Pages Navigation Menu

A blog about the cars I drive

Lexus NX 200t: Cutie-pie or design-school refugee?

This review originally appeared in The Spokesman-Review.

2016 Lexus NX 200t exterior

Lexus’ controversial spindle grille anchors a protuberant and many-faceted front fascia

Depending on your point of view, Lexus’s small crossover, the NX 200t, is either a cutie-pie or a refugee from design school.

I vote cutie-pie; your mileage may vary.

Unlike other makers, Lexus doesn’t have a fancy name for its current design theme. Its “spindle” grille sets the tone, though. Its hard-edged hourglass shape sweeps away decades of Lexus design. It is the tail that wags the Lexus dog.

On the NX, the controversial grille anchors a protuberant and many-faceted front fascia. The assembly includes a sweep of headlights (LED low beams; halogen highs), a swoop of LED driving lights and an outsized air dam packed with assorted planes, curves and folds.

Just as reducing a sauce heightens its flavors, the integration of this prominent fascia into a pint-size frame focuses its drama.

The NX 200t also houses Lexus’s first-ever turbocharged gas engine. The 235-horsepower 2.0-liter four uses some neat engineering to reduce turbo lag, while optimizing performance and efficiency.

The little engine makes 258 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It earns an EPA-rated 24 mpg combined (22 city/27 highway) and can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

The powertrain is calibrated for dynamic throttle response at the expense of raw power. The 4,000-pound NX runs the 0-60 sprint in 6.9 seconds, without much left over for passing or other high-speed demands.

A dual exhaust system reduces back-pressure and exterior noise. In Sport mode, a three-mode drive system draws artificially generated engine noise into the cabin.

An available F Sport package delivers a more aggressively styled NX. The spindle grille and lower bumper take on a more menacing look. Interior upgrades include a pair of excellent sport seats and unique interior trim. Steering and suspension tweaks firm up the ride and sharpen the handling, though its perfunctory power output, front-drive platform and tallish dimensions undercut the NX’s performance potential.

The cozy cabin is thoughtfully designed, with excellent ergonomics and plenty of casual storage. Contrasting stitching highlights the abundant leather surfaces and padding on either side of the console cushions the knees of long-legged occupants.

A 7-inch tablet-style display sits upright atop the dash, its functions managed by a console-mounted touchpad. Although it can be fussy, the touchpad improves on the joystick it replaces.

Siri Eyes Free Mode provides iPhone users with phone and audio connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation and more.

Available safety and driver-assist technologies include Lexus’s Pre-Collision Safety System,

lane-departure alert, adaptive high-beam headlights and adaptive cruise control.

Lexus’s Dynamic Torque Control AWD system reads vehicle speed, steering angle and speed, throttle angle and yaw rates to manage the transfer of power between the front and rear wheels. Up to 50 percent of torque can be transferred to the rear wheels, while a pre-loaded front differential controls the torque split between the front wheels, helping ensure straight-line stability during acceleration.

You may regard it a handsome little devil or a face best forgotten; either way, the NX 200t will make an impression.

2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
Vehicle base price: $34,480
Trim level base price: $38,365
As tested: $44,805
Options included Qi-compatible wireless charger; power tilt-and-telescoping steering column; power 10-way driver’s seat; autodimming interior mirror; heated front seats; navigation system with Remote Touch interface and Lexus Enform telematics; premium sound system; intuitive park-assist; power back door; moonroof.
Tow capacity: 2,000 lbs
EPA ratings: 24 combined/22 city/27 highway
Premium fuel required

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *