The 2015 Lexus NX 200t will be revealed at the Beijing auto show, the final step in a worldwide promotion that began with the introduction of the luxury-oriented compact crossover in concept form at the 2013 Frankfurt auto show and continued at the auto shows in Tokyo and Geneva.
The new crossover-utility vehicle (CUV) slots into the Lexus lineup just below the RX, which remains the division's most popular model. The 2015 Lexus NX shows off the latest and most mature version of the new design vocabulary that Lexus has been rolling out. It also introduces a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Downsize the dimensions, but not the style
As CUVs have become increasingly popular choices for daily transportation, smaller and more affordable versions are taking center stage. Naturally an increasing number of them are meant to be luxurious, personal vehicles. The 2015 Lexus NX 200t will take its place next to the forthcoming 2015 Audi Q3 and the current 2014 BMW X1 in this respect.
The Lexus NX has about the same footprint as a Toyota Corolla; it measures 182.7 inches in length, 73.6 inches wide, and 63.4 inches tall and sits on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches. Though it is compact in size, the 2015 NX makes a full-size luxury statement when it comes to style. Incorporating the new, more expressive, sharply edged design vocabulary from Lexus, the NX is more sophisticated and mature than anything we've seen from the Lexus design studio so far.
Lexus designers describe the shape of the vehicle as a diamond, and they've followed through with that imagery by making a statement with the LED headlights, which have three oblong elements on each side. This F Sport version of the Lexus NX is fully equipped with luxury features, such as puddle lamps in the door handles and snappy 18-inch wheels.
Huffing and puffing to make it go
Once you lift the hood of the 2015 Lexus 200t, you get a couple of surprises. The first is a great-looking engine installation that makes the shabby plastic covers that conceal the engines in other brands seem even more shameful. The second surprise is a high-tech, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Owners of CUVs expect great fuel economy, so a four-cylinder engine is the obvious response. At the same time, we guess that the NX weighs more than 4000 pounds (no official numbers have yet been released), so some serious power is also required.
This turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder has the right hardware to deliver the right kind of power, including Toyota's fan-spray fuel injection, which combines elements of both port-type and direct injection. Variable valve timing is featured on both the intake and exhaust camshafts. The centerpiece of the installation is a twin-scroll turbocharger, which is meant to combine quick throttle response at low rpm with significant power as the tachometer needle swings across the dial.
We're guessing that peak output will be more than 200 hp, although we understand that the Lexus engineers are mostly intent on delivering a smooth, progressive increase in power rather than peak output. The engine is matched with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Packaging the people
With the NX, Lexus has raised its a game when it comes to interior design. This F Sport model shows off the usual soft-touch surfaces and color-contrast stitching in the upholstery and looks like a particularly nice place to spend your driving time.
The dashboard layout continues to follow the Lexus design book, in that the upper zone is meant to provide the display and the lower zone features all the controls. The center console is the real centerpiece of the architecture, and it cascades off the dash and between the front seats. The console itself incorporates the controller with haptic feedback that is unique to Lexus, and there's also a small pad for scribing letters (or characters) to trigger computerized responses. Touch-sensitive electrostatic switches are used in many places -- even the dome lights -- instead of the usual buttons.
The seats in this Lexus NX 200t F Sport look pretty sporty to us, and the rear, 60/40-split bench seat flips forward to increase cargo capacity. The F Sport also has a power-operated hatch that can be adjusted to open to a pre-determined height.
Any flavor that you want
The Lexus NX will come in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations, and a hybrid version will also be available with both front- and all-wheel drive.
The hybrid will incorporate the same powertrain as the Lexus ES350 hybrid with its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, battery-powered electric motor, and six-speed automatic transmission. The 2015 Lexus NX 200t will be available in the usual range of Lexus trim levels.
Pricing information won't be available until the NX goes on sale in the last quarter of 2014, but we're guessing that the base model will start at about $32,000.