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2022 Lexus NX First Drive: Grooming the Next Flagship

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Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2022 Lexus NX.

Phoenix, AZ - After meeting it first online and then at a static presentation (thus no drive) in the Kingston, Ontario area this summer, we finally got behind the wheel this week of the spanking-new second-generation 2022 Lexus NX.

This new edition comes seven years after the debut of generation 1 for the 2015 model-year.

See also: 2022 Lexus NX: 10 Things Worth Knowing

In a nutshell, what we found on our quick trip down to Arizona was what we expected, more or less, that is to say a net progression of the model, but nothing to knock us off our feet. Lexus is playing it safe with this model, which isn’t that surprising given that it sees in the NX an eventual heir to the RX as the company's cash cow and best-seller.

With that in mind, Lexus has given it all the tools it needs to inherit the crown. The lineup is richer and more diverse than ever.

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2022 Lexus NX, profile
Photo: D.Rufiange
2022 Lexus NX, profile

The versions
The first thing that might raise eyebrows when appraising the 2022 NX is the fact that four different versions will be offered to consumers. That doubles the possibilities for the buyer.

More particularly, the new Lexus flagship model will be unveiled with hybrid powertrains, as well as a traditional naturally aspirated engine and a turbocharged one.

First up is the 250 variant, which is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine good for 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. This is the only version that wasn't part of our first-drive event, but to get an idea of its performance, a look at the Toyota RAV4 is a good start.

For something livelier, the 350 version introduces a new engine, a 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder that will deliver 275 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque.

2022 Lexus NX 450h+, badging
Photo: D.Rufiange
2022 Lexus NX 450h+, badging

Hybrids
Next up are the most intriguing possibilities: two hybrid solutions. First, the 350h is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and an electric unit. Combined, the two produce 239 hp, a 20-percent increase over the 194 hp offered by the 300h model we'd seen previously in the NX offering.

Second, the 450h+, which we predict will get a lot of attention. The engine is actually the same as with the 350h, but this time with the RAV4 Prime formula applied. That’s right, the NX will have its own version capable of driving without using gasoline, this time for an official distance of 61 km. That's seven less than the 68 of the RAV4 Prime, but it’s enough to make ears perk up.

One question we can’t help asking ourselves is whether Toyota will be able to meet the demand with this variant. Recall that in the case of the wildly popular RAV4 Prime, Toyota has had all sorts of struggles filling the orders.  That’s a nice problem, you might say, because it means that folks want the model, but still, when you offer something, you have to deliver sooner or later. And preferably sooner. We'll keep a close eye on this, rest assured.

Finally, an interesting detail: it will be possible to check the F Sport option with the 350 and 450h+ models. It puts the emphasis on sportiness, both in terms of style and driving experience, especially with an adaptive suspension.

2022 Lexus NX 450h+, front
Photo: D.Rufiange
2022 Lexus NX 450h+, front

Evolving styling
Aesthetically, Lexus didn't have to shuffle the deck too much to make the 2022 NX fresher. Nor could it. Its signature hourglass-shaped grille has a straitjacket effect on the designers' creativity. Nevertheless, the work done for the 2022 edition is solid. And because that’s simply what’s done these day, Lexus found a way to make the NX bigger as well.

Frankly, the design is love or hate it affair. As for me, how much I like it depends on what side of the bed I’ve gotten up on that day.

At the rear, the evolution of the design is more pleasing to the eye. The lights are now linked by a light strip and the LEXUS letters are prominently displayed on the tailgate. Two other industry trends.

Proportions remain more or less the same as before, although as mentioned there are noticeable gains in height, length and width, all of it to the benefit of the occupants.

2022 Lexus NX, interior
Photo: D.Rufiange
2022 Lexus NX, interior

On board
Inside, the dashboard is totally different than in the outgoing NX, but at the same time you can tell it was designed by a Lexus employee. Which means that for all the changes, there are familiar stylistic elements that stand out. The dominant piece is of course the 14-inch screen in the centre of the console. It’s a screen that feels oddly integrated, almost like it's too big for all the other parts of its immediate surroundings. I’m curious to see the effect with the basic version, which offers a 9.8-inch screen.

By the way, where will it end with the ever-going screen phenomenon? It has to stop somewhere, no?

Be that as it may, that you can access the menus directly on the screen is reason to celebrate, mainly because it means you won't have to deal with Lexus' touchpad anymore, a system that had a truly remarkable talent for making users’ teeth grind. Now, everything’s traditional, with buttons for some controls and a tactile approach for others. It's not perfect, but it's a wonderful step forward.

As for the rest, the equipment is of course generous, but with 15 possible combinations of models and trim levels, it’s impossible to go over it all here. The same goes for safety systems, of which there are plenty here, though again, variants pick up certain additional systems with every step up the trim ladder. It's up to you to decide which variant you want.

2022 Lexus NX, front grille
Photo: D.Rufiange
2022 Lexus NX, front grille

Behind the wheel
We'll sum the drive up simply. The NX delivers a very satisfying experience, but it’s not a stunning one. No tragedy there, mind you, that's not what we're looking for with this model. In fact, you'll be lulled by the comfort level of this SUV that delivers few if any surprises.

Performance? It's decent all around, depending on the engine range and the model you choose. With the 450h+ trim level, of course, it's convincing with its 302 hp. The base version, which offers a hundred less, is more sedate, but the price you pay is not the same.

In fact, Lexus offers a rich and varied offering here, like in a restaurant with an eight-page menu. This is great for the buyer, who can really choose the configuration and features – and price point – they want.

And that's why the NX is going to be the best seller in the lineup; given the offering and the equipment included and available with it, that’s only a matter of time.

Combined fuel consumption ratings for the 2022 NX are 9.5L/100 km for the 250, 8.4L/100 km for the 350 and 6.0L/100 km for the 350h. With the plug-in hybrid model, it varies, of course, depending on charging discipline and type of usage.

As for pricing, the following table provides all the details regarding pricing.

...MODEL250350350h (Hybrid)450h (PHEV)
 Signature$47,400 $49,900 
 Premium  $51,400 
 Ultra-Premium   $59,950
 Luxury $55,400$56,400 
 Ultra-Luxury $59,700$60,700 
 Executive $64,700$65,700$75,650
 F SPORT 1 $58,000  
 F SPORT 2 $60,900  
 F SPORT 3 $64,900  

The model is expected in December at dealerships.

2022 Lexus NX, back
Photo: D.Rufiange
2022 Lexus NX, back

We like

Choice of models
The arrival of a plug-in hybrid variant
The disappearance of the Lexus touchpad
All-wheel drive throughout
Some versions built in Canada

We like less

The price of the plug-in hybrid variant with the Executive and F Sport 3 trim levels
Despite a stiffer and more solid chassis, the driving experience remains neutral
Accessibility of the 450h+ version?

The competition

Acura RDX
Audi Q5
BMW X3 / X4
Buick Envision
Cadillac XT5
Genesis GV70
Infiniti QX50 / QX55
Jaguar E-PACE
Lincoln Corsair
Mercedes-Benz GLC
Volvo XC60

2022 Lexus NX, front
Photo: Lexus
2022 Lexus NX, front

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Photos:D.Rufiange
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