Some automobiles are built to instantly resonate with every driver. And others … well, you feel an instant generational difference, as carmakers begin to focus on drivers who may not be so in love with the whole driving thing.
The all-new 2022 Lexus NX, like many newer vehicles, so immersively wraps its owner in data and infotainment that the actual heading-down-the-highway aspect sometimes seems like an afterthought. In this case, it’s a bold move for Lexus, creating a younger-generation-focused machine that seems like an alternative to those once-frumpy RX models its new owners likely grew up being shuttled around in, their whole lives.
I had an Ultrasonic Blue Mica NX 350 F Sport model earlier this year, that shade of blue being the standard color for Japanese SUVs, and I felt both genuinely disconnected and, at the same time, able to ignore the data overload and enjoy the ride.
The 183.5-inch-long vehicle, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $46,650, came to me as a $55,510 package including ultra-bright triple-beam headlamps, 20-inch wheels, a Mark Levinson stereo system and panoramic moonroof. It also included the whole slew of very forward-minded technology, with a 14-inch touchscreen display, the cloud-based Drive Connect and Alexa-styled “Hey Lexus” personal assistant and a panoramic view monitor. Both a hybrid and a plug-in electric version of the NX will be available.
The first edition of the NX was my favorite Lexus model as it embodied everything the brand stood for but took a much lighter approach to the luxe/button-heavy mantra of its pricier stablemates.
I think I actually had a too-well-equipped 2022 NX as my starting point, but the fully-loaded aspect here was probably a good overview of where Lexus is going (there is an NX 250, as well, with a non-turbo 2.5-liter engine making 203 horsepower). It starts with inside doorhandles that you push to open, pull to lock, highlighted in ejection seat red so you remember their functionality.
Luckily I was coached on a set of dual multipurpose thumb controllers on the wheel which allow you to switch between various mode settings on a very large, very intrusive heads-up display.
There’s also that absolutely massive infotainment screen, which, like my first day in the new Tundra, was not set up with my own phone-based account, so it didn’t actually work.
That panoramic view monitor is also very trippy as it provides a 360-degree see-through image of the NX as you engage in close-quarters parking.
And, yes, it has an engine and brakes, too. Who knew? There’s a somewhat oddly-configured new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that offers a not-miniscule 275 horsepower, which I was able to run very hard and produce more than enough thrust — which made it buzz quite loudly. Combined with an eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive, it promises combined city/highway mileage of 25 mpg.
Still a smaller platform than the much-improved RX, LX occasionally felt slightly light footed (a snow day, without snow tires, did not help), but on dry pavement, its light touch is sporty and comfortable.
Seating is exceptionally sporty, which is to say that it might remind some younger drivers of their old child seats. I cannot say if that is the strategy, plus all the attention-diverting data and entertainment input, but some drivers may indeed find it a tight fit.
The advantage to the touchscreens is to practically minimize the regular Lexus-load of buttons, with just a tiny, tiny patch of auto-stop and other controls, hidden behind an equally tiny, low-profile shifter. I read through 768 pages of the NX’s manual to figure out what the tiny tree symbol was, hoping I’d found some organic snow-mode or traction enhancement. No dice. Organic patterns on the speaker covers, tons of piano black on the whole digital dash and a zig-zag pattern from stack around the console all contribute to one very stylish look.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at [email protected]