If the NX200t did one of those TV Ancestry tests, what would show up?
Platform sharing today makes it difficult to figure out what is a real brand anymore.
You’ve got rebadged Mercedes posing as Infiniti’s.
Jeeps driving around on Fiat underpinnings.
Fiats driving around on Mazda bits. Subaru’s, Scions.
And more. Oh my.
Then we have intermingling within the automakers as well, and they can be very well disguised. Case in point, Lexus and Toyota. There’s a lot of sharing going on. In all honesty, though, it always felt like the downscale Toyota models were getting Lexus goodness, rather than the other way around.
Still, with the crazed small crossover/SUV wars going on, if you’re not a player, you may not be in business in a couple years. So Lexus knew it needed something special in a hurry to slot below the larger RX300. Voila! Enter the NX200t. (And yes, it does share a platform with the Toyota RAV4).
With fervent changes going on in the segment, including an all-new Infiniti QX30, a recently introduced mini-cooper based BMW X1, and new Audi Q3; we thought it was time to the littlest Lexus SUV, the 2016 Lexus NX200t F SPORT.
Remember when Lexus used to be kind of snoozy? Sure it was the go-to for quiet, comfortable and incredibly well-built vehicles, but it was hard to get the excitement meter off the peg. But for the last 5 years or so, we’ve been assaulted with a barrage of stunning – and at times controversial – vehicles that in no way lost their better qualities. And they were good to drive. Some of them, so good, they put a hurt on our friends from Germany.
If you want to look at the pointy edge of the styling envelope, look no further than the NX. It’s funny how quickly design memes change. Two years ago, the giant Lexus spindle grille looked massive, controversial. Now, it’s not so shocking, as other carmakers have also been infected with big grille syndrome.
Being an F SPORT model, our tester amps up the proboscis with a mesh grille creating a more aggressive look, upper and lower front bumper inserts, and 3 LED headlights, angularly stacked on each side. In a stylish Ultra White with dark 18-inch wheels, it looked mean, and we love it.
You might think the profile would give away it’s RAV4 DNA, but the cheeky and cheerful Toy is nowhere to be seen. The NX looks athletic, muscular and capable. Bulbous fenders, deeply-chiseled sides and knife-edged LED taillights make this one of the most jaw-dropping, slap-your-face-and-drive-off SUV’s we’ve seen. It might be a bit polarizing, but we give Lexus big kudos for continuing to push forward.
The interior isn’t as avant-garde, but it does look special. The large center stack creates cozy confines for the driver and passenger, and you have a lot of controls and switches that vie for your attention. Interestingly, a similar setup in the Lexus CT200h hybrid hatch felt fussy, but in the tall, commanding seat of the NX, it feels like you’re at command of your own personal jet. Cool.
The center of the console pooches out, placing the climate controls right at your fingertips and creating a nice little shelf for the navi screen to sit on. Lexus info-tainment has at times been trying, and we remember the mouse-like controls being fidgety and infuriating. Luckily the NX now has a haptic touch pad, including a nicely-curved pad to rest your wrist – very Audi-ish. It works well, and passes the acid test in that it doesn’t require a lot of looking away from the road or navi screen.While the added toughness to the exterior is nice, it’s the interior where plumping for the F SPORT really pays dividends. Let’s start with the sport seats – as good as you’ll find in any car (or SUV).
The support is excellent for short trips or long hauls, and in the twisties, the shaping hugs you nicely – as long as you’re not too broad in the beam. The lower seat cushions are notable for being long enough for taller drivers. And dressed in a Rioja Red and Black NuLuxe (a classy leather-like vinyl) color scheme, they’re as gorgeous as they are comfortable.
The fat leather-wrapped wheel is a joy to hold and behold, and the aluminum pedals are nice finishing touch. There’s even a turbo boost/g-force screen you can call up on the NX’s LCD display positioned between the tachometer and speedo that’s unique to F SPORT models.
So you’re feeling pretty darn sporty in the F SPORT interior. Does it deliver the goods? First impressions are good. The 2.0-liter turbo pumps out a strong 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque at just 1,650 rpm.
As we noted when we tested the much larger GS200t, it’s a sweetheart of an engine; smooth, with a wide powerband that frankly, makes it feel faster than it actually is. Put the adjustable Drive Mode selector in Sport, and the 6-speed auto shifts with authority and the throttle response is crisp and the car feels eager to please. Sport mode also pumps in throatier engine sounds that heighten the experience. Stay in Sport.
In the corners, the NX gives you plenty of confidence and urges you to play. Steering feel is excellent, and while the handling limits may not be as high as bahn-burners like the Q3 and X1, it’s still a great drive.
When you’re not trying to tempt the Teutons, the NX really shines with a supple, quiet ride that’s best in class. It’s in those quiet moments that you kick back and notice the attention to detail, the quality of materials, that feeling of being surrounded by something of real value.
Pricing starts at $35,085 for the NX 200t front wheel drive model. $1,400 more all wheel drive. If you’re sporty like us, plunking for the NX200t F SPORT starts at $36,965.
Our loaded tester included the Premium Package that adds moonroof, heated seats, LED running lights and Memory system with power tilt and telescopic steering column. All the stuff you’d want on a Lexus, and reasonable at $2,045. Also on the option list were a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and auto-dimming heated outside mirrors. Stuff you’ll appreciate every day and at $660, money well spent.
Also on our tester, Qi-compatible wireless charger ($200), Auto-dimming inside mirror ($125), Navigation Package with 10-speaker premium audio system ($1,875), power rear door ($400), paring assist with sonar ($500), and 18” sport wheels with summer tires ($75). Whew! All totaled up, our NX rang the bell at $42,865.
We built comparable BMW X1’s and Audi Q3’s and found them to be all within hundred dollars of each other. There are tradeoffs in each, and if you’re looking at one, it’s definitely worth checking out the others.
While we might be a little nervous what our DNA tests may show, we’re pretty confident that the results on our NX 200t F SPORT will show that it’s pure Lexus through and through.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.