2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport Reviewed – A Potent Newcomer

Lexus continues it’s hot streak of cars with the addition of the 2015 NX 200t.  This is the smaller and more stylish brother of the Lexus RX 350, with fairly different driving dynamics.  Instead of the larger chassis with a V6 engine found in most Lexus vehicles, the NX 200t is loosely based on the RAV4 with a completely new engine.  Styling is aggressive whether you buy the F Sport trim or not, and there’s more color choices available than what you find in a traditional pack of Skittles.  The model we reviewed came with the F Sport package and a few other goodies added in.

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It finally happened.

Lexus slapped a turbo onto a fresh new engine.  As much as I love small to medium-sized SUVs, the most exciting thing to me when I first learned about this vehicle was the power plant having a turbo.  Force feeding air into an engine increases performance, fuel efficiency, and the fun-to-drive factor.  Forced induction also helps engines cope with higher altitudes.  That means if you live in areas like Colorado or some high hills in California, a turbo is a welcome addition.  I had high expectations of this engine when I first got behind the wheel.  Sure the vehicle weighs almost 4,000 pounds, but this 2.0 liter engine that is currently exclusive to the NX has no problem getting the vehicle up to speed.  It’s so quick, that at lower rpm, it actually felt a little faster than the RX 350 F sport I drove a while back.  Pushing in 15-17 pounds of boost, the engine makes a nice whoosh sound when you get on the gas.  This motor produces 235 HP and 258 ft-lbs of torque.  The peak torque comes in all the way from 1,650 to 4,000 RPM, which is why this vehicle feels so peppy.  It has a nice throaty sound yet still provides 22 city and 28 highway mpg, with 25 combined for FWD models.  The on-demand AWD model has a similar 21 city and 28 mpg highway rating, with a combined 24 mpg.

Engine

Let’s talk about styling for a minute.

One could argue that it’s a love it or hate it type relationship.  I’ve been enamored with the Lexus design language lately, and the NX builds on that.  Super aggressive lights, sharp body lines, and angular exhaust tips all flow together to create a unified design.  There aren’t any pieces that seem out of place, and although futuristic, it still seems mature.  The standard headlights are a cool blue HID system, with an optional $1,160 Triple-LED upgrade available.  We drove the HID model and the nighttime visibility is excellent.  The futuristic looking foglights (for the F Sport model) further elevate this show-stopping front end.  Those with bold and aggressive personalities will love the F Sport model which has a much more aggressive front grill, larger wheels, and a lower front bumper.  As you can see below, the difference between the two is quite drastic.

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 Blue please.

I requested that our review unit came in Ultrasonic Blue Mica, which blew me away at the LA Auto Show last year.  It’s bright and bold yet doesn’t look cheap in any way.  It was as if they coated the car with a dark undertone before spraying layer after layer of in-your-face blue.  When combined with dark trim, dark 18″ wheels, and a massive grille, you can see why this was a show standout.  Other F Sport upgrades are unique seats, steering wheel, and shifter, paddle shifters, black headliner and side-view mirrors, aluminum pedals, and a sport-tuned suspension.  The F Sport also adds an additional feature to the standard center 4.2″ screen between the gauges that displays boost levels and g-force.  I would only consider the base 200t if you prefer the more subtle styling.  Otherwise, for a small price difference of $2,100, you’re getting quite a lot.  I found the ride to be fairly compliant in most situations.  The F Sport suspension communicates every detail in the road in an extremely subtle way.  Little imperfections in the road are carried into the chassis in such a way that it’s almost whispering to you what’s going on below.  When you approach a large bump in the road at speed, you expect to feel it, yet the suspension soaks it up with no drama at all.  This is damn near perfect in my opinion, and if it weren’t for such a brilliant engine, the suspension tuning would be the standout feature for me.  More cars should be tuned this way, let alone SUVs.  Don’t let the fact that the NX is loosely based on a RAV4 fool you.  Almost everything is unique and it shows.  The 200t drives much better than most SUVs in this segment, and even surpasses what some sedans feel like when it comes to spirited driving.

