Gareth Butterfield tests the #Lexus NX SUV
NOT that anything has physically changed, but in the few years the Lexus NX has been on sale, its looks seem to have softened somewhat.
When I first saw it I thought it looked like someone had set upon it with an axe. But now, while it’s by no means a curvaceous and elegant sight to behold, the fairly whacky lines make a lot more sense.
It’s also been quite a success, judging by how many you see on the roads. When it first came out it seemed to have an impossible task on, tempting buyers away from the premium small #SUV sector, armed with just a couple of petrol engines and a veritable boot-full of gadgets.
But it’s obviously worked. If you happen to be in the market for this sort of car, Mercedes, Audi and even Porsche are among the brands vying for your attention – yet the Lexus NX has found a comfortable slot and perhaps its the familiarity that’s softened those sharp edges a bit.
On the face of it, the NX is a really good buy. It undercuts some of its key rivals on price and still comes with Lexus’s renowned build quality, comfort and technology.
There’s also a hybrid powertrain available and, while that’s certainly not a trump card any more, it’s still pretty unusual for an SUV.
It’s the interior that really scores it points, though. It’s a lovely place to sit and, although the array of buttons mounted high on the centre console looks confusing at first, it’s actually very well laid out. And although I’m not the biggest fan of Lexus’s track-pad control for the infotainment system, it is easier than a touch-screen. Just.
And then there’s just the loveliness of the whole inside space. Soft leather panels, plenty of space – especially in the back thanks to a flat floor – and lots of quality touches set it apart from much of the mainstream offerings.
Standard equipment is also, as I mentioned before, very impressive. Even on low-spec cars you’ll get a seven-inch infotainment screen with areversing camera, a DAB radio, adaptive cruise control, climate control, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist. If you were to spec up an Audi Q5 to this sort of level, you’d be looking at spending a few grand more.
While it does represent good value for money, and you and your passengers will be assured of a comfortable journey, don’t expect it to give you the sort of fizz you might get from a Porsche Macan. What the Lexus doesn’t do quite so well is handle in an entertaining fashion.
It’s got a solid and secure feel to it but, especially with the hybrid engine linked to the droney CVT gearbox, it’s a long way off delivering a sporty drive. And that’s a shame because, especially in F-sport trim, in the right colour, it looks like it’s ready to entertain.
The other slight niggle is the lack of any beefy diesel engines. I know that’s becoming a bit of a taboo subject these days, but its rivals all come with a diesel option and it’s a fuel that suits this sort of car. It’s also a more economical way of travelling, even when compared with the hybrid, which doesn’t return the impressive MPG you might expect.
Having said that, where you might score back a few points is with the all-important emissions figure. At just 117g/km, in a car that weighs 1,785kg and has four wheel-drive, you’ll find that hard to beat. And with an entry price just south of £35,000 it’s no wonder you see plenty of them about.
And, besides; Lexus buyers tend to be a loyal bunch. They’re doubtles thrilled to be able to pick from a car in this sector. Its rivals might be the obvious choice, but the NX has so many strengths and will appeal to either those who prefer a more sedate pace, or those who have to keep one eye on emissions figures.
So it’s not exactly a jack of all trades, but it’s a master of some. And that will suit plenty of people.