If you’re interested in a small luxury crossover, we suspect that your shopping list includes the 2015 Lexus NX and the 2015 Volvo XC60 — two of today’s most popular models. Both offer comfortable rides, similar sizing, a wide range of luxurious features and many of today’s latest gadgets and equipment. But which one is better? In order to find out, we’ve created a close comparison that pits the NX against the XC60 in a few key areas, but first let’s see what’s new with both SUVs for the 2015 model year.
2015 Lexus NX
The NX is completely new for the 2015 model year. It forges a new path for Lexus, slotting below the RX crossover in the luxury brand’s growing SUV lineup. See all 2015 Lexus NX models available near you
2015 Volvo XC60
Although the XC60 isn’t all new for 2015, it’s substantially updated. Changes include a very efficient Drive-E engine for front-wheel-drive models, a revised telematics system, some updated equipment, and on midyear 2015.5 models, a new turbocharged 5-cylinder engine that replaces the outgoing 3.2-liter 6-cylinder engine. See all 2015 Volvo XC60 models available near you
Last year’s XC60 earned only two out of five circles in J.D. Power’s Power Circle Ratings, indicating below-average reliability. But the latest model uses all-new engines, which are still too new for reliability ratings. We hope they help to improve things dramatically compared to the 2014 XC60.
The all-new Lexus NX is also too new for reliability ratings. We are, however, encouraged by the NX’s big brother, Lexus’ midsize RX, which earned four circles in J.D. Power’s ratings, indicating above-average reliability.
The Lexus also has an advantage in terms of warranty length. While both cars boast a 4-year or 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, only the NX goes above and beyond with an additional powertrain warranty — one that touts up to 6 years or 70,000 miles of coverage.
As a result, the NX wins our reliability comparison, but we’re eager to check J.D. Power’s ratings for the new powertrains in the NX and XC60 once both cars have spent a little more time on the road.
The XC60 offers a rather confusing myriad of powertrain and drivetrain combinations. Base models, newly dubbed T5 Drive-E for the 2015 model year, offer 240 horsepower, front-wheel drive and gas mileage of up to 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. All-wheel-drive base models, called T5 AWD, use a 250-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder capable of up to 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.
Next up is the XC60 T6 Drive-E, which offers front-wheel drive and 302 hp thanks to a turbocharged and supercharged version of the T5 Drive-E’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. It returns an impressive 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy. Finally, there’s the T6 AWD, which offers a 300-hp turbocharged 6-cylinder (325 hp in R-Design trim) and up to 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.
The NX’s engine configurations are a little easier to understand. Base-level NX 200t models offer 235 hp and 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with front– or all-wheel drive. The hybrid-powered NX 300h offers 195 hp and up to 35 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive or 33 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.
So who’s the winner when it comes to gas mileage? If you want gasoline-engine fuel economy, the Volvo outshines the NX by offering more power and better mileage with its T5 and T6 Drive-E engines — but they’re limited to front-wheel drive. If you want all-wheel drive or if you don’t mind paying a premium for a hybrid, the NX has the advantage.
In crash testing carried out by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the Lexus NX and the Volvo XC60 earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. Meanwhile, the NX and the XC60 each earned the highest possible rating — Top Safety Pick+ — from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after both models aced the firm’s crash tests.
When it comes to safety features, the NX doesn’t offer the advantage you’d expect considering that it’s a much newer vehicle, but that’s not because the NX lags behind in safety equipment. On the contrary, Volvo has simply kept the XC60 up to date with all the latest gadgets, and that means both crossovers offer items such as rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking. To us, safety is a toss-up because both of these crossovers are just about as safe as you can get.
Although the XC60 has generally lagged behind its rivals in terms of technology, updates for 2015.5 models have improved the crossover’s appeal when it comes to gadgets and features. In example, all XC60 models now come standard with Volvo’s Sensus Connect system, which features in-car smartphone apps such as Pandora and Yelp. Upscale T6 models also add a standard Wi-Fi hot spot.
But the NX was clearly designed more recently, and it has some subtle upgrades over the Volvo that prove it. Take, for example, the new touchpad interface for the Remote Touch Interface system or the optional wireless charging system for cellphones. There’s also a smartphone app that lets you control various vehicle functions and even an artificial engine note synthesized through the crossover’s speakers in F Sport guise.
When it comes to the big stuff — adaptive cruise, safety features, automatic gadgets and Bluetooth — the XC60 and the NX are neck and neck. But the small Lexus pulls away from its Volvo rival when you consider the details. If you’re a technophile, that’s all you need to know in order to understand that the NX has an advantage when it comes to technology.
When it comes to pricing, the NX is around $2,000 cheaper than its XC60 rival. The Lexus starts around $35,500 with shipping, while the Volvo’s base price is $37,500 including destination. But the Lexus also has less power, lower fuel economy numbers, slightly fewer standard features and a little less room inside. Does that justify the XC60’s price increase? Only you can answer that based on your priorities and budget.
To us, however, the XC60’s benefits are enough to justify its higher price over the NX 200t — unless you think the Volvo name adds some additional cachet. We would, however, choose both the NX 200t and most XC60 models over the expensive hybrid-powered NX 300h, which adds $5,000 to the NX’s base price — a big sum for a few extra mpg and mediocre acceleration.
Although we’re usually inclined to pick the newer car (in this case, the 2015 Lexus NX) over the older one (the XC60), we’re not so sure this time. Volvo has done an excellent job keeping its small crossover current without fully redesigning it. It’s given the XC60 more features, new engines, better gas mileage, modern technology and just about everything it needs to succeed in the challenging world of the compact luxury crossover.
Still, we’d get the Lexus. It’s cheaper than the Volvo without surrendering anything important, and it offers a few more gadgets than the Volvo — not to mention better reliability. We’d skip the expensive NX 300h and go right for a well-equipped NX 200t, which offers an excellent blend of value, dependability and modern technology.