AWD form the NX200t is caught in no-man's land. Savings could be made by moving to the front-wheel drive model, however, this only makes sense if you are happy with the car as is. The F Sport and Sports Luxury option packages are not available for the base NX200t front-wheel drive model.
New engine tech in the NX200t means fresh oil is required every 12-months or 15,000km. Lexus doesn’t currently offer a capped price service program. Owners do get access to a loan car while their car is serviced, alternatively, for those close enough to a dealer, the vehicle can be collected from home or work and returned after the maintenance is completed.
All Lexus models are backed with a four year/100,000km, it’s above average for the class, trumping premium rivals with an extra year.
The 2017 Lexus NX200t is a solid option for those chasing a premium midsize SUV. It’s well made, comfortable and capable enough to offer a point of difference to the usual Germans. It does start with a price advantage over its rivals, however, this can be eroded quickly. The NX200t is an SUV that’s likely to find admirers as a result of its modern exterior design. If you fall into this category, the car is unlikely to disappoint.
2017 Lexus NX200t Luxury AWD Specifications
Price from $58,140, plus on-road costs Engine 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 175kW @ 4,800 - 5,600rpm Torque 350Nm @ 1,650 - 4,000rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.9L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Performance 0-100km 7.1 seconds Length 4630mm Width 1870mm Height 1630mm Wheelbase 2660mm Kerb Weight 1755-1860kg Turning circle 12.1m Service Intervals 12-months/15,000km Warranty four year/100,000km
Let’s start a Car Conversation, what do you think of the current Lexus design language? Does the NX200t present a compelling enough case to take sales from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz?
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