2016 Lexus NX 200t: Luxury utility with turbo

Staff reports
Farm Forum

The look of the Lexus NX 200t is edgy, busy and capped with a bold, “spindle” grille. The NX will not be confused with the RX; a perennial top-seller. Nor will it be mistaken for its corporate cousin, the Toyota RAV4, though the two vehicles share a common lineage.

The latest Lexus sport utility vehicle is offered in three versions: NX 200t, NX 200t F Sport, and the hybrid NX 300h. All are available with front or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $34,965 and range up to $41,310. My test Lexus was an F Sport with AWD, and an out-the-door price of $45,280. That number included $6,275 in options.

While “sport” is part of definition of every SUV, few live up to that term and lean more toward car-like handling. I don’t know how many people actually drive these crossovers like sport sedans, but the NX 200t F Sport shows competitive handling; it corners flat, while maintaining a firm yet comfortable ride.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter, twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This Lexus turbo makes 235 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with EPA estimates at 22 mpg city, 27 highway for AWD models. My test week of driving with a 60/40 highway/city split, netted 25 mpg.

Power flow is smooth and lag-free, and the engine doesn’t make a ruckus even when prodded. Lexus claims a 0-to-60 mph time of 7.0 seconds, which is on the low end of average in this segment. Drivers can select normal, eco or sport drive modes via center console controls. Twisting the dial to sport makes the throttle more responsive, and remaps the transmission to hold gears longer between shifts.

The turbo four has a refined feel that should be appreciated in a class where it will be measured against both four- and six-cylinder engines. But, for those who think it’s too refined, there’s Active Sound Control. Turning the dial up pipes motor music through the speakers into the cabin. Artificial engine sounds, that is, not actual, engine sounds, which is the automotive equivalent of adding a laugh track to a TV sitcom.

For 2016, Lexus adds new three new hues to the color charts and new connectivity features. Lexus’ Enform products allow customers to remotely access information like maintenance alerts, warning light notifications and a vehicle health report via a mobile app for your smartphone.

The NX 200t interior is stylish and well-constructed. Wraparound styling stretches from the dash to the seating. The main interface for infotainment features is a touchpad controller located on the center console. The controller’s response to finger movements is overly sensitive, which requires additional attention from the driver, which is potentially distracting. Partial workarounds are possible, using alternate input sources.

Rear seat room is a plus; the NX can fit a pair of adults in both rows. The thick c-pillars make for crossover-typical, 3/4 rear blind-spots. Buyers should consider Blind Spot Monitoring a mandatory option. The sloping rear roofline cuts into storage space, resulting in a cargo capacity of 17.7-54.6 cubic-feet, depending on how you configure the seats.

The NX 200t’s aggressive form extracts some paybacks in function. But, if you like what you see, odds are that the Lexus will look even better when cross-shopped against its competition. On a feature for feature basis, the NX 200t prices out favorably, compared to its classmates.