Over the last few months, the CL editors have written a lot about how much we love the aggressive design language Lexus has developed. And when I got to shoot the production-spec version of the 2015 NX? I was impressed. Very seldom does a vehicle make such a smooth transition from concept to consumer–the sharp sheet metal didn’t lose its edge on the road to production.
“My favorite element of the NX has to be the steering. For a system which utilizes electric power steering, it manages to feel incredibly direct and precise. ”
It turns out that most of the credit for the sexy sheet metal can be attributed to a team of young engineers who worked closely with the production team to insure every element of the bold design would make it to the production vehicle. There was some trial and error, he explained, but every time he was about to make a concession, the production team would ask for another shot. And every time they delivered.
All the variants performed well, and I particularly appreciated the kickdown feature in the hybrid’s new six-speed transmission, which provides the kind of feel you’d expect from a conventional power plant during the hard acceleration.
During the pre-drive presentation, Kato used the analogy of trying to hold a 2×4 in your hand and simultaneously drive a nail through it to illustrate the important role rigidity plays regarding performance. I thought it was easy and effective enough that it’s now my go-to way to explain the concept.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine puts out 235 horsepower and 258lb-feet of torque, and while it’s not going to set your hair on fire with blindingly quick 0-60 times, it has enough grunt to insure that the NX never feels pokey or slow. One of the features of the F SPORT that I really got a kick out of was the Active Sound Control. Basically, it used a dedicated speaker to allow the driver to adjust the amount of engine noise that’s delivered into the cabin. Turn it off and the NX is typical Lexus library inside the womb quiet, but crank the dial up and you can suddenly hear the little mill going to work, and it’s pretty cool.
Now, I’ve been skeptical of these systems in the past–particularly when BMW put a similar setup into the M5–but I genuinely enjoyed playing with it. My sole complaint regarding the ASC was that it couldn’t go louder. I wonder how long it will take for some new owner to hack it so can be adjusted to a block-rocking volume?
But my favorite element of the NX has to be the steering. As with other vehicles in the Lexus line up, switching between the various driving modes–normal, eco and sport–makes for a decidedly different feel, and for a system which utilizes electric power steering, it manages to feel incredibly direct and precise. While a direct connection to the front wheels might be going the way of the dodo, the level of confidence and feel the Lexus engineers were able to get out of the system is excellent and bodes well for the future of Lexus’ entire performance line.
The NX is set to hit American showrooms in the early fall, and I predict it’ll be a big hit with the mid-30s first-time luxury buyers Lexus is targeting. Expect to see a lot of these babies on the road next year.