Enter the NX’s cabin – entry for which is notable for being a claimed industry first in doing without visible key barrels in the doors – and you’re met with another eye-catching design. Toyota and Lexus cabins are known for being high on perceived quality, but not on design and sometimes ease of use.
The NX’s cabin looks and feels plush and of a high quality, and has a clear hierarchy to the controls on the centre console, many of which have been pared back from previous Lexus cabins and are now controlled using a touchpad linked to the infotainment screen in the dash.
The touchpad, called Remote Touch Interface, lacks the overall finesse of a smartphone screen, but is intuitive enough and not too sensitive. Consequently options are easy to select. It’s all largely positive before pushing the engine starter button, then.
First impressions on the road are more mixed, however. The engine is pleasing enough; the 2.0-litre turbo unit is potent with 235bhp and a hefty 258lb ft of torque available from just 1650rpm. It’s hooked up to a new six-speed automatic gearbox, driving all four wheels.
Performance is brisk without having passengers reaching for the grab handles, the claimed 7.1sec 0-62mph figure feeling perfectly believable, and the 50-75mph time of 6.0sec also indicating plenty of mid-range shove, before it trails away at the top end.
While it feels brisk in this application, it would feel brisker still if it was hooked up to a better gearbox. The new six-speeder is fine for most situations, but it can hesitate to kickdown when you’re looking for sudden acceleration.
It can also be tricky to drive it smoothly if you want to push on, something highlighted by the increasing smoothness of the likes of eight-speed or more autos offered by Lexus’s rivals. Still, the gearbox, along with throttle response, can be sharpened up a touch by selecting the Sport mode in the Drive Mode Select (Eco and Normal are the other options).
The performance does feel a good match for a car of the NX’s size and weight; there was never a situation where we needed more shove. At motorway cruising speeds it’s also quiet and comfortable, with no refinement issues – as you’d expect from a Lexus.
Economy is never going to be a strong point of such a unit – and a reason why volumes are expected to be so small in the UK in the face of the more economical hybrid – but the 34mpg pending combined economy figure is achievable on longer out of town runs.
Lexus makes a big thing of the lightness and rigidity of the NX’s body, and sophistication of the MacPherson strut front, double wishbone rear suspension in creating a smooth ride quality yet engaging drive.
The F Sport trim adds firmer performance dampers to the so-called Adaptive Variable Suspension system in addition to 225/60 R18-shod 18in alloys (and a host of sporty cosmetic upgrades inside and out).
As with the drivetrain, the dynamic performance is a mixed bag. At town speeds, the NX does not ride well. It is too firm and cannot be considered comfortable or soothing.
Although Lexus has stated its desire to make its cars more dynamic and involving, this should not be to the detriment of a liveable ride quality. The ride quality does improve at speed, but it still never fully settles in the way it should.
The NX handles better than it rides, cornering competently and flatly with decent body control and plenty of grip. We’d like greater communication between car and driver though, particularly from the somewhat lifeless steering, which adds extra weight but no extra feel when the Sport mode is opted for in Drive Mode Select.