New Luxury in a Small Package5 min read
Lexus was plugging along in 2014 with the RX, GX and LX SUVs, but it was missing an entry into the popular compact luxury segment. It created its smallest SUV (at the time) in the Lexus NX. It was updated over the intervening years and for 2022 the company premiered an all-new model.
The 2022 Lexus NX arrives with a major redesign from front to back. It also features four new powertrains including two hybrids, one of which has a plug. It also has more passenger space than the outgoing model and new technologies to make the commute easier.
Lexus designers tweaked the company’s spindle grille to be smaller on top. The daytime running lights have been moved into the headlights for a cleaner look. The fog lights have been adjusted but the grille pattern is now standard across the line.
In back, the redesigned taillights of the 2022 NX stretch wider and meet with a lightbar in the middle. Instead of being integrated and chrome, the tailpipes are hidden, which falls in line with its more Earth-friendly image. The rear spoiler and rear window wiper carryover with the new Lexus script underneath.
The standard NX offers three new colors including Redline, Cloudburst Gray and Grecian Water. High-performance F Sport models are now offered in Ultra White, Obsidian and Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0.
Inside, the Lexus NX offers leather-wrapped seats with heat in the front (heat is optional in the rear). Seat and console colors include Black, Black with Rich Cream, Palomino, and Rioja Red NuLuxe and all gauges and accents have been redesigned.
Entry level models come with Stippled Black, “a carefully arranged dot pattern with varying density to create a sense of front-rear movement.” Luxury models get Black Open Pore wood or Black Prism, a new type of Piano Black texture with three-dimensions that transitions depending on sunlight.
The new NX adds 5 cubic feet of space with the second-row seats in place, though it loses some from the previous model when they’re folded down. The backseat feels roomy for a compact crossover, but it does have less room than both the Acura RDX and BMW X3.
The 2022 NX features the company’s new multimedia system and standard 9.8-inch touchscreen display. That screen, upgradable to 14 inches, features both volume and climate knobs attached. The screen features navigation, media, phone and other options in a sidebar, but it does disappear when wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration is used.
Entering and exiting the NX is a learning process. Even unlocked, the door handles have a button on the backside that opens the door. But buyers have to either press it twice or lay their fingers on it gently for a second before pulling. Once inside, the exit handles are tiny and can either be pushed once or pulled twice.
The front seat is spacious and comfortable with a wireless charging pad for smartphone and door pockets in addition to central cup holders. The cooling function is top notch, making the driver’s shirt move with the breeze. The dials on the upgraded 14-inch touchscreen are perfectly placed and easy to read and reach.
The new touchscreen is bright, colorful and reactive, with intuitive controls. The only difficulty is getting out of Apple CarPlay and back into the native infotainment system. Moving to the custom drive mode settings will get owners there in a pinch.
The 2022 Lexus NX now offers two gasoline powertrains and two hybrids. The NX 350 F Sport tested here uses the more powerful 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 275 horsepower (hp) and 317 pound-feet (lb-ft). It returns 25 miles per gallon (mpg) combined.
The base model comes with a 203-hp four returning 28 mpg in both front- and all-wheel drive options. Both are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission; the F Sport is only available with all-wheel drive.
The powertrain is what’s expected from Lexus. Very smooth, very quiet and the shifts are easy. The suspension, steering and transmission get more aggressive in Sport and Sport Plus modes, but the eight-speed will never jolt the car no matter how hard the pedal is pushed. Passing maneuvers are easy with several downshifts coming at once.
The steering is easy effort at slow speeds and not very communicative, but that’s expected in a luxury vehicle. Like the engine and transmission, the suspension never gets harsh, even with the 20-inch F Sport wheels. Most of the NX’s time was spent on pavement and without weather, so the all-wheel drive system was imperceptible.
The 2022 Lexus NX 350h hybrid ($42,625) delivers 239 hp and returns 39 mpg while the 2022 NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid ($57,225) comes with 302 hp, has 36 miles of electric range and returns 84 miles per gallon equivalent.
The F Sport Handling Package (a $5,100 addition on the NX 350) adds sporty features like adaptive suspension, high-performance shocks, perforated, NuLuxe-wrapped sport seats, and aluminum and dark graphite trim. The perforated NeLuxe spills over on the steering wheel and center console.
Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 comes standard on all NX SUVs with lane departure warning and steering assist, forward collision warning with oncoming vehicle detection, adaptive cruise control (with Curve Speed Management on NX 450h+ models) road sign assist, automatic high beams and Safe Exit Assist, which watches for vehicles approaching from the rear when leaving the vehicle and keeps the door locked if there’s a chance of collision.
The 2022 Lexus NX 350 F Sport has a base price of $48,125. Adding options like a panoramic mooroof, premium sound and others adds up to $55,325. The BMW X3 starts at $45,700 with all-wheel drive, but doesn’t get adaptive suspension until the X3 M40i at $57,800. The Mercedes-Benz GLC starts at $45,850, which also includes all-wheel drive. The NX is right in line with its competitors. The 2022 Cadillac XT4 and Acura RDX are less expensive at about $35,000 and $40,000 respectively.
The first generation of the Lexus NX felt like a bootleg copy of the company’s bigger cars. Now it has its own personality and luxury look, a new infotainment system with a massive touchscreen, not to mention four powertrains to choose from. It should be high on any compact luxury buyers list.