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Driving the 2022 Lexus NX

by James GrothFebruary 1, 2022
Electric Lexus models are coming, but this automaker’s ‘green’ mainstay for now is the hybrid and PHEV like the new Lexus NX hybrid.
Advanced electronics in the Lexus  NX.

Lexus says it has 20 new or updated models coming over the next four and a half years and all will be electrified. While we know that Lexus has a new all-electric crossover coming next year and the brand aims to offer only battery electric vehicles in North America, Europe, and China by 2035, this isn’t an instant shift. In fact, the majority of its electrified models in the short years ahead will no doubt be hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

Considering this, it’s no wonder that Lexus put great effort into its all-new, 2022 NX crossover, since this model’s hybrid variant is expected to represent some 23 percent of Lexus sales over that four-and-a-half year window. The new generation Lexus NX crossover is attractive and right-sized, representing an important update to this subcompact crossover that delivers a freshened exterior with a slightly more aggressive appearance. It’s also slightly longer, wider, and taller than the previous generation. Among the notable design elements are a more refined spindle grille, new headlights, and full-width taillamps.

Four Models Offered

Four distinct powertrains are offered in the NX line. Conventionally-powered models use either a 2.5-liter or 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the former delivering 203 horsepower and the latter 275 horsepower. Powering the NX 350h is a fourth-generation hybrid drive with a 189 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two-motor transaxle at the front, providing a combined 239 horsepower. An additional electric drive motor at the rear engages as needed to enhance traction.

The NX 350h hybrid is the most likely sales leader in the new NX lineup since it’s actually priced $500 below the gas version of this trim level. This pricing strategy encourages more drivers to enjoy a hybrid’s lower carbon emissions and superior fuel efficiency without the typical price penalty faced with most hybrid models. In this case, Lexus NX hybrid gas mileage is a combined 39 mpg compared to the gas model’s 25 mpg, a significant jump. That efficiency, plus an estimated 565 mile overall driving range, makes the NX 350h a desirable vehicle for commuting and everyday life.

At $14,600 more than the 350h hybrid is the uplevel 450h+ plug-in hybrid. This model also adds a rear motor for more power and all-wheel drive, plus a larger 18.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Along with its hybrid efficiency of 36 combined mpg and a total driving range of 550 miles, the 450h provides drivers an estimated 37 miles of all-electric driving at an EPA estimated 84 MPGe. While this is a crossover, drivers will be able to run with, and in some cases outrun, some sporty vehicles because the 450h+ goes 0-60 mph in six seconds flat. Its hybrid-only counterpart, the 350h, accelerates from 0-60 mph in a still very respectable 7.2 seconds. The 450h+ is distinguished by a muscular-looking power bulge on the hood that accommodates the 450h+ powerplant.

Excellent Driving Characteristics

During development, particular attention has focused on the inherent challenges that crossovers and SUVs face compared to lower profile cars that sit lower to the pavement. Recognizing these issues, like handling qualities in high winds and increased rollover potential compared to sedans, Lexus made this issue an engineering focal point for the new generation NX. This close attention found engineers addressing how suspension affects ride quality, handling, quietness, and overall driver confidence, and this attention has paid off with very confident handling characteristics in the NX.

The 2022 NX is nimble and very capable on twisty roads. Both hybrids in the lineup, the 350h and in particular the 450h+, instill confidence while carving sharp turns at speed without tire scrubbing or excessive lean and body roll. Ride quality is exceptional with no harshness over bumps or rough roads, and the cabin remains a quiet space along the way. Further enhancing its roadworthiness and all-weather capabilities is all-wheel drive, which comes standard on 350, 350h, and 450h+ models and is available on the base 250. Adaptive variable suspension is included on NX F Sport models to satisfy drivers seeking sports car handling relative to the NX’s size.

Inside, the model’s digital rear-view mirror is unique and another of the many very functional safety systems in this newly-designed NX 2022 line up. The cabin is well-appointed and comfortable, with four interior color offerings that can be selected in either leather or NuLuxe, a high-quality and eco-friendly synthetic leather alternative. Carrying capacity is increased by 14 percent in the new model’s cargo area for additional functionality. A standard Lexus Premium Audio system with 296 watts of power playing through 10 speakers has the sound quality to satisfy most owners. For audiophiles there is a premium 1800 watt Mark Levinson sound system with 12 channels powering through 17-speakers, something we think will outperform most drivers’ home audio system.

Advanced On-Board Electronics

Lexus NX is well-connected and equipped with the latest in infotainment and driver assist systems. It offers a standard 9.8-inch touchscreen featuring a new and intuitive user interface. A 14-inch touchscreen is optional. Standard on all NX models is Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, the automaker’s latest suite of driver assist features. Among its many features are dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed management, oncoming pedestrian detection and braking, left turn oncoming vehicle detection and braking, risk avoidance emergency steer assist, road sign assist, and lane departure alert with steering assist. Remote park and over-the-air software updates are two of the auto industry’s latest high-tech features that have found their way to the NX.

The 2022 Lexus NX price range features a spread of $17,700 between the base NX and the NX plug-in hybrid, so there’s some serious decision making to be made depending on budget, needs, and level of desire for electrification. Conventionally-powered NX models start at $39,025 for the front-drive 250, $42,625 for the 350, and $47,725 for the 350 F Sport. Electrification begins with the 350h hybrid at $42,125 and moves upward to the plug-in 450h+ at of $56,725. Clearly, there’s something for everyone in the NX lineup.