We’ve become used to new-car reveals that seem more about information technology and electronic engineering than good old-fashioned nuts-and-bolts hardware. Well, the all-new 2022 Lexus NX certainly does go deep on the former – but we’re going to lead with the equally compelling gasoline-and-gears side of the story.
The second-generation NX, which made its global debut online today, will offer no fewer than four powertrains: two conventional gas engines – one of them a higher-performance turbo – plus a self-charging gas-electric hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid. It will also now be built on the Lexus GA-K architecture which, as we know from its other applications, has true fun-to-drive potential baked right in. Hopefully this time the available F Sport package will really live up to its name. In fact, the package’s full name now is F Sport Handling.
For Canadians in particular, there’s one other big change that has nothing to do with touch-screens or advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS): for the first time, the NX will be built in Canada, alongside the RX in Cambridge, Ontario.
Toyota isn’t saying yet whether the new NX is bigger (the current design is a relative tiddler in the compact luxury crossover segment) but does claim more headroom and legroom inside. Outside, it’s obvious from the pictures that the styling is more evolutionary than revolutionary. The love-it-or-loathe-it spindle grille must be working for Lexus, because there it is, still in-your-face.
For those who prefer that their dashboard doesn’t look like a home theatre, the standard touch-screen is a reasonable 10 inches. But the upgrade is a massive 14 inches (Lexus promising an immersive experience through its new North-American developed Lexus Interface) but still keeping physical knobs for most-used functions. No more annoying touch pads. A virtual assistant within the interface prioritizes voice commands.
Lexus also explains that, for smartphone users, “the driver’s personalized settings and experience can be retained in the cloud and accessible on the go in other Lexus Interface equipped vehicles. Once a profile is created in the Lexus App, guests can use a Bluetooth hand-held device, smart key or manual login to access it. "
Beyond that, a digital key feature allows you to lock/unlock and start/stop the vehicle through your smartphone when within bluetooth proximity. The digital key can be shared with up to seven additional users registered on the Lexus app.
The “native” navigation system has 100 per cent cloud capability, with over-the-air updates, and integrated Google POI data. A stowable wireless phone charger, and wireless CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, further bring the NX up to date.
Assisted-driving technology also goes above-and-beyond, and now includes automatic speed adjustment for curves when using the adaptive cruise control and automatic braking for oncoming vehicles when turning left to (And for pedestrians or cyclists when turning either way). There’s also risk avoidance emergency steer assist and safe exit assist (so you don’t clobber that passing cyclist as you open the door). It’s all part of the latest Lexus Safety System+ 3.0.
Returning to the nuts-and-bolts story, a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre, 203-horsepower engine is the new base engine (NX250) while the previously-standard turbo is now upgraded to 2.4 litres/275 hp (NX350) from 2.0 L/235 hp. Both gas engines are now teamed with an eight-speed transmission, up from six.
A self-charging hybrid (NX350h) remains on the menu, but with a 20-per-cent boost to 239 combined horsepower, even as the combined fuel-consumption rating improves to 6.5 L/100 k from 7.5. And then there’s Lexus’s first plug-in hybrid, the NX450h+. Lexus isn’t saying exactly, but presumably it uses the same battery and powertrain as the impressive Toyota RAV4 Prime, though the claimed electric range is “only” 58 km – 10 less than the RAV. Lexus says the 58 is a conservative estimate.
Both hybrids achieve AWD by means of an additional electric motor driving the rear wheels, rather than the mechanical system – itself updated for 2022 – on the NX250 and NX350.
The F Sport Handling package will be offered on the NX350 and the 450h+ and, besides the expected cosmetic elements, includes active variable suspension, performance dampers, and 20-inch wheels.
Even without offering much in the way of driver engagement, the NX sells well in Canada, ranking fourth in its segment in 2019 and – despite its age – improving to third last year. With more powertrain choices and the promise of better dynamics for engaged drivers, plus thoroughly modernized IT and ADAS, the 2022 looks like an even more compelling proposition.
Depending, of course, on pricing. Lexus says prices will be announced closer to the on-sale date, after production begins in the fourth quarter.