2022 Lexus NX officially revealed – second-gen SUV gets PHEV, 2.4 Turbo; new rear logo, interior concept – paultan.org
Despite being late to the compact SUV party, the Lexus NX has been an unqualified success for the Japanese premium brand. Launched in 2014, the first NX has found around one million homes across the globe.
The original NX fulfilled the needs of those who wanted an SUV that was more compact than the RX, one that could go head on with the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. The NX has gone on to become one of Lexus’ highest volume models, and they’ve since added an even smaller model – the UX – to the SUV range.
It’s best not to be late, but if you must, step into the hall fashionably late. That was what we said about the NX when we first drove the SUV in 2014. Then, the Lexus stood out in its class for its daring sharp suit, one that made German rivals look like conservative wagons. The bold design approach has paid off.
But there’s a season for everything, and the second-generation NX you see here is less shocking. That might be partly because of we’ve been desensitised to the Lexus look, but the design team deliberately opted for a shape defined by “softer angles and more organic forms” this time around, coupled with a focus on proportions.
Speaking of proportions, the new NX is an all-new model underpinned by a new platform. The GA-K version of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) also underpins larger cars within the group like the fifth-generation Toyota RAV4, latest Toyota Harrier and Lexus ES, among other C/D segment models.
The GA-K platform gives the NX a slightly larger body – at 4,660 mm long and 1,865 mm wide, it’s 20 mm larger in both directions. The 2,690 mm wheelbase is 30 mm longer than before, while it’s a a touch taller too (+5 mm). Twenty millimetres to the footprint doesn’t change the NX’s proposition, but if it looks more stout, that might be the effect of the wider track and 20-inch wheels, two inches larger than the original NX’s launch rims.
There are a couple of notable design cues that sets the new NX apart. The hood has been extended to the edge of the front end, while the signature spindle grille surface has been raised vertically – both measures combine for a visually longer front end. The upright grille enables more efficient air flow and cooling too, Lexus says.
Part of an effort to simplify things is the deletion of the chrome frame of the grille (also reduces parts and weight) and the merger of the LED daytime running lights and main headlamp cluster – no more separate tick LED DRLs.
The new NX’s profile is where you’ll see the confluence of the above-mentioned softer and more organic style, with the sharp lines that the associate with modern Lexus. The beltline is very straight and very crisp – no longer full length, it’s been shortened to just before the rear door handle, where there’s a kick-up to the windowline. Lexus says that this gives the cabin a condensed feel. The lower crease that traces the wheelbase also follows the same trajectory, which means it’s shorter than on most cars.
Even sharper is the line that emanates from the tail lamps. The rear door area is where all the action is in terms of lines. Below the belt, there’s no drama, just a calm sea of metal and regular wheelarches. The shallow daylight opening is very similar in shape to the current car’s.
To the casual observer, the biggest change will be at the rear, where the L mark has been replaced by a spaced out Lexus logotype. This also means that there will no longer be double branding at the rear, where the L mark coexists with a small logotype. The move to ‘L E X U S’ was previewed by the LF-Z Electrified concept from March, and the new NX will be the first production model to carry this look.
The new branding sits just below the new LED light bar that spans the hatch. Although it’s a separate piece of light that’s not connected to the L-shape tail lamps, the effect is of full width lights, like on the UX and some Porsches. With the three-piece signature, the new NX will be even more distinctive than those in the dark.
As for colours, the new NX’s palette offers Sonic Chrome – which employs the brand’s unique metal texture tech – Celestial Blue and Blazing Carnelian, among other more standard hues.
There’s plenty new in the powertrain department, with the biggest news being Lexus’ first ever plug-in hybrid system. The PHEV joins a regular hybrid, a new 2.4L turbo and 2.5L naturally aspirated engine, with FWD or AWD/e-Four options.
The PHEV, badged NX 450h+, pairs a 2.5 litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with front and rear electric motors, juiced by a 18.1 kWh lithium-ion battery. This is the same system found in the Toyota RAV4 Prime, with just minor differences in the placement of components.
In the RAV4 Prime, which surfaced in November 2019, the A25A-FXS makes 176 hp and 228 Nm. With total system output of 302 hp, the Toyota PHEV does the 0-100 km/h sprint in just 6.2 seconds. All-electric range on that car is 60 km on the WLTP cycle. Lexus is yet to release output figures for all of the NX’s powertrains, but the NX 450h+’s stats should be close to the RAV4’s.
The NX 450h+ has four selectable driving modes – EV mode, Auto EV/HEV mode, HEV mode and Self-charge mode. EV mode is self-explanatory, while Auto leaves it to the car to decide when the engine is needed. HEV mode is when the engine and motors work together for max performance. In certain markets, Auto EV/HEV mode is linked to the navigation system, switching modes according to road conditions, traffic info and remaining battery power, among other data.
The NX will continue to be available as a regular (non plug-in) hybrid. The 2.5L HEV uses the same A25A-FXS petrol engine, with the option of e-Four AWD courtesy of a rear motor (FWD variant also available). It’s a tried and tested system found in Toyotas, but the control logic is exclusive to Lexus. The E-Four has a constantly variable front/rear drive distribution from 100:0 to 20:80.
PHEV aside, the biggest news is a 2.4 litre turbocharged engine. This new engine replaces the outgoing car’s 2.0 litre unit as the turbo ICE option in the range. The T24A-FTS also sounds like the performance variant, being paired to a new “high-torque” Direct Shift eight-speed automatic transmission. Power (figures were not disclosed) will go to all corners via a new full-time electronically controlled AWD system.
In addition to a “high-speed combustion system”, the 2.4T engine features Lexus’ first centre-injection direct-injection system and a close placement of the turbocharger and catalyst. The latter helps meet increasingly stringent exhaust and fuel economy regulations around the world.
The 8AT has been optimised for the turbocharged engine, and the “high-torque” in the description refers to the big load of twist delivered by a boosted engine at low rpm. The fresh shift control tuning “enables acceleration and deceleration that is faithful to the driver’s will and provides a pleasant shift schedule,” Lexus says.
The AWD meanwhile has a drive distribution range from 75:25 to 50:50, depending on situation. There’s unique technology to achieve both an optimal contact patch and linear steering feel, its maker claims.
Lastly, there’s a traditional engine with no electrification or forced induction. The A25A-FKS is a 2.5L naturally aspirated engine that’s also used in the Malaysian-market Toyota RAV4 and Lexus ES 250. In the sedan, the Dynamic Force unit makes 204 hp and 247 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm. The gearbox is a Direct Shift-8AT and AWD (up to 50:50) is optional.
Like before, the suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and a trailing arm, double-wishbone design at the rear, but there’s fresh tuning for the shock absorbers. As usual, the F Sport pack comes with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) as standard. The wheel fastening structure has been changed from stud bolt and hub nut fastening to hub bolt fastening. By increasing rigidity and reducing unsprung weight, this measure contributes to steering response and ride comfort.
The steering adopts Lexus’ first variable rack gear (except the PHEV) to improve both high speed stability and quick cornering response, in addition to easier low speed handling. In the braking department, a new-shape brake pedal pad was developed for easier depression and switching between pedals. The two electrified variants are the first Lexus cars to feature a pedal return damping mechanism. In addition, a faster reacting brake actuator better supports the function of the Lexus Safety Sense+.
The company is keen to emphasise on the Lexus Driving Signature (LDS) that the NX possesses. LDS brings a greater sense of stability, power and security, offering a “linear driving feel with a more direct steering communication between driver and vehicle,” Lexus claims. Only one way to find out…
We already consider the current NX to be a more comfortable and hushed cruiser than some of its German rivals, but further NVH improvements have been made. In addition to optimising sound-absorbing and insulating materials, Lexus says that the air flow and wind noise seeping into the cabin has been reduced by around 15%.
Measures include a revised weather strip and front door glass shape to improve door sealing, a new sound insulation material for the front door glass itself, and a twin-lock structure for the engine hood. The latter, a first for Lexus, suppresses engine hood vibration caused by air turbulence. The 2.4L turbo model features Active Noise Control/Engine Sound Enhancement, presumably for a sportier tone.
If the exterior design is about evolutionary change, the new NX’s interior is a radical departure, and not just in design but the entire concept. The cockpit is based on the tazuna concept that was previewed by the LF-30 Electrified showcar from the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. The word tazuna is derived from the “reins” used to control horses, and Lexus aims to enhance the joy of controlling a car at will by enabling better communication between the driver and his/her vehicle.
The new tazuna ethos allows the driver to “intuitively connect with the car and concentrate more on driving operations”, and that is done by having a huge touchscreen of a centre stack angled at the driver. Not only is the 14-inch screen six inches larger than the old one, its touch function has finally eliminated the brand’s Remote Touch Controller, the mouse-like contraption that’s frankly quite a hassle to use.
The big screen is surrounded by a couple of physical controls, which is a good thing. Note the location of the start button and drive mode select switch, which are placed for the driver to reach without losing his/her driving posture.