 

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It’s So Easy, a Baby Can Do It

My son loves cars.  He likes flashy lights, steering wheels, and buttons.  As you can see below, my son had no problem quickly figuring out which button to press for the trunk operation.  The simple-to-operate power liftgate has a button right above the rear license plate that allows for easy operation.  A close button is on the top lid when opened, in addition to the trunk operating button on the vehicle key fob.

 

Tech Wizardry

Moving on to the lavishly equipped interior, this F Sport model featured heated sets, a heated steering wheel, and an upgraded 10 speaker sound system with subwoofer and navigation.  The laptop style trackpad is new to Lexus, as is the floating screen above the dash.  All NX 200t models feature a drive mode selector to suit your driving mood.  There are Eco, Normal, and Sport modes.  Sport mode sharpens the throttle response and lets the RPMs get a bit higher before shifting at the sacrifice of some fuel economy.  Unlike other F Sport models, no changes are made to the suspension stiffness.  This is totally acceptable in this case.  If Lexus added adjustable suspension, the price would go up and become less competitive in this particular market.  Additionally, not many people care to have an adjustable suspension on a small SUV, as this is not a sports car.  In the center console, we had the optional wireless Qi charging system.  This allows you to place your Qi compatible phone on the tray area and it will pick up a charge with no cords needed.  The idea of no longer having annoying USB/Lightning cords all over the place is a pleasant image.  Overall, the seating capacity is excellent for it’s size.  I found it to have plenty of legroom and space for four average adults.  I am six feet tall and adjusted the front driver’s seat to my liking.  I then hopped in the back behind the driver seat and still had enough space to be comfortable.  Lexus uses NuLuxe material inside the vehicle which is essentially a synthetic leather.  Had I not researched the car more, it would have been difficult to notice the difference.  All in all, the ergonomics are excellent in the car, and I felt comfortable driving it in relatively short order.  The adjustable seats are excellent and the heated steering wheel was a blessing during my drives home in the evening.  The touchpad takes a little bit of getting used to, but the haptic feedback helps you feel your way around the user interface as you go.  My only tip for small families is to check out the trunk size and make sure this is enough space for you.  I was able to fit a full size stroller without any problems but there wasn’t too much space left after that.

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I was very delighted with the NX 200t F Sport and it lived up to my expectations.  The engine exceeded my expectations in performance and fuel efficiency, especially given the weight of this car.  This is a fresh new vehicle on the road which stands out from the monotonous parade of boring cars we see each and every day.  Add in the fact that you’re buying from the most reliable automotive brand in the world and you have yourself a vehicle worth shopping for the next time you hit the lots.

Specifications:

Price:  Starting at $34,480 (As reviewed: $43,820)

Engine: 2.0L 4 Cylinder Twin-Scroll Turbo with Dual VVT-i  (Engine code: 8AR-FTS)

Power: 235 HP @ 4800-5600 rpm, 258 lb-ft torque @ 1650-4000 rpm.

Drivetrain: 6 Speed FWD or 6 speed AWD with up to 50% torque output to rear wheels.

Chassis: 3940-4050 lbs curb weight. 39.8 foot turning radius.  6.9″ ground clearance.  2000 lb towing capacity (with Luxury Package).

Efficiency:  22/28/24 FWD, 21/28/24 (AWD), requires 91 octane, 15.9 gallon tank.

Performance: 0-60 in 7.2 sec (7.0 for AWD).  Top speed of 124 mph (limited).

Convenience: 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, 8-way adjustable passenger’s seat, reclining rear seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, moonroof, proximity key (standard), power liftgate, auto headlights, variable wipers, dual-zone climate control with rear ventilation, driver seat memory, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

Entertainment: 7″ center screen, 8 speakers standard, or 10 speaker premium system with subwoofer, wireless phone charger ($220), Bluetooth, XM satellite, USB, hands-free calling, optional navigation system with center speaker.

Legroom/Headroom: 42.8 ” Front, 36.1″ rear / 37.4″ Front (with sunroof), 38.1″ rear.

Cargo space: 17.7 cu. ft (rear seat up), 54.6 cu. ft. (rear seat down).

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