Small Luxury SUV Comparison: 2016 Lexus NX
Value with an upscale twist.
Starting MSRP: $35,915
Above Average: Styling, economy and resale
Below Average: Sporty driving
Consensus: Safe bet in a crowded segment
500 Miles in 101 Words
The kid brother to the RX offers many elements that contribute to its sibling’s success: Handsome looks, front-drive efficiency and Lexus’ reputation for high resale. On our Paso Robles run, the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder offered plenty of power and at 23.9 mpg overall, the best fuel economy of the group. On the twisty bits, it wasn’t as much fun as the Infiniti, had a bit more cabin noise than you’d expect from a Lexus and doesn’t project the same presence as the Mercedes. Still, for most shoppers, it checks a lot of the boxes when it comes to offering solid value.
A Closer Look
When it comes to fuel economy and resale value, the 2016 Lexus NX shines. While it lacks the handling chops that the rear-drive Infiniti and all-wheel-drive Lincoln and Mercedes exhibit, the front-drive setup is comfortable and well controlled in highway and city driving. The interior offers good room, including the rear seat. Here’s our summary of how the NX performs against the others:
Highway Driving With 235 horsepower on tap from its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the NX is the least powerful vehicle in the group, but not by much. Also, by not having all-wheel drive, the lighter weight compensates somewhat for the lower output, so even in highway cruising, the NX did not feel like it lacked for power. However, wind and tire noise were noticeable, as well as changes in road surfaces. For a relatively compact package, the ride was smooth and the visibility good from the high seating position. Relative to the competition, as a luxury make, we would have expected and appreciated adaptive cruise control as part of the mix.
City Driving The great thing about compact crossover SUVs is the compact part. The tidy dimensions make parking and maneuvering in urban environments a breeze, aided in no small part by the standard backup camera. The characteristic light steering and good visibility also pay dividends here. The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine steps off the line smartly and the 6-speed automatic transmission serves up seamless shifts. A neat feature for city driving is the brake hold system that, when engaged, allows you to take your foot off the pedal and releases the binders when you hit the gas.
Sporty Driving As the only front-drive vehicle in the test, the Lexus NX was no match for the others on the twisty roads that led us from the San Joaquin Valley to Paso Robles. There was ample power available, but noticeable turbo lag, a bit of torque steer once the power came on and a tendency towards understeer when pressing the vehicle’s limits. While the chassis lacks spirit, the body is nicely controlled and the ride is firm enough to handle moderate turns without sacrificing ride comfort. The NX is more of a competent city/highway commuter rather than a weekend escape artist.
Interior Appeal The two-tone interior of the Lexus NX looks appropriately upscale for the segment, with high-quality materials and ample soft touch surfaces, though it is outclassed by both the Mercedes and Lincoln. Part of that is the tiered approach Lexus takes to the dash. The center screen is mounted high, which is good for line of sight, but below it, the center stack is a bit busy and the cabin lacks a unified flow to the design.
Infotainment The Lexus NX hasn’t quite jumped on the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto bandwagon yet, but it does offer a complimentary App Suite in its optional Enform infotainment package. Access to the navigation and entertainment functions on the center screen are accessed via a touch pad that is either convenient or inconvenient to use depending on individual dexterity. Positioned within easy reach when using the center armrest, it is simple and intuitive to move the cursor around and engage various functions with a tap. There are ample redundant controls on both the center stack and steering wheel.
Rear Seat Room The leg- and headroom in the second row is generous and thanks to its theater-style positioning above the first row, the split-folding bench affords good views out of the vehicle. However, that high seating position means the NX has a step-in height that is significantly taller than the other vehicles in the test.
Cargo Utility Its slightly tidier package comes at a cost in the cargo area, especially with the rear seat up. Part of this is due to the slick styling of the NX, which has a faster rake to its rear power hatch. Still, when the seats are folded down, there’s plenty of room to haul bags or bikes. There’s also additional underfloor storage in and around the spare tire.
Fuel Economy According to the EPA, the Lexus NX is listed at 22 mpg city/28 highway with a combined rating of 25 mpg, the best of the bunch and a mile better in both city and combined over the second-place Mercedes GLC, which tied the NX on highway numbers. In our test, the NX posted a high of 28.7 mpg on the highway leg home.
Resale Value With a proven track record for quality and reliability, Lexus scores well in retained value and we expect it will be no different for this model. Given its $42,475 out-the-door price, the 2016 Lexus NX not only offers terrific value up front when you consider that both the Lincoln and Mercedes top $58,000, but also that you’ll retain a good chunk (around 55 percent) of that money over three years. Stylish and well built, what the NX may lack in at-the-limit prowess, it more than makes up for in fuel efficiency, value and everyday ease of operation.
Inside and Out: 2016 Lexus NX