2022 Lexus NX: Small Crossover With Big Plans as Lexus’ First-Ever Plug-In Hybrid
Despite how wildly popular compact luxury crossovers are, Lexus’ entry has only been with us for a single generation. Well, that ends now, because the 2022 Lexus NX is all-new and brings with it quite a few advancements and firsts for the Lexus brand, including a complete infotainment overhaul and the brand’s first plug-in hybrid.
And because we were admittedly suspicious at first too, this “all-new” NX really is a new generation and not a heavily facelifted version of the existing car. It sits on the company’s modular GA-K platform that also underpins the ES sedan as well as the Toyota RAV4 and Camry whereas the outgoing NX was built on the pre-TNGA, “New MC” frame.
In case you haven’t noticed, pretty much every single review of a Lexus product written in the last decade or so includes at least some complaints about the infotainment system, and usually for good reason. Between fiddly touchpads and even fiddlier computer mouse-like Remote Touch systems, Toyota’s luxury brand has featured some of the worst infotainment systems in the industry. Lo and behold, it sounds like the criticism has finally gotten to Lexus because it’s determined to right its infotainment wrongs with the new “Lexus Interface” system.
Projected from a massive 14-inch optional touchscreen (a 9.8-inch unit is standard), the system was apparently developed in North America and looks like a complete overhaul from what Lexus offered before. It’ll incorporate some thoroughly modern features like over-the-air updates, wireless charging, cloud-saved user profiles, and, most crucially perhaps, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto both standard.
Much like competing systems from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Lexus Interface will even come with a voice-activated Virtual Assistant. Par for the course, it’ll answer to “Hey, Lexus” and be able to set nav destinations, control the audio, adjust the HVAC, and even open or close windows, among other things.
And it looks like it’ll all be controlled via voice or touchscreen. No convoluted trackpads, mousepads, or GameCube controllers in sight. Physical controls, however, haven’t been completely eliminated as volume and HVAC knobs, thankfully, remain. In an extremely newfangled move I don’t think anybody expected from Lexus, the temperature knobs look like they’ve partially been placed on top of the screen à la Ford’s Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning.
The First-Ever Lexus Plug-In Hybrid: NX 450h+
Despite parent company Toyota being a key pioneer when it came to regular hybrids, the Japanese auto giant was relatively late to the punch when it came to plug-ins. In any case, the Lexus plug-in drought ends now with the flagship 2022 NX: the NX 450h+, the first plug-in hybrid to wear the oval-L badge. Using a new, high-capacity, lithium-ion battery, the premier Lexus PHEV is apparently good for 36 miles of electric-only range.
Combining an electric drivetrain that apparently provides thrust on par with that of a 2.0-liter gas engine with an actual 2.5-liter four-cylinder, the all-wheel-drive NX 450h+ will sprint from zero to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds. Not quite as quick as the RAV4 Prime’s 5.7-second zero-to-60 run (leather and sound-deadening aren’t exactly lightweight, I guess), but still quicker than the new manual GR 86’s 6.1-second time.
When it comes to plugging in Lexus’ new plug-in hybrid, the NX 450h+ will fill its battery in about 2.5 hours on a 240-volt current using the optional 6.6-kW Expedited Onboard Charger. With the standard 3.3-kW charger, the wait extends to approximately 4.5 hours. Interestingly, Lexus has placed this car’s charge port at the rear where a passenger-side fuel cap would go instead of just aft of the front fender like many other PHEVs.
Presumably, “h+” will be the Lexus suffix that denotes plug-in hybrids going forward.
NX 350h, NX 350, and NX 250
Of course, the new Lexus NX won’t just come as a plug-in hybrid. Three other variants will be available including a regular-hybrid NX 350h, a turbocharged NX 350, and a naturally-aspirated NX 250.
The 350h hybrid uses a 2.5-liter gas engine with two electric motors (with one dedicated to the rear axle for e-AWD, just like most other AWD Toyota hybrids). This version is good for a combined 239 horsepower and 36 mpg—20 percent more hp and 6 more mpg from last year. The unelectrified NX 350, meanwhile, uses a turbocharged 2.4-liter to make an “estimated” 275 hp and a healthy 317 pound-feet of torque.
Entry-level NX buyers, meanwhile, will probably be shopping for an NX 250 which is powered by an old-fashioned 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. Making 203 hp and 184 pound-feet, this one is available with AWD but also can be had with front-wheel drive if you’re really on a budget.
To my great surprise, Lexus’ literature on this car included zero to 60 mph times for each and every one of these NX variants. And here they are below from quickest to slowest:
- NX 450h+: 6.0 seconds
- NX 350: 6.8 seconds
- NX 350h: 7.2 seconds
- NX 250 FWD: 8.2 seconds
- NX 250 AWD: 8.6 seconds
Lexus even mentions that the new NX features a lower center of gravity and a more rigid chassis thanks to something called “laser peening welding” as well as the use of high rigidity foam, both firsts for the brand. F Sport Handling enhancements available on the 350 and 450h+ consist of Active Variable Suspension with performance dampers, 20-inch wheels, and, of course, different styling.
A decent infotainment system? Caring about zero-to-60 times? Where has this Lexus been all these years?
We appreciate Lexus’ enthusiasm for the drive but, truth be told, unless a V8-powered NX F (or, more likely, an NX 500 F Sport Performance) is coming, we don’t suspect many folks are buying Lexus’ compact crossover to go fast or carve canyons.
When it comes to enhancements, features, and touches most NX drivers will appreciate, however, Lexus’ new crossover sports a very trendy full-length taillight sitting above an all-new “LEXUS” badge treatment in a font seen here on a production Lexus for the very first time. At night, the new badging is illuminated by the taillight.
On the inside, configurable ambient lighting comes with 14 themes and 64 colors while a panoramic moonroof lets the sky into a cabin apparently boasting more headroom, more legroom, and more cargo room.
Production of the 2022 Lexus NX will begin in the fourth quarter of 2021 and the car will be the first “in a series of 20 all-new or updated Lexus vehicles by 2025.” Pricing is TBA but expect it to start at around $40,000 and compete with stuff like the just-refreshed BMW X3, Acura’s RDX, the brand new Genesis GV70, Mercedes’ GLC, and the Audi Q5.
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