Check the Lexus nexus

A down­sizer from faux-wheel drive, the NX joins the SUV strength

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

READ all about them, rubbish them if you must but Aus­tralians just keep buy­ing them — SUVs are the sec­ond big­gest ve­hi­cle cat­e­gory be­hind small cars.

In the lux­ury di­vi­sion, sales show no signs of slow­ing un­til 2020 at the ear­li­est, say the ex­perts.

They’re sta­tus sym­bols that also give driv­ers a bet­ter view of the road. We’re trad­ing up to SUVs that say “ad­ven­ture” — even if we’re stuck in the same traf­fic as ev­ery­one else.

Lexus was con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence in this seg­ment but now, fi­nally, comes the NX. It’s a sharply styled and smaller ver­sion of the RX, a pioneer of the lux­ury “faux-wheel-drive” mar­ket more than a decade ago.

We sam­pled the NX on Cana­dian roads last week. It ar­rives in Aus­tralian show­rooms in Oc­to­ber.

VALUE

Lexus has yet to re­lease prices. The only in­di­ca­tion is a start­ing point of $55,000 to $60,000, where the larger Audi Q5 and BMW X3 com­fort­ably com­mand a pre­mium.

There will be three model grades and two power op­tions, a petrol-elec­tric hy­brid and an all-new turbo petrol four­cylin­der. Lexus is tak­ing a gam­ble by hav­ing no diesel op­tion, as these ac­count for the ma­jor­ity of lux­ury SUV sales.

Lexus says hy­brid power is cleaner tech­nol­ogy and the emis­sions are less harm­ful than diesel.

The hy­brid ver­sion will ar­rive first, fol­lowed by the turbo early next year.

Lexus has in­di­cated the hy­brid may be cheaper than the turbo. Hy­brids sup­pos­edly are dearer to buy be­cause they’re dearer to make — so it’s los­ing money on the hy­brid or mak­ing a rude profit on the turbo.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The NX joins a grow­ing list of cars that have a fake en­gine sound played into the cabin via a speaker (on the turbo petrol model only, not the eerily silent hy­brid where it may also be war­ranted).

The NX’s vol­ume dial doesn’t make the four-cylin­der sound like a V8 but it’s more con­vinc­ing than other ex­am­ples. Lexus says own­ers even­tu­ally might down­load their pre­ferred sounds. Lexus also im­proves the driver’s pre­ferred mu­sic — by dig­i­tally fill­ing in the gaps that oc­cur when orig­i­nal files are com­pressed from CD qual­ity to an MP3 file. This is the first ap­pli­ca­tion of the tech­nol­ogy from US brand Har­mon in a car but, for now, it’s only avail­able on the most ex­pen­sive NX with 14-speaker, 980W au­dio.

The NX will be only the sec­ond car to be sold in Aus­tralia with wire­less phone charg­ing (Jeep was first, a month ago). Buy a spe­cial cover to charge your iPhone from the tray in the cen­tre con­sole ... or just use a ca­ble to a USB port or 12V socket.

The power tail­gate opens to five pre­set po­si­tions, a touch­pad re­places Lexus’s mouse-like cabin con­troller and the woodgrain trim, from plan­ta­tions in South-East Asia, looks like rare, aged wood.

DE­SIGN

With its sharp edges and gap­ing mouth, there will be no mis­tak­ing this for any­thing but a Lexus. It’s one of the few suc­cess­ful, largely un­changed tran­si­tions from a mo­tor show con­cept.

It is “loosely based” on the un­der­pin­nings of the Toy­ota RAV4 al­though Lexus says 90 per cent of the com­po­nents are new.

The body creases come at the ex­pense of func­tion in some ar­eas — the slop­ing rear roofline com­pro­mises cargo space rel­a­tive to ri­vals and the cabin isn’t quite as roomy as the X3 or Q5.

In fact, the NX is closer in size to the Mazda CX-5, Aus­tralia’s top-sell­ing com­pact SUV, which starts at less than $30,000.

SAFETY

There is a long list of ad­vanced safety fea­tures such as lane wan­der warn­ing, blind-zone alert and cross-traf­fic de­tec­tion (when re­vers­ing out of per­pen­dic­u­lar park­ing spa­ces) — but this tech­nol­ogy is also avail­able on a Toy­ota Camry.

A rear view cam­era is stan­dard, the “panorama” cam­eras give a bird’s-eye view of the car when park­ing and radar cruise con­trol can bring the NX to a com­plete stop if needed (the lat­ter two are not new but worth hav­ing).

No mis­tak­ing it’s a Lexus: The NX has the fam­ily snout, the lat­est in dig­i­tal en­ter­tain­ment and fa­mil­iar safety kit

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