2017 Lexus NX Sport: Lux-Ute Crossover Looks to Excite

By Mike Blake - Carlisle Events
Thursday, November 16, 2017

The luxury-utility crossover niche was born in 1998 with the midsize Lexus RX, and Lexus built on the Lux-Cross segment in 2015 with the compact-luxury NX. Inspired by performance vehicles and corporate-sponsored racers and test drivers, the NX, which stands for “Nimble Crossover,” looks to excite with its dramatic spindle grille and L-themed LED headlights, along with its body that appears carved from a single chunk of metal. The excitement continues with its turbocharged engine and attentive handling.

Changing little from the 2015 inaugural NX 200T and NX Sport and Hybrid models, what’s new for 2017 are that the NX Hybrid is now offered in All-Wheel Drive only (the FWD model has been discontinued); Lexus Display Audio adds Scout GPS Link; there is an available optional 18-inch wheel design; and exterior colors: Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 and Molten Pearl have been added to NX F Sport models

Sharing a few structure and wheelbase parts with the Toyota RAV4, NX is otherwise unique with a crouching, muscular stance that stems in part from providing good ramp-over angles for light trail driving, as well as from having the highest point of the vehicle set back toward the rear of the roof. A sharply raked tailgate and integrated spoiler are punctuated by Lexus’ signature L-shape light clusters featuring seamless LED illumination, and the tailgate detailing echoes the spindle grille design.

On the Sport trim, the grille integrates with a metallic coated lower bumper molding, while black side mirrors match the grille. And the NX’s C-pillar is angled and wide to optimize internal storage width. Further, The F Sport version that I tested differentiates itself from the 200T with an F Sport-Tuned Suspension, F Sport perforated leather–trimmed steering wheel and shifter, bolstered F Sport seats, Metallic Sport interior trim paddle shifters, G-Force and turbo-boost displays, F Sport exterior styling including front fascia and grille,18-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels with machined finish or Superchrome finish, aluminum pedals and black headliner

The Lexus NX fits compact crossover parameters well at 64.8 inches high, 73.6 inches wide and 182.3 inches long on a 104.7-inch wheelbase. Ground clearance is 6.9 inches and curbweight is a confident 4,050 pounds for the AWD model.

The NX Sport I tested was powered by Lexus’ turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4 twin-scroll engine. It has direct fuel injection and puts out 235 hp and 258 lbs.-ft. of torque, using an advanced valve control system to switch between Atkinson cycle and Otto cycle operation to optimize performance and fuel efficiency. Coupled with Lexus’ sequential six-speed automatic transmission, the system is EPA rated at 22mpg/city and 27mpg/highway. A week of mixed-use of testing yielded an average of 23.3mpg.

NX Sport looks sporty, but it isn’t exactly a sports car at the track. Performing solidly for the niche, but not exceeding it, my NX Sport finished a zero-to-60mph sprint in 7 seconds flat and completed a quarter-mile in a steady 15.2 seconds. Passing on the highway is confident with only minimal turbo lag, and there is more than enough torque to handle uphill grades.

On the autocross and during quick turns at speed, NX holds the pavement well for the segment, with comparatively little top wobble. Steering is relatively crisp and the MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and rear trailing arm works with the double wishbone type rear with coil springs to deliver stability and smoothness.

In the sporty cabin, a perforated steering wheel, body-hugging, quilted NuLuxe seats, brushed metallic gearshift, special instrumentation and drilled non-slip aluminum pedals and footrest were inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar, and the environment is one of sport-luxury.

Packed with safety features, high-tech amenities, comfort and entertainment, the cabin includes a Lexus-first wireless charging tray for compatible phones and devices; the new Lexus Remote Touch Interface with a touch pad; and a comprehensive multi-information display that features a Lexus-first G-Force meter and boost gauge.

With seating for five, NX is a bit tight with only 38.2 inches of front headroom (0.8 inches less with a moonroof), and 38.1 inches for rear passengers. Legroom is comfortable up front at 42.8 inches and niche-decent in the rear at 36.1. Shoulder room is non-confining at 57.3 in row one and 55.3 in row two.

The 2017 Lexus NX Turbo starts at $35,285 for FWD and $36,485 for AWD. The F Sport that I tested starts at $37,185 in FWD and $38,585 in AWD, and the 300h Hybrid version starts at $39,720 in AWD. The Navigation package added $1875 for a Navigation System, Remote Touchpad, Lexus Enform Destinations, Fuel Guide, Sports and Stocks updates, Lexus Enform App Suite, Lexus 10-Speaker Premium Sound System and an additional USB port. The Comfort Package added $565 for the Lexus Memory System, Power Tilt-And-Telescopic Steering Column and outside mirrors with auto tilt-down in reverse. An outer sliding moonroof added $1100; power open/close rear door added $400; a Pre-Collision system with dynamic radar cruise control added $900; heated from seats added $440 and Intuitive Parking Assist added $500. With delivery, processing and handling fees of $925, my 201t Lexus NX Sport as-tested stickered at $45,435.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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