By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
The 2017 Lexus NX small-luxury-crossover SUV hasn’t changed much from its introduction in 2015, which says a lot about just how well Lexus nailed the design. Loosely based on the Toyota RAV4 platform, the NX brings its own powertrains that include a turbocharged 4-cylinder on the NX 200t and a 4-cylinder hybrid setup in the NX 300h. Visually, the NX is quite the standout and its fun-to-drive quotient is quite high. The small platform doesn’t seem to have hampered interior designers who have created a roomy and upscale environment worthy of the Lexus badge. You can get into a sportier Infiniti QX30 or Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class for much less, but neither of these rivals offers a hybrid option.
Lexus’ NX 200t and NX 300h for 2017 deliver all the high-tech features and elegant luxury expected of a Lexus in a compact package that is both fun to drive and easy to live with. The hybrid’s city fuel economy surpasses its rivals by a wide margin.
The 2017 Lexus NX receives the Scout GPS app for use with non-navigation-equipped Display Audio, while the NX 300h becomes an all-wheel-drive-only affair.
When a car’s ride and handling fulfill the promises made by its flashy exterior, it’s a win-win. In the 2017 Lexus NX 200t, a stellar reliability record adds a third...
... win, making the NX the trifecta of perfection. The NX’s precise steering is aided by an adjustable suspension that includes a Sport mode, delivering a level of cornering confidence not usually associated with Lexus SUVs. The 2017 Lexus NX 200t’s turbocharged engine may be small, but it delivers its power smoothly and with unquestioned authority, despite the car’s nearly 4,000-pound weight. With less power and the added weight of the all-wheel-drive system, the 2017 NX 300h hybrid isn’t quite as quick. However, clever features like a kick-down switch that activates when flooring the throttle help improve acceleration when you really need it. The hybrid’s fuel economy isn’t Prius-like, but it does return respectable city figures far better than most.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED 4-CYLINDER ENGINE
Lexus’ first foray into the world of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines is a resounding success. Sophisticated techniques, such as building the turbocharger into the exhaust manifold, help banish turbo lag while improving smoothness and acceleration.
Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. The 2017 Lexus NX may be controversial to some, timeless art to others, but it will always prompt discussion. That’s more than can be said for many of its rather generic-looking competitors.
It's no surprise that the cutting-edge exterior of a car looking like the 2017 NX has a cutting-edge interior. And we do mean edge, as the multiple levels, cutlines, materials and finishes could distract some drivers. Schizophrenic 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 2017 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 2017 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 2017 Lexus NX extend beyond all-wheel drive for the NX 200t or a hybrid powertrain in the AWD 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 Lexus’ 2017 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 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. The NX 200t is available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (FWD, AWD), while the hybrid is offered only in 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: 67 horsepower
Net output: 194 horsepower
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 33/30 mpg (AWD)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on a front-wheel-drive 2017 Lexus NX 200t starts at about $36,000 when you include the $975 destination charge. If you want all-wheel drive, bring an extra $1,400. The hybrid starts notably higher, at nearly $41,000. Note that the NX is priced higher than competitors like the Audi Q3, Infiniti QX30 and BMW X1, all 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.