The completely redesigned 2022 Lexus NX is a huge improvement over the previous generation, which was already one of the best luxury compact crossover SUVs on the market. But the new version offers better styling, a much improved interior, and more powertrain options, including two hybrid versions.
Remarkably, the new NX is actually based on the Toyota RAV4 that was first introduced in 2019. Many consumers probably still do not know that Lexus is Toyota's luxury brand, just like Honda owns Acura and Nissan owns Infiniti. But the fusion between the RAV4 is especially noteworthy.
For starters, the current version of the RAV4 is the best-selling affordable compact crossover SUV in the country and especially her in the Pacific Northwest. Available with front- or all-wheel-drive, it looks rugged and has a lot of interior room. The base 2.5-liter 4 produces a respectable 203 horsepower, but it is also available as an AWD hybrid with 219 horsepower the gets 40 miles per gallon — and a plug-in Prime hybrid version with 302 horsepower that gets up to 42 miles on electricity alone before switching over to conventional hybrid mode.
For those who want something a little more urbane, Toyota also sells an upscale hybrid AWD version as the Venza. The differences are so great most buyers probably don't even realize the two are related.
And that's even more true for the 2022 Lexus NX, which has much bolder exterior styling, a thoroughly contemporary interior with an available huge display screen, and an additional option engine — a turbocharged 2.4-liter 4 that pumps out 275 horsepower.
Like some other luxury manufacturers, the designations for the Lexus NX lineup can be a little confusing. The 250 comes with the 2.5 and can be ordered with front- or AWD. The 350 comes with the new turbo 2.4 and standard AWD. The 350h is a conventional hybrid that pairs two electric motors to the 2.5 and produces 240 horsepower — 21 horsepower more that the RAV4 hybrid. And the 450+ is the plug-in hybrid version. It gets up to 36 miles of range on a full charge, not quite as much as the RAV4 Prime, but offers 304 horsepower, which is more.
An F Sport trim is also available that comes with a firmer adaptive suspension on the upper trim levels.
I've tested three different versions of the NX since 2017 including two with turbocharged engines and a hybrid version. My 2022 version was the first with the base 2.5 engine and I appreciated the opportunity. Some reviewers have described it as underpowered and unrefined, and at first I was inclined to agree. Although adequate for around-town driving and freeway cruiser, it lacked punch as lower speeds and was noisy when pushed, which is not exactly what I think luxury buyers are looking for.
But then I discovered the solution. Switching the dash-mounted mode dial to Sport solved those shortcomings. Not only did it accelerate better but the noise coming from under the hood sounded much more like an exhaust tone. My suggestion is to set in the Sport for any trip over just a few blocks.
The Sport mode also stiffened the suspension. Not as much as the F Sport package I've tested before but enough to make the handling more fun. Enthusiasts will always prefer the best performance, but I don't think the 2.5 should be a deal breaker for anyone looking to save money.
My test version also came with AWD, which I always recommend because of the additional traction in wet weather, which is most of the year around here. It is a mechanical version as opposed to the dual electric motors that come with the hybrid versions. Both work well through heavy rains and moderate mud and snow.
The biggest improvement with the 2022 NX was the interior, where Lexus has now dropped the center stack in favor of a display that is so much in vogue these days. Although I enjoyed the retro look of the last model, the clean lines of the new interior gave it a much more open feel. Lexus also did away with the touchpad that was tricky to master in favor a much more intuitive touchscreen. The result is much more competitive with the newest European sport compact SUVs.
Comparisons of safety features is almost perfunctory these days. Between government mandates and increasing completion, even base models come with braking, traction and warning systems that were largely reserved for luxury vehicles not that long ago. Needless to say, even the least expensive NX starts with an impressive list of standard equipment and upgrades are available across the line.
Because of increasing gas prices, many Lexus NX will likely be interested in the hybrid versions. Although I ended up enjoying the base engine, an upgrade to the conventional hybrid 350h is hard to resist. For an additional $3,000 or so, it has more power and increases the EPA mileage from 25 city/32 highway to 41/37. That could pay for itself after a few years at today's prices. The plug-in hybrid version is a big jump up after that — about $15,000 — but if you can afford, the 36 miles of all-electric driving might using gas on only the longest trips while still enjoying even more performance and luxury.
2022 Lexus NX 250 AWD Luxury
Base price: $45,700
Price as tested: $51,395
Style: Compact luxury SUV
Engine: 2.5-liter 4 (203 hp - as tested)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport
EPA fuel economy: 25/32
Length: 183.5 inches
Weight: 3987 pounds
Final assembly point: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
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