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2022 Lexus NX: Transformed from meh to oh, yeah! [First Drive]

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I always thought the Lexus NX was an OK vehicle. There was nothing wrong with it – except for that God awful track pad. But there was nothing exceptional about it either. Ride and handling was fine. Comfort level was good. The radio was decent.

And so it goes.

But with the 2022 model, Lexus re-imagined this compact SUV and turned into something worth buying. Especially now that the track pad is gone.

High-tech chic

In fact, probably the most noticeable change is going to be the death of that oft-hated track pad. In addition to freeing up space for more logically placed cup holders and wireless charging, this deletion means the introduction of an all-new multimedia system that’s pretty frickin’ awesome.

This system, called Lexus Interface, allows for wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto – standard – and is built around the idea of using voice commands in natural language. This makes it really easy to use while driving, so that you don’t have to fumble with buttons – you can simply say: “Hey, Lexus, I’m cold.” And it will change the temperature of your seat to be warmer.

I played around with this extensively on my first loop in the 2022 Lexus NX, and found it was intuitive to use, and I didn’t need to look up specific commands to get it to do what I wanted. I could say things like “tune to SiriusXM Radio Hits 1” or “change the station to Sirius XM Radio channel 2” and both worked equally well. You can adjust everything from your climate controls to turning on your windshield wipers with these voice commands.

One thing it won’t do: Tell you a joke or a story like Siri does. But I planted a seed in the ear of one of the product specialists, so maybe we’ll see funny things like that in the future.

The standard screen size will be 9.8 inches, but a 14-incher (as seen in all my photos) is available and stunning. The layout includes both climate dials and a volume knob. No, there isn’t a tuning knob, but I didn’t miss it because I simply voiced the channel changes. In fact, I didn’t even notice the lack until I started writing this story and was looking at photos.

2022 Lexus NX

Connected things

One of the really cool things is that the 2022 Lexus NX pairs seamlessly with the Interface phone app. So, you can do things like set a navigation destination on your phone while you’re still in bed and send it to your car, then you can pick it up quickly once you’re in the car. You can set favorite places in the car, which transfers to your phone and vice versa.

Plus, the phone itself can be used as a digital key, so you can ditch the key fob.

One of the coolest connected features, however, will be the user profiles that can be transferred from one compatible vehicle to another. You can set up your preferences from seating and mirror positions to audio and climate controls, and when you enter a vehicle that accepts user profiles, it will automatically load all your preferences. You can either log into the system (if it’s not your vehicle) or it’ll recognize you by your phone.

I’m adding this one to my list of “marriage saver” features because both you and your significant other can have different user profiles connected to your phones, and it will switch between drivers with ease.

Oh, and did I mention you can also park your car with your phone, while you’re not in it? I didn’t have the chance to test that one or see a demo, but I can’t wait to try this out when I get this as a tester in Chicago.

Lexus NX gets plugged in

Another big change for this redesign is the fact NX now gets a plug-in hybrid on a model called the NX 450h+.

This will get the same 2.5-liter engine you see in the base and hybrid models, but it’s paired with two electric motors and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery. Thus, combined output is 302 horsepower, and the NX 450h+ can travel about 36 miles in all electric range.

This system was built in parallel with the Toyota RAV4 Prime and they share the same platform. Oddly, however, the RAV4 Prime gets more all-electric range and has a faster to 0-to-60-mph time. Frankly, I’m surprised Toyota Motor Sales didn’t flip flop that. Especially since base-to-base, the RAV4 Prime will cost about $20K less than the NX 450+.

I’ll be honest, though, that 0.5-second time difference is negligible. Of the trio of vehicles I was able to drive during the press preview (350, 350h and 450h+ F Sport), the plug-in hybrid was my favorite. In addition to being an F Sport, which adds an adaptive variable suspension and performance damper, the extra zip from the electrified powertrain with the more planted stance made this a fun-to-drive vehicle. Plus, when in EV mode, it was super quiet.

2022 Lexus NX

Driving dynamics

Overall, however, the driving dynamics of all the vehicles I drove are solid. The new NX does a nice job of combining sporty handling with the overall comfort you expect from a Lexus. It held its own on the highway, feeling planted, as well on twisty bits, hugging the curves better than I expected for an SUV.

I didn’t have access to the base NX 250, but starting with the NX 350 – which will likely be the bigger volume seller – I was impressed. There is no noticeable turbo lag with the 2.4-liter turbo, and the route I took for each drive went up into the mountains. Power output for this engine is 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque.

When you get to the NX 350h, which is the hybrid, you see Lexus has done something kind of interesting. It has a different engine and gets less horsepower than the straight gas model. And here’s the really weird part: It’s $500 less than the gasoline NX 350. Hybrids for most brands usually cost more – even if there’s less horsepower involved.

That being said, I didn’t think the combined output of 239 horsepower for the 2.5-liter 4-cylidner engine paired with the two high-torque motors was lacking. But the big win with this vehicle is the EPA-estimated 39 mpg in combined driving (as opposed to 25 mpg for the NX 350).

My pick of the litter, as I already alluded to, will be the NX 450h+ — even though you’re looking at a steep price increase. I think it’s totally worth it.

Pricing and trims

Lexus has said the NX is its second best-selling vehicle behind the RX, so when I look at pricing for the new 2022 model, I’m surprised. The base model, which gets less horsepower than the outgoing NX 300 but adds more tech, costs $340 less. That’s unusual. Though, of course, that trend doesn’t hold through the rest of the trims as the hybrid is $890 more than the 2021 model. And the trim-topping PHEV is now $9k more than the previous top end of the lineup.

Price breakdowns, including destination fees, are as follows:

  • NX 250 FWD: $39,025
  • NX 250 AWD: $40,625
  • NX 350: $42,625
  • NX 350h: $42,125
  • NX 450h+: $56,635

The base NX 250 is the only one that comes with a front-wheel drive configuration, otherwise the NX is available only as an all-wheel drive model. The F Sport package is only available on the NX 350 and the NX 450h+.

2022 Lexus NX

The bottom line on the 2022 Lexus NX

This new compact SUV is exactly what Lexus needs right now. It’s an infusion of technology and style in a tight package. The new Lexus Interface system itself is worth its weight in gold.

I was impressed with every trim in terms of ride and handling, but I am increasingly a fan of the PHEV option, which allows you to use EV-only power for your around-town errands but doesn’t prohibit you from taking a road trip or traversing longer distances if necessary.

In all, I really liked the new NX. What I like even more is what it means for the rest of the Lexus lineup.

Editor’s note: Driving impressions in this “First Drive” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Lexus covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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