Check the Lexus nexus
A downsizer from faux-wheel drive, the NX joins the SUV strength
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.
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.
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.
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.
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