Lexus has entered the small-to medium SUV market in fabulous style, writes David Bonnici
Having spent the previous week in automotive heaven strutting around in the brutish Lexus RC F racing coupe, jumping into an SUV should have been a let-down – but this is no ordinary SUV.
The NX 200 is the smallest of the Lexus SUV range and the first to enter the hotly contested small-to medium SUV market.
It is a turbocharged petrol version of the hybrid NX 300h released several months earlier.
While the NX 300 is stately, the 200 is it’s sporty cousin though it isn’t wanting for luxury and features.
On the outside, it’s very attractive, with angular lines, a hawkish face and squinty headlights in an aggressive-looking grill.
As is the fashion with SUVs, the side windows are quite narrow, particularly at the rear, which means reduced all-round vision for the driver and a lesser view for those in the back seat, particularly children.
Inside is nice, as you’d expect from Lexus. The test car had two-tone red and black leather that took a bit of getting used to but suited this car well.
A nice, big centre console leads up to the gear shift, air-conditioning controls and the 7-inch multi media screen atop the dashboard.
Multi-media functions are controlled by finger pad, which takes a little getting used to, especially when trying to input a destination for the satellite navigation.
Music is via a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system with an option of a 14-speaker Mark Levinson system as in the RC F. Either makes for great sound, played via in-built digital radio as well as Bluetooth audio streaming.
The spacious centre console box has two USB ports and an auxiliary port that can be used to play videos on the multimedia screen – not that you’d want to while driving, of course.
At the business end of the dashboard, the tacho and speedometer sit either side of a multi-function display that has trip computer info and also lets you know which driving mode is being used – eco, normal or sport.
On and off the road
The NX200 F Sport lives up to it’s name and goes along very nicely. It has the height advantage of an SUV with the handling of a car. The F Sport comes with All-Wheel-Drive, which makes it handle well, and the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is incredibly responsive.
It handles dirt roads nicely, too, in terms of ride and handling, which made for a lovely Saturday out on the back roads near Mt Macedon – as close to Lexus heartland as you can get. This is a lot of fun to drive and at the end of our seven-day dalliance I was as reluctant to let it go, as I was the RC F.
The fuel economy isn’t bad – 7.7 litres/100km compared to the NX300 hybrid’s 5.7L/100km.
Safety features are abundant and include blind-side monitoring, hill-start assist, rear camera, eight airbags and a nifty panoramic view monitor that lets you see all around the car and makes up for the narrow windows.
It makes me wonder what took Lexus so long to enter the popular small-to-medium SUV market, though I’m glad they’ve done so.
With prices starting at $57,567 drive away for the base-model 2WD NX 200t, this is a luxury SUV that more than holds it’s own against much pricier German models in terms of quality and driver enjoyment.