2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport -- the Texas Test
I mostly review cars for a living, but occasionally I assist Kelley Blue Book’s marketing department. A recent example involved flying to Fort Worth, Texas, to host a Facebook live chat with hyper-talented, KBB-sponsored NASCAR driver Chase Elliott. Since Texas plus NASCAR equals ‘Murica, a soot-spewing pickup might’ve been a logical conveyance during my stay. Instead I nabbed Lexus’ daringly angular 2016 NX 200t F Sport compact luxury SUV from the Lexus press fleet. Way to blend in, hotshot!
According to the parking lots surrounding the Texas Motor Speedway, the locals really do prefer the rugged blockiness of a truck. Fine, but to my eyes the Lexus NX’s striking angularity is more interesting and more appealing. Um, are my California roots showing? That same bold aesthetic informs the modern yet functional cabin. My tester’s F Sport package added a snazzy red and black motif, nifty red stitching, metallic trim, and a racier steering wheel to the interior along with 18-inch F Sport wheels for the exterior. Consider the F Sport package a dash of Tapatío on an already tasty SUV enchilada.
As a solo traveler I didn't maximize the passenger or cargo carrying limits of my compact Lexus SUV. But I did verify that with the front seat set as I like it, rear seat accommodations were...uh...accommodating. Same deal with the trunk. Plenty of covered storage back there. One potentially controversial interior element is the infotainment system’s Remote Touchpad interface. The low-mounted haptic touchpad delivers tap sensations to your finger indicating that the cursor shown on the high-mounted 7-inch display has landed on a selectable item. While not immediately intuitive like a touchscreen, within short order Remote Touchpad had me confidently managing my info and my ‘tainment.
Travels during my five-day stay in the Lone Star State included a highway jaunt from Dallas to Fort Worth, trips to and from the Texas Motor Speedway, and exploration of Fort Worth’s steadily gentrifying urban landscape. How did the NX perform in these varied environments? Quite well actually…starting with the seats. As a decrepit 38-year-old, the flight from Los Angeles naturally left my lower back strained and aching. The intensely adjustable lumbar support of the NX 200t's front buckets helped set things right. Lexus has a knack for crafting smoothly contoured, pressure-point-free seats and the NX’s are no exception.
This particular NX’s F Sport front buckets also provided excellent lateral support. Granted, that lateral support might’ve been better exploited along the winding roads of mountainous Colorado, but opportunities nonetheless emerged to probe the NX’s dynamic abilities. Did you know that 85% of Fort Worth's roads are currently under construction? That may or may not be factual but it sure feels true. While snaking through innumerable coned construction zones the Lexus NX steered with a confident immediacy. Once again the F Sport package’s sport-tuned suspension elevated the NX’s dynamism and fun potential.
Thankfully the F Sport suspension does not compromise ride quality. Ok, the extended brick section of Camp Bowie Blvd transmitted significant vibes to my posterior, but assuming the roads you drive weren’t laid in the 1880s, you should be fine. You’ll also be fine if you need to blast past Texas’ less hospitable left-lane squatters. Years ago Texas boasted a rigid German adherence to the “keep right except to pass” driving philosophy. No more. These days the best solution for that '94 Kia Sephia blithely loping along at 53 mph is a cautious but swift pass on the right. With 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Lexus NX’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine dispatches vehicular annoyances with ease.
As a natural-born glutton, when not interviewing NASCAR phenoms I filled my time hunting indigenous cuisine. Heim BBQ. Ice cream from Melt. Rodeo Goat’s fancy-pants burgers. Velvet Taco’s brilliant spicy tikka chicken tacos with a side of red curry coconut queso. Fort Worth is an unexpected wellspring of tasty and inventive grub. Finding that grub led me down countless unfamiliar roads, leading to frequent backtracking and U-turns. Having overshot the turnoff for Avoca Coffee Roasters one morning I tested the NX’s turning circle. At just shy of 40 feet it’s not tops among compact SUV competitors but I still got my latte; confirmation that the Lexus NX is officially urban-worthy.
Pickup trucks, rodeos, and NASCAR figure large in Texas’ charming and distinct cultural tapestry. At the same time Dallas/Fort Worth has a cosmopolitan side filled with unexpected diversity. The imposing diesel-powered dually certainly has its place, but for hipster coffee expeditions, briskly lugging young professionals or small families from obligation to obligation, or simply standing out amidst a sea of rugged squares the Lexus NX is a sharply styled and effective tool. Even in Texas.