To cut glare from the screen, Lexus applied antireflective coating to the windscreen and glare-reducing bonding tech to the touchscreen. The latter “fills in the gaps” between the glass panel and the LCD and attaches them together. It minimises the refractive index of light and reduces screen glare as a result.
The no distractions theme is further supported by the new Touch Tracer Operation, which combines the head-up display with touch sensor switches on the steering wheel. When the driver touches the steering buttons, the operation guide is displayed on the HUD (or on the meter panel when the HUD is off). The HUD offers three modes with different information and layouts. This is a huge change from the previous button-heavy dash – what do you think?
With a new screen comes a new system. The menu is displayed as icons on the side closer to the driver, and the layout of the screen is divided into display areas according to the granularity of the information. There’s also a function that allows front passengers to call up frequently used controls. The map and AC zones can be adjusted according to preferences. Also up to you are the colour and fonts of the navigation screen – choose from five themes.
The My Settings function, which allows the user to register favourite settings to the vehicle, now supports multimedia settings such as navigation and audio, in addition to driving position, illumination and more.
The latest voice-recognition function comes alive when you say a pre-defined activation word (Hey Lexus, for instance); Lexus says it supports natural speech operation as if you were talking to the car. There’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support too, with the latter supporting wireless connection via WiFi.
Other changes include a new steering wheel (smaller horn pad, slimmer spokes, sportier look), a new shift lever for the shift-by-wire function and 64 colours of interior illumination, including 14 preset recommended hues.
As for trims and themes, the range is wide, but Lexus is highlighting “Black & Rich Cream”, accented by bright orange stitching. Yup, orange stitch on cream leather. For trim, “3D Cutting Black” is a new geometric pattern that gradually becomes denser towards the rear; this helps enhance the sense of dynamism.
Last but certainly not least for a Lexus is sound. The Lexus Premium Sound System consists of 10 speakers, including a large-capacity subwoofer box, utilising the bass reflex structure of the rear speakers and the body framework (lower back) to achieve “rich and crisp” low-frequency reproduction. Going for the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System will net you 17 speakers including a subwoofer box that utilises the body frame. Based on the brand’s PurePlay concept, the speakers are optimally placed to create a stage feeling.
Both sound systems also support the playback of high-resolution sound sources (96 kHz/24 bit), which contain more information than CD sound sources (44.1 kHz/16 bit).
By the way, our resident ICE-man and CN editor Jason thinks that the current NX’s base, non-branded system is among the best he’s heard in the premium segment – in truth, you don’t need to be an audiophile to rate it higher than the equivalent Merc’s Burmester or BMW’s Harman Kardon systems. And we’re not even talking about the Mark Levinson, which isn’t available for the NX facelift in Malaysia. If you’re the audio kind, go take a listen.
Finally, safety. There’s an evolved Lexus Safety System+ with expanded detection range from the millimetre wave radar and monocular camera. The suite includes Pre-Crash Safety, Radar Cruise Control (with All-Speed Follow function), Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist and Proactive Driving Assist.
The PCS, or autonomous emergency braking (AEB), has expanded assistance at intersections – it now helps avoid collisions with intersecting vehicles, oncoming vehicles coming straight ahead when turning right, and pedestrians/cyclists approaching from ahead when turning right or left. The scope of assistance has also been expanded to include motorcycles, oncoming vehicles that have deviated from their lane, and cyclists at night.
The active cruise control’s curve-detecting performance has been improved. By slowing down earlier in accordance with the size of the curve, the curve speed control function is now more in tune with the driver’s senses, Lexus says. For LTA, the lane recognition performance has been enhanced for smoother and less disruptive steering support.
If you’re wondering what PDA is, no, the NX won’t show you how much it loves you, but it will display messages such as “pedestrians crossing the road” or “vehicles may run out of control” so that you avoid getting too close to danger. That’s also love, right?
There are some new convenience features, too. The Lexus-first E-Latch System replaces the latch/unlatch mechanism of the door with electrical control. This delivers a smooth door operation and an effortless feeling, Lexus says.
The 360-degree Panoramic View Monitor has a new function to display images of the road surface taken in the past from directly underneath the vehicle. They say that this is to help the driver understand the road surface and tyre position, but why? There’s also an Advanced Park system guided by your smartphone, another Lexus first.
There you go, the all-new second-generation Lexus NX, which is expected to reach Malaysia in the first quarter of 2022. What do you think of the evolved exterior, the radically-changed cockpit and the new range of powertrains than include a PHEV and a 2.4L Turbo? There’s a lot to digest, but take your time, it’s a lockdown weekend.
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