By Keith Buglewicz
After debuting last year, the 2016 Lexus NX subcompact-luxury- crossover SUV continues on with only a smattering of changes. The 2016 NX is based loosely on the Toyota RAV4, but comes with its own engines: a turbocharged 4-cylinder in the NX 200t, or a hybrid drivetrain in the NX. Both 2016 Lexus NX models are sharp-looking, fun-driving and surprisingly roomy luxury SUVs, especially considering the compact exterior dimensions. The interior design, materials and technology punch its weight, lending an air of sophistication beyond its mid-$30,000 price, which is higher than its Audi A3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA-Class rivals. Clever touches include a “kick-down” for better throttle response in the 300h hybrid, which uses an electric motor to power the rear wheels in all-wheel-drive models.
The 2016 Lexus NX is a comfortable, high-tech and sophisticated compact-luxury-crossover SUV, combined with the legendary reliability that made Lexus famous, and all wrapped in cutting-edge styling, Sound good? Then check it out.
If you're not into the new styling direction that Lexus is taking with its newer cars like the NX, then it's going to be a tough sell. Similarly, if you need to tow or haul, there's not a lot of either capacity in the NX.
The Lexus NX was all-new last year, so changes this year are limited. How limited? There are a few new colors, and the Lexus Enform system gets a new suite of vehicle maintenance functions.
One of the best things we can say about the styling on the 2016 Lexus NX 200t and NX 300h is that the driving experience matches the aggressive lines. The...
... steering is sharp, and an adjustable suspension includes a Sport mode, giving this compact-luxury-crossover SUV agility not normally associated with Lexus SUVs. If you're looking to extract maximum performance, the powerful turbocharged engine in the NX 200t pours out power smoothly and evenly, resulting in brisk acceleration despite the nearly 4,000 pounds it has to haul around. The hybrid NX 300h doesn't feel quite as snappy, thanks to less power and more weight, but it still feels stronger than you might expect, and we like the quick response when you engage the kick-down switch when flooring the throttle for maximum power. Fuel economy from the hybrid was good, but don't expect Prius-levels of fuel sipping.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED 4-CYLINDER ENGINE
We're digging this first-ever turbocharged 4-cylinder from Lexus. Thanks to modern touches, such as building the turbocharger into the exhaust manifold, turbo lag – the pause between when you put your foot down and when you get power – is almost unnoticeable.
We're not calling the NX beautiful. But what we do love is how Lexus is getting out of its usual safe-design comfort zone. Love it or hate it, the design of the 2016 NX elicits an opinion and starts a conversation, and that's a good thing.
It's no surprise that the cutting-edge exterior of a car looking like the 2016 NX has a cutting-edge interior. And we do mean edge, as the multiple levels, cutlines, materials and finishes could distract some drivers. Design choices aside, there's no mistaking the quality. From the stitched material on the dash to the many soft and padded surfaces, the Lexus NX exudes the sophistication of a higher class of vehicle than what you're actually driving. The new touch-pad interface for the Remote Touch is an improvement, but still not as intuitive as touch-screen or knob-based systems.
It used to be that Lexus vehicles were so understated they were boring. Not anymore. From its dramatically gaping grille, to the intricately detailed LED headlights, to the 3-dimensional sculpting of the taillights that you have to touch to really understand, the new Lexus NX takes everything you thought you knew about Lexus styling, folds it up into a crazy shape, and throws it back in your face. It doesn't always work – the nose, for example, protrudes Durante-like in profile – but overall it's nicely executed and at the very least is a welcome break from previous humdrum Lexus vehicles.
The compact 2016 NX SUV is as feature-packed and nicely equipped as the Lexus badge on the nose suggests. There are things you'd expect, like power seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. And a few others, such as the standard Lexus Display Audio with its 7-inch screen, voice recognition and the ability to divide the screen into three sections. There's LED interior lighting, plus LED taillights and low-beam headlights. The Drive Mode Select function altering throttle response among Normal, Eco and Sport modes is standard, as is advanced stability control.
Options for the 2016 Lexus NX extend beyond just all-wheel drive or your choice of the standard NX 200t or NX 300h hybrid. A Navigation Package includes the Lexus Enform system, which adds Bing, Yelp, iHeartRadio and other apps, including maintenance reminders. The Remote Touch Interface uses a touch-pad controller that's slightly less fiddly than the mouse-like shuttle in other Lexus vehicles. The leather package includes the Comfort and Premium packages, which add driver's-seat memory, and heated and ventilated front seats. The sporty set will like the aluminum pedals and sport-tuned suspension that come with the F Sport.
The standard engine in the 2016 NX 200t is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, with 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. If you measure performance by the infrequency of your visits to the gas pump, the 2016 NX 300h hybrid may be more your speed, with its combination of 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and electric motor putting out a total of 194 horsepower. This runs through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), but with a twist: Floor the throttle, and it activates a kick-down switch, immediately giving you full power. Both the NX 200t and NX 300h are available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (FWD, AWD). Note that the turbo requires premium fuel, while the hybrid is happy with regular unleaded.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
235 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,650-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 mpg, 22/27 mpg (F Sport)
2.5-liter inline-4 engine + electric motor
154 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
152 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
Front Electric Motor:
Rear Electric Motor (AWD only):
Net output: 194 horsepower
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 35/31 mpg (FWD), 33/30 mpg (AWD)
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on a front-wheel-drive 2016 Lexus NX 200t starts at about $35,800 when you include the $940 destination charge. The hybrid starts notably higher, at nearly $40,700 for a front-wheel-drive model. If you want all-wheel drive, bring an extra $1,400 for the NX 200t, and nearly $1,600 for the NX 300h, the latter due to its sophisticated electric-motor setup. Note that the NX is priced higher than competitors like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, both of which start closer to $30,000; it's even about $1,000 higher than the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Be sure to check out KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their new Lexus NX. Over the long haul, the Lexus NX has a clear resale value advantage over all of its rivals except the Mercedes-Benz GLA.