Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport

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Can you think of things hotter and more wildly popular than the compact luxury crossover SUV segment? Didn't think so. Most shoppers clearly find these models' size, ride height, fuel economy, and premium cabins to be just right for them. Lexus already has a fan favorite in the RX, and it isn't too far north of this segment in terms of size and price, but the company felt that there was room for a more directly aimed contender. Enter the 2015 Lexus NX 200t.

     On the outside, the NX has a distinctive look that takes inspiration from the new IS sedan. Clever interior packaging has led to an impressive amount of rear seat legroom that is more than what is found in most other options in the segment. Cargo room, on the other hand, is lacking a bit, both with the rear seats in the up, or folded down positions.

     The 2015 Lexus NX 200t is a 5 passenger, compact luxury crossover SUV. It is offered in a single trim level, but there is a hybrid NX 300h that might be reviewed on its' own if you would like to read that.

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     Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlamps, LED fog lights and running lights, rear privacy glass, keyless ignition and entry, driver-selectable vehicle dynamics settings, cruise control, dual zone auto climate control, NuLuxe premium vinyl upholstery, a leather wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 8-way power front seats, a 60/40 split folding and reclining rear seat, a cargo cover, and an auto dimming rear-view mirror. Standard technology features include a 7-inch touchscreen, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, Siri-based voice controls and readouts for iPhones, the Display Audio electronics interface, and an 8-speaker sound system.

     The NX 200t F-Sport is essentially a package that adds unique 18-inch alloy wheels along with styling elements and summer tires, a sport tuned suspension, transmission paddle shifters, performance gauges, special interior trim and a generated sportier engine note.

     Other packages are also optional, though they can vary by region, so you should check with your Lexus dealer on what you can order. The Comfort package adds a power adjustable steering wheel and driver memory functions. The Premium package includes the Comfort package items and adds 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats ( not on F-Sport,) and a sunroof. The Luxury package includes Comfort and Premium items, then adds things like a power liftgate, automatic wipers, tow package, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and wood trim. A power folding rear seat can be added to the Luxury package.

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     The Navigation package adds a navigation system, but also adds the Remote Touch electronics interface, adds 2 speakers to the sound system, voice controls, and various Lexus Enform apps.

     Stand alone options include 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, various advanced collision warning systems, the sunroof, the power liftgate, upgraded LED headlamps, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and a wireless charging tray for Qi-compatible smartphones.

 The 2015 Lexus NX 200t is powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is an option.

     In performance testing, my NX 200t F-Sport did the 0-60 mph run in about 6.7 seconds, which is average for the segment. The EPA estimates the fuel economy for the 2015 Lexus NX 200t at 24 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. Those vehicles equipped with front wheel drive should clock in around 25 mpg combined. During testing, I averaged around 25.2 mpg.

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     Every Lexus NX 200t comes standard with anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, full length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a front passenger cushion airbag that prevents submarining under the seatbelt and off the seat. A rear-view camera is also standard, along with Lexus Enform Safety Connect. Optional safety features include a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, as well as a lane departure warning system and a frontal pre-collision system. In brake testing, the NX 200t with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet, which is several feet better than the average. The government has yet to crash test the NX, but in IIHS testing, the NX earned its' Good rating.

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     The cabin of the 2015 Lexus NX 200t isn't quite as radical as the exterior would make you think, but it nevertheless does exert a vibe that won't be mistaken for anything else in the segment. Construction is the usual top-notch from Lexus with materials that look and feel rather expensive. Soft leather lines the seats and passenger side dash, as well as the padded areas that cushion the center console to keep your legs from hitting a hard surface. Details like contrasting stitching, wood trim and an analog clock are tastefully applied.

The high-mounted climate controls are easy to reach and see, while the secondary controls are intuitive. The infotainment controls are less so, however. The standard Display Audio system uses a knob-and-screen system similar to what you might find in a Mercedes-Benz. With Remote Touch, various menus and icons are selected with a new console-mounted touch pad, just like on your laptop. There is haptic feedback through the pad when you click something, but in general, using this system takes your eyes away from the road for an extended period of time.

     Rear passengers in the NX should find a generous amount of space, at least when compared with most other luxury compact crossovers. Cargo space is tight however. The NX has 54.6 cubic feet of total volume, which is similar to the Mercedes GLK, and just a few feet shy of the Audi Q5. However, the raked tailgate seems to make the space less versatile than the modest volume number would suggest. That is driven home even more when you factor in that with the rear seats up, it offers just 17.7 cubic feet of cargo room, making it less spacious than some of its rivals.
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     If you are expecting the 2015 Lexus NX to be a smaller RX, you are either going to be sadly disappointed, or rather surprised. The ride is a bit more firm, the steering is more responsive and body motions are more controlled when going around turns or through dips. There is a sense of connection between the car and the driver that is missing from most of the other offerings in this class, including the RX. Even more of this engagement can be found in the F-Sport model courtesy of the sport tuned suspension, paddle shifters, extra gauges, and the admittedly extraneous Active Sound Control that pumps artificial engine sound into the cabin.

     One of the reasons the F-Sport has to use artificial engine noise is because of how quiet the NX's cabin is. The engine, in particular, is surprisingly hushed especially when compared with the other 4-cylinder turbocharged engines in the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. It's also very smooth and respectably powerful. Current luxury SUV owners who are used to V6 engines are unlikely to complain about have 2 fewer cylinders, if they even notice at all.


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