Lexus rolls up to the SUV party
It's a latecomer but the NX is more than able to stand up to its rivals, says Geraldine Herbert
Lexus may be late to the Compact SUV party, but with a chiselled exterior, sharply raked light clusters, bold grille and cool trim, the Lexus NX has more than enough character to stand apart from rivals. Aimed directly at such competitors as the Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque and BMW's X1, the new NX finally gives Lexus an offering in the fastest growing segment.
Unlike rivals, however, the NX will be offered only as hybrid in Ireland; some markets will also have the option of a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, Lexus' first production turbo.
Powering the NX 300h is a 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to give a total power output of 192bhp. Lexus is aiming for emissions of just under 120g/km, giving it the edge over rivals, and it would mean a combined economy figure of 5.2 litres per 100km or 54 mpg and annual road tax of €190.
"NX will be an important model for future Lexus growth and represents our first entry into the growing premium mid-sized SUV market," says Mark Teevan, managing director of Lexus Ireland. "It combines instantly the new bolder Lexus design, outstanding specification and advanced on-board technology with the truly enjoyable driving experience a hybrid can provide."
Lexus describes the new model as polarising, and the masculine, almost aggressive exterior certainly is. While not quite as bold a design as the original LF-NX hybrid concept, shown at Frankfurt, it is a very eye-catching car.
Inside, the distinctive and premium feel continues and the sporty-car-style cabin features a chunky, racy sports steering wheel and contrasting black-and-red stitching.
With a lower-than-expected seating position, this only adds to the feeling of space throughout and there is decent head and leg room for front and rear passengers.
Despite the sloping roofline it is practical and has, Lexus tells us, the best luggage load length in its segment.
The NX has an array of on-board technology including a wireless charging tray for mobile phones and the first application of a new touchpad-operated infotainment system, available as an option.
Also available is a comprehensive multi-information display, a 6" head-up display, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.
As with the competition, the Lexus NX is a road-biased SUV rather than a serious off-roader, although it will be available with all-wheel drive.
On sale here in October, the new NX will be positioned below the only other SUV in its line-up, the RX 450h.
Five trim-levels will be available at launch including an F SPORT version.
The new NX 300h is likely to be priced from under €45,000 but exact pricing and specification details will be announced later this year.