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2015 Lexus NX: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2014

The compact luxury crossover segment is heating up, recently adding new models from Audi, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz and more. And now, there's another competitor: the 2015 Lexus NX, a luxurious small SUV based on the Toyota RAV4 that boasts modern styling, 4-cylinder or hybrid power and a high-end interior.

Slotting below the popular RX in the Lexus lineup, the NX is aimed squarely at younger shoppers interested in a luxurious vehicle that caters to a more active lifestyle than other Lexus SUVs. The result is a cutting-edge design, a host of modern features, a wide range of safety equipment and a cockpit-like driving feel one would typically expect from a BMW -- all at a fairly reasonable price for a luxury SUV.

Unfortunately, we're not entirely sold on the NX model's execution. Styling is one issue: though the SUV's design is polarizing, we think it's dramatically over-styled, with too many creases and folds throughout the front and sides. Another problem is power: despite its sporty pitch, the NX doesn't feel especially muscular by any standard. And we're a little disappointed with the sharp premium Lexus is charging for the hybrid-powered NX 300h.

Indeed, the NX offers both benefits and drawbacks. We've covered them in greater detail in our review below.

What's New for 2015?

The NX is completely new for the 2015 model year, slotting below the RX in the growing Lexus SUV lineup.

What We Like

Excellent interior quality; roomy rear seat and cargo area; reasonable starting price; fantastic Lexus reputation for service and reliability

What We Don't

Bizarre styling; mediocre powertrains; pricey hybrid variant

How Much?

$35,300-$40,600

Fuel Economy

The NX offers two available engines. Base-level NX 200t models use a 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is mated to a standard 6-speed automatic. That powertrain returns 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Upgrading to all-wheel drive (AWD) drops those numbers just slightly, to 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Upgrade to the NX 300h, and you'll get a 194-hp 2.5-liter hybrid 4-cylinder. Also mated to a standard automatic transmission, that engine returns 35 mpg city/33 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive, or slightly less with AWD.

Standard Features & Options

The NX comes in two varieties that mirror its engine choices: the turbocharged NX 200t and the hybrid-powered NX 300h.

Base-level NX 200t models ($35,300) include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, NuLuxe faux-leather upholstery, dual-power front seats, a backup camera, Bluetooth, LED headlights, a 7-in central display screen, keyless ignition and entry, Siri-based voice controls for drivers with iPhones, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface.

Aside from its hybrid engine, the NX 300h ($40,600) offers the same equipment as the NX 200t.

The NX offers a wide array of options, ranging from 18-in alloy wheels and a power sunroof to heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, a heated steering wheel, a navigation system, parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.

Safety

Because it's so new, the NX has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, we expect it to do well, as safety features abound: standard items include side-curtain airbags, front-side airbags, traction and stability control and a backup camera. Options range from adaptive cruise control to a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and a frontal pre-collision warning system that alerts the driver to an impending accident and helps bring the car to a stop before it's too late.

Behind the Wheel

Although Lexus is pitching the NX as a sporty alternative to its other luxury crossovers, we're not convinced. The base-level 4-cylinder offers tepid acceleration, and there's no more muscular engine for drivers who want to get any extra performance. Handling is tighter than we'd expect, but it's hardly in the realm of a sporty crossover like the Audi SQ5, Porsche Macan or BMW X3.

We do, however, applaud the NX for its interior comfort, both in the front and back. Strip away the sporty branding and you'd be forgiven for thinking you're riding in yet another luxurious, comfortable Lexus SUV -- largely because that's exactly what this is. Rear-seat passengers are especially treated to a nice ride, as Lexus has managed to incorporate more rear legroom than most rival compact luxury crossovers.

In essence, we don't think the NX is the sporty SUV that Lexus wants it to be -- but for drivers interested in a luxurious, reliable alternative to high-performance crossovers, that might not be such a bad thing.

Other Cars to Consider

Acura RDX -- The Acura RDX is a popular rival that boasts more restrained styling, excellent technology and strong V6 power. It's been tremendously popular, and we would consider it seriously.

Lincoln MKC -- The all-new Lincoln MKC is one of our favorite vehicles in the segment for combining excellent technology with a smooth, comfortable ride and handsome, elegant styling. We never thought we'd say it, but this is one of our favorite compact luxury SUVs.

Used Lexus RX 350 -- Shoppers who need a little more room than the NX can provide should consider a used RX 350, which offers all of the amenities, including an available hybrid powertrain.

Used BMW X5 -- If it's sport you're after, consider a pre-owned BMW X5, which offers more room than the NX and more impressive handling and acceleration.

AutoTrader's Advice

If we were choosing between the two 2015 Lexus NX models, we'd have trouble spending $5,000 more for the NX 300h just to get an extra 10 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Make our NX a turbo, then, and add a few extras, like a sunroof and heated seats. It's a new, well-equipped Lexus SUV for under $40,000 with shipping.

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Used 2015 Lexus NX Models F Sport
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Used 2015 Lexus GX Models
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Lexus NX: New Car Review - Autotrader