Lexus has long ruled the upscale SUV world. The RX350 has been the gold standard in this segment for a long time. Don’t believe me? Next time you drive around town start counting them. They’re mostly white and they’re everywhere.
But if you wanted a smaller SUV than the RX350, you were out of luck. And then the Lexus NX 200t appeared in 2015. While it may be based on the RAV4, it is massively different and massively better than its Toyota cousin.
Let’s start with the obvious. The NX 200t has bold looks. Some may like, some may hate it, but you’ll definitely get noticed. Personally I like it. The one knock I had on the RX350 was that its looks were very dated. The NX 200t announced that was about to change, and indeed the new RX350 has followed in the path blazed by its newer sibling. It has the signature Lexus spindle grille and lots of angles. There’s nothing safe about the styling and I give Lexus credit for that.
Under the hood is a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder motor that produces 235 horsepower. If you want to complain about something with this car, that’s it. 235 horsepower isn’t especially impressive these days. It’s not bad, it’s just not impressive. I wish they had an optional engine that was good for about 50 more horses. Still, this one is good for 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for a combined number of 25 mpg. There is a hybrid model. That’s called the NX 300h.
Moving inside the NX 200t has more bold styling. While a lot of carmakers have moved to smoother dash designs, this car has lots of stuff going on. Let’s call the center portion a waterfall design. It has a cascading series of levels that layer its way into the cockpit area. Like the exterior styling, it’s something you may love or hate, but there’s nothing subtle about it. My test car also had red and black leather interior. Personally I thought it looked great, but a friend thought it was a bit much.
A signature Lexus element is the way you control the interface. Lexus used to use a mouse-like device called Remote Touch that sits on the center console right about where your hand rests. Apparently, I was the only person who actually liked the old version. As a result, the car now has a track pad. It’s similar to something you would find on a laptop computer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to move nearly as smoothly. I think its trying to electronically latch on to icons as it goes by. Maybe its just because I liked the old system, but I don’t find it a big improvement. Having said that, it does everything you need it to do and it’s easier than reaching up and touching the display.
OK, I do have to mention one small design touch that I enjoyed. In the center console between the seats is a very small storage space. It’s good for loose change, lip balm or maybe some keys. You access it by pulling the top off which removes completely. That’s not the cool part. On the bottom side of this lid is a small mirror. Sure, there’s nothing techie about it, but I just appreciate the attention to detail.
There was one other detail I wasn’t so sure about. Like so many modern cars the NX 200t has a backup camera. Throw it into reverse and the display shows what’s behind you while the side mirrors angle down. Except the Lexus system takes it to an extreme. All I could see was the ground. I actually found it a little disconcerting not to be able to see anything behind me. Granted, I had a great backup camera, but I still want those mirrors as an extra set of eyes.
My test car was the F Sport model. For an extra $2045 you get 18-inch wheels, styling elements, a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, extra gauges an engine sound that is synthesized through the car’s sound system. that’s right. The sound of the car is getting pumped into the cabin through the radio! Personally, I wish the F Sport option actually came with extra horses as well.
Sticker price for my test car was $43,955. It’s not cheap, but then it’s a Lexus. If you’re looking to compare check out the Acura RDX, Lincoln MKC or the Audi Q3. This is a busy niche these days.
Is it worth buying? Holy cow, yes. You get Lexus quality with state of the art styling. Like so many other Lexus owners have found out before, you really can’t go wrong.