We are here in Goa to drive the newest Lexus in its India line up, the NX. Toyota’s premium arm, Lexus, made its foray into the Indian car market earlier this year with two sedans, the GS and the LS besides the RX SUV. With the top-of-the line LX added to its portfolio soon after, the NX is the third SUV in Lexus’ scheme of things and sits at the beginning of its SUV fleet. So, we take this little Japanese brawler for a little spin to find out how it is like.
Modern day Lexus cars have a lot going in in terms of design. The styling is a symphony of angular cuts, contours and edges all around the car. We Indians are yet to warm up to such abrupt styling and the NX finds that sweet spot between the crazy Japanese lines and the traditional SUV look. To begin with, the spindle-shaped mesh-grille imposes itself on the pointy fascia well complemented by the sculpted and edgy bumper design. The signature triple LED projector headlamps are swept back and the DRLs blend in to the bumper contours.
The drama continues on the side of the car. The raked windshield with the sloping roof give it a premium coupe-ish look while the flared wheel arches and large alloy wheels give it the required brawn. The shoulder line that emanates from the hood defines the profile blending into the wrap-around tail lamps. The boot-lid is also typically busy in its layout with the small rear wind-shield, the decked-up bumper and the customary SUV cladding underneath.
The NX is offered in two trims, the F-Sport and the Luxury. The F-Sport gets sportier overtones with an all-black grille and a front splitter while the Luxury gets oodles of chrome and a different set of alloys as well.
Lexus stands for luxury and the NX leaves no stones unturned to match the reputation. As you step in, you are greeted by a cosy space wrapped in leather. The dashboard, just like the Lexus’ exterior, is busy. The centre console has a snazzy cut with a floating display on top and enough buttons to impress a geek. The buttons and the switches, especially the metal ones feel rich and can certainly be counted as one of the highlights of the cabin. Under the screen, you have the AC vents, the AC console, the music system fobs, the gear lever and the drive-mode selector followed by the cup holders and the storage under the driver’s armrest. The contoured steering wheel gets audio as well as cruise controls along with paddle shifts.
The NX feels quite spacious for its size and the front seats are mighty comfortable. With the adjustable lumbar support and side bolsters, it’s a snug fit on the inside. The oddly cut out dash might seem weird at first glance, but when you sit and operate is when you find out how well Lexus has managed to work the ergonomics. Everything is just within reach and I was blown away by the touch-pad controller for the infotainment system. It is so easy to operate and so intuitive even for a Luddite like me. The quality of the NX, the fit and finish, are all top-class. Although there has been liberal use of plastics, their touch and feel is premium.
The generous feeling of space continues at the rear as well. The panoramic sunroof and the recline-adjustable seats make it feel like a lounge. The Luxury gets ventilated rear seats which are electrically adjustable and foldable while in the F-Sport you miss out on the ventilation and have to recline the seats manually. On the other hand, the F-Sport gets aluminium pedals and a dedicated G-force screen over the Luxury as a part of its sporty persona. The boot is quite large in size but the spare-wheel and auxiliary battery cover eats into a lot of space.
In terms of equipment, the Lexus is loaded to its gills with cruise control, interior lighting, two-zone climate control, ventilated electrically adjustable front seats, heated steering and a whole bunch of features. In terms of safety, you have a cocoon of eight airbags to your rescue in case you manage to overpower the comprehensive stability program replete with ABS, EBD, traction control, skid control, hill hold and all other safety programs. The F-Sport, true to its sporty roots, allows you to play with the ASC, if you want to explore the racer in the NX.
The NX 300h is powered by a hybrid setup of a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine and two electric motors that work in conjunction with the hybrid setup. It develops a combined output of 195bhp of power of which, 156bhp of power comes from the petrol engine and the remaining is provided by the two motors. The peak torque of 210Nm comes in at about 4200rpm and is transmitted through a CVT gearbox to the front wheels.
The NX gets an e-AWD. Of the two electric motors on each of the axles, the motor powering the rear axle is activated whenever the ECU senses the need which might be during launch, cornering or when you are driving on broken roads. The NX is essentially an urban car and has just enough off-road ability with the e-AWD and its 185mm ground clearance.
When you get off the blocks, if you are easy on the throttle, it will be the motors that will power you. But if you gas it more, the petrol engine kicks in to deliver. The hybrid has been setup in such a way that the first preference is always given to the EV mode with the petrol engine catering to the higher needs of power. The CVT is a six-step gearbox and you can shift gears either by tapping on the gear lever in S or the paddle shifts on the steering wheel. The CVT typically works by letting the engine rev to its meat and then raise the ratios to maximise the acceleration. While theoretically it is the most efficient way, in real world, you hear the engine revving hard every time you want to go even a little faster and that might get to you a little bit.
You have the Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes to choose depending upon how you want to drive. While the Eco mode ensures maximum economy, the focus shifts to power in the Sport mode. The engine maps change and it revs to its 6000rpm redline while the steering starts offering more feedback. In Sport+, the suspension also stiffens up for maximum attack.
In Eco, the suspension is quite pliant. You always have the typical underlying stiffness that we get with all global cars, but the ride is actually quite comfortable. Around corners, the NX holds up pretty well and as you can see in the picture, the body-roll is minimal. Put it into Sport+ and the stiffened suspension will allow you to attack the corner at even higher speeds and then the limiting factor is the tyres. The steering is precise and in Sport and Sport+ modes, it loads up a bit for the sportier feel. The brakes are progressive and have the right bite bringing the NX to halt whenever needed.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||195bhp @ 5700 RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||210Nm @ 4200 RPM|
|Length mm||4631 mm|
|Width mm||1870 mm|
|Height mm||1646 mm|
|Wheelbase mm||2660 mm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||56 litres|
|Full hybrid engine with EV mode||Yes|
|Two-zone climate control||Yes|
|Ventilated seats and heated steering||Yes|
|6-Speed CVT gearbox||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp)||195bhp @ 5700||241bhp @ 5500|
|Max. torque (Nm)||210Nm @ 4200||370Nm @ 1300|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||56||80|
The Lexus NX has the ‘love it or hate it’ looks. But, the loud design will certainly get you the eyeballs and the comfortable and classy interiors will help you enjoy them. For an urban SUV, it performs well and if you are looking for a green option, it certainly fits your bill for the daily driver. It will also comfortably double up as your getaway car for a short weekend trip.
But is it the car to buy? For that, we will have to wait till January, when the prices of the NX are announced. At the expected Rs 60 lakhs price tag, it will compete against the likes of the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the upcoming Volvo XC60 along with Land Rover Discovery and the Range Rover Evoque. It will be a Herculean task for the Lexus to go head on with them but for someone who wants a car that stands out, it certainly has enough bells and whistles to keep a conversation going.
Photos By Kapil Angane