The luxury CUV market has exploded in popularity over the past few decades. But while many luxury CUVs used the opportunity to grow and expand their profile, Lexus, it seemed, preferred to sit in the nosebleed seats. Minus the RX, the UX and the slightly bigger NX had potential but could never seem to match some of the pre-game hype. The 2022 Lexus NX aims to be the superstar that Lexus has always wanted it to be. But have all the changes really succeeded in making the 2022 NX a true segment benchmark?
Sleeker NX Styling Sheds Some Of Its Clunky Underpinnings
The exterior styling of the 2022 NX is less cluttered looking than before and closely resembles the smaller UX. The front fascia has a more aggressive-looking front grille and sleeker LED headlights, with our NX350 F Sport grade example also having a more pronounced front chin splitter and splashes of sharp-looking black accents. These accents also helped compliment the vivid shade of red that adorned it, and from some angles, the NX looked better than some of its rivals that prefer to pitch excitement for pure functionality. The windshield has a more aggressive rake to it, and the rear styling is also more aggressive looking than before while also boasting higher degrees of polish and poise.
The slicker styling is even more surprising, especially considering that the NX shares its core platform with the Toyota RAV4, which is not exactly known for setting the world on firs with its suit of functional clothes. While the styling is a massive improvement over the outgoing model, it also left us wondering why it took Lexus this long to give the NX the visual mojo it needed finally. Imagine how different things would be if the NX managed to get some of its current looks sooner versus later, especially in early sales.
NX Interior Embraces New Levels Of Technology, Better Infotainment Included
The outgoing model offered one of the most specious cabins in its segment, but material quality left plenty to be desired, and the technology on hand aged with the grace and dignity of Tom Brady’s current campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Thankfully, the 2022 model gets a cabin that’s finally in the same league as some of its rivals. Yes, there are still some occasional splashes of cheap plastics here and there, but the higher quality of soft-touch materials and revised button placement are noticeably better.
Base NX models come with a 9.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but upper trims like our F Sport get a larger 14-inch unit. The display is crisp and has a logical menu layout with the touchpad being pitched for an incredibly simple and easy-to-use interface that does a good job responding quickly to touch inputs and does a good job going through the motions. Lexus designers have retained a few hard buttons, including two knobs that are responsible for adjusting the interior temperature for the dual-zone climate control. The infotainment system also comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a free trial for the Amazon Music service.
Back-seat passengers get slightly more room than before but the extra room for passengers comes at the cost of cargo capacity, with this NX offering less room for groceries and other items than before. That didn’t stop us from using it to haul spring water though the tight quarters did force us to use the second-row floor wells to haul some of our smaller jugs back home. Our tester also came with goodies like the panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, and a trick lighting system with 64 colors.
More Engine Options Means More Fun…Right?
A major change for 2022 is that the NX now offers four engines for buyers to choose from versus the outgoing model’s two-engine-only lineup. The base model comes with a turbocharged 2.5 liter four-cylinder good for 201 hp, while NX350 models like our tester come with a turbocharged 2.4 liter good for 275 hp. While this paints a promising picture of fun (at least in theory), it becomes apparent that this engine’s extra muscle is more of a paper tiger. While the extra muscle does help in city driving, it simply does not materialize out on the freeway or in any situation where the NX is required to go through the motions associated with spirited driving. The engine’s sheer amount of noise is not matched by the tepid acceleration, and its obvious that the gearing here from the eight-speed automatic is tailored towards fuel economy.
But while the engine is somewhat of a disappointment, we will give high marks to the suspension for putting on an admirable effort in delivering a solid handling feel. While the NX is far from giving sports cars a run for their money on a road course, the F Sport’s slightly stiffened suspension allowed models like our tester to have a playful demeanor when tossed about at pedestrian speeds.
As mentioned earlier, the NX now offers four engines, with the other two being found in the hybrid models. The NX350h uses a 2.5 liter that’s mated with two electric motors to produce a combined 239 hp. Meanwhile, the NX450h+ uses the RAV4 Prime’s electric powertrain, which makes an unchanged 302 hp. This extra electrified muscle allows the model to make the sprint to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, while our NX350 tester did the same task in 6.6 seconds.
Pricing for the 2022 Lexus NX starts at $40,255, getting you a base front-wheel-drive NX 250. The more powerful NX 350 starts at $44,015 and is also the model that comes with standard all-wheel drive. Our F Sport Handling Package grade NX350 started at $49,115, but over $4,000 of extras helped push the price past $53,000. That helps create a very puzzling pricing conundrum. Especially when you consider that this pricing put our tester within spitting distance of a comparably equipped NX 350h hybrid and that the more powerful NX450h+ does a better job delivering an overall performance atmosphere to buyers.
Overall the 2022 Lexus NX is a noticeable and welcome improvement over the outgoing model. Its exterior styling and improved interior are compelling buying points for the CUV, but the accompanying increase in price for mid to high-level trims does sour the experience slightly, especially since some of its rivals offer more cargo space and a better balance of luxury and performance. Despite that, this version of the NX is eager to please and we think buyers will like it too when they get to experience what it has to offer.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.