The 2022 Lexus NX mid-size SUV has been unveiled in Japan this week. Lexus claims the new-generation NX is more advanced and spacious inside, and more engaging to drive; qualities it hopes will win more Australian buyers as Lexus strives to overtake the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 in the premium mid-size SUV segment.
The all-new Lexus NX premium mid-size SUV will arrive in Australian Lexus showrooms in November 2021 in three specification levels with a mix of petrol and hybrid powertrains in front- and all-wheel drive configurations.
At this stage there is no sign of a pure-electric model or a high-performance NX F to tackle the BMW X3 M and Mercedes-AMG GLC63. There also appears to be little new in the way of semi-autonomous technologies in the Lexus NX, although some active safety features’ autonomous capabilities have been improved.
Lexus also has plans to release its first plug-in hybrid vehicle, the NX450h+ later in 2021, which will be powered by a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine combined with front and rear electric motors and an 18.1kWh battery pack. The brand claims the NX450h+ can cover 75km on a full charge.
As for whether the NX450h+ will come to Australia, Lexus Australia refused to be drawn, saying only “we will communicate more on that model in due course”.
The second-generation NX mid-size SUV is built on the longer and stronger GA-K platform shared with the Toyota RAV4 and Kluger SUVs, and Lexus ES sedan. Lexus claims the GA-K architecture delivers “a lightweight, highly rigid body with a low centre of gravity to enable superior handling”.
The NX debuts a number of new technologies for the brand, including an all-new 2.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system and e-Latch technology which does away with internal door handles.
The Lexus NX is the first production car developed at the company’s new Shimoyama Technical Centre outside of Nagoya in Japan, which includes a 5.3km test track designed to mimic elements of the Nurburgring and other tough real-world roads.
Lexus says this new facility, which opened in 2019, played a key role in ensuring the new NX will “deliver a precise driving feel … which targets engaging and linear vehicle behaviour faithful to a driver’s intention”.
In addition, Lexus focused on technologies “that enhance convenience based on a human-centred approach seamlessly partnering with and supporting the driver”.
The new NX’s styling combines sharp edges with gentle curves to deliver a cleaner and more classy evolution of the model it replaces. Lexus Design general manager Koichi Suga says the NX design team pursued “originality rooted in proportions … and simplicity rooted in technology” outside and in.
The NX’s body is 20mm longer and wider (for totals of 4660mm and 1865mm respectively), has a 5mm-lower roofline (1840mm) and rides on a 30mm-longer wheelbase (2690mm). There’s no word yet on whether the new NX is lighter or heavier than the model it replaces.
Increased use of sound absorbing materials in the structure are said to yield a 15 per cent improvement in cabin quietness.
Lexus NX chief engineer Takeaki Kato told CarAdvice that dynamic improvement was a key focus during development. “We [pursued] the unique Lexus Driving Signature, where the pleasure of deceleration, steering and acceleration seamlessly connect under various driving situations, and linear response is faithfully executed according to the driver's intentions.
“In addition, in the new NX, we focused on drive force control and reviewed how the car moves to achieve a driving experience that delivers high traction, power, and confidence.”
The new NX rides on MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension, with specially-developed shock absorbers claiming to optimise damping force at low speeds. NX F Sport models will feature Lexus’s Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) damping system which has different modes to prioritise comfort or sportiness.
The NX features Lexus’s first variable-ratio steering rack which is said to improve manoeuvrability at low speeds, and increase stability at higher speeds.
18-inch wheels will be standard on most models, while F Sport models will come standard with 20-inch wheels.
Inside, the Lexus NX’s cockpit debuts the company’s “human-centred philosophy”, taking inspiration from the LF-30 concept revealed in 2019. It’s here that the design mantra of “simplicity rooted in technology” is most evident, especially compared to the cluttered outgoing model’s cockpit.
The dashboard, instrument binnacle and centre console are of much cleaner designs, topped by a new high-resolution 14-inch touchscreen which incorporates wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 'Hey Lexus' voice activation. The unloved touchpad controller is gone.
The new steering wheel incorporates quick access buttons and gearshift paddles, and the door armrests have door release buttons instead of levers.
These door buttons provide two improvements. Firstly, opening the door is now one outward push instead of pulling inward to release the latch then pushing outward. Secondly, the doors seamlessly integrate with the NX’s upgraded blind-spot monitoring system’s Safe Exit feature to ensure occupants cannot open doors into oncoming cars or cyclists.
Other interior features include a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, head-up display, multi-colour ambient lighting system, and a digital instrument display.
Lexus’ Safety System Plus (LSS+) driver assistance suite is now into its third generation, and benefits from an array of enhancements.
The autonomous emergency braking system now works at intersections, can now pick up cross-traffic, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, and operates over a wider distance. Meanwhile, the Emergency Steering Assist feature now has more steering autonomy when it senses a higher risk of collision and at lower speeds.
The adaptive cruise control system has been improved to handle merging into a new lane with slower traffic, while Lexus also promises that Lane Tracing Assist is now smoother in corners.
The Lexus NX will be offered in three guises when it arrives in November – starting with the NX250, powered by a 2.5-litre non-turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Official power and torque figures have not been released, but we’re expecting the same 152kW and 243Nm as per the Camry and RAV4.
A non-turbocharged 2.0-litre, front-drive model with 125kW and 200Nm will be available in other markets, but there are no plans to introduce this model to Australia. “We feel the NX250 and its 2.5-litre engine fulfils the role of our entry-level model perfectly,” said a Lexus Australia spokesperson.
The mid-tier Lexus NX350 gets an all-new 2.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine featuring Lexus’s first centre direct-injection system, and the close placement of turbocharger and catalyst which is said to provide high torque low-rpm. These features are claimed to help the new-generation engine meet increasingly-stringent emission and fuel economy standards.
Lexus is holding power and torque figures back for launch, but our information suggests it will have 220kW and 440Nm.
The engine is mated with a newly-developed electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system which varies drive between the axles from 75:25 to 50:50 front-to-rear depending on the situation.
The flagship model at launch will be the NX350h hybrid, which combines a 2.5-litre petrol engine and Toyota’s E-Four electric all-wheel drive system as seen on the RAV4, which can vary drive from 100 percent front, to 20:80 front-to-rear
Pricing for the 2022 Lexus NX range has not been released, a Lexus spokesperson saying only that “we will announce pricing closer to the car’s on sale in November”. It’s likely that the new features and equipment will drive prices up slightly over the existing range.
The current NX range starts at $57,500 before on-road costs for the front-drive NX300 Luxury with a 175kW turbo-petrol engine, and stretches to $79,088 before on-road for the NX300h Sports Luxury hybrid AWD.
The first-generation Lexus NX was a success for the company, with more than one million examples sold across 95 countries since it launched in 2014 – 22,237 of those in Australia to the end of April 2021.
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– Glenn Butler