Latest Lexus NX marks time
WHEN a car company talks about the increased size of the analog clock in the dashboard you know there's not much to say.
Lexus reckons there is more equipment and safety, with improved suspension, in its updated NX. But as new-car stories go, this is a short one.
The NX is getting a predictable midlife update that slightly changes the way it looks and goes but there is more to pay - the starting price rises to $54,800 for the front-drive Luxury.
The line-up stays the same with a renamed turbocharged petrol NX 300 and the hybrid 300h - with Luxury, F Sport and Sport Luxury equipment grades. The added front-wheel drive F Sport is for people who put looks first and appreciate a $5000 price advantage.
Alongside the newer NX, the compact CT200h Lexus hybrid is also getting a (very minor) tickle that includes pedestrian-detection safety braking but comes with a $2150 price rise to $40,900 for the starter car.
The update to the NX is an important one for Lexus and its customers, because it's the showroom favourite in Australia. The heavyweight European brands are bringing new SUV models into the action with Volvo just starting deliveries of its good-looking XC60 and BMW about to unveil a new X3.
"We're not forecasting a significant change. Basically, we're following what our customers want,” says Lexus boss Peter McGregor. Changes to the NX start with an improved safety package on all versions, in which the auto safety braking now detects pedestrians and operates up to freeway speeds. There are also lane departure assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, trailer sway control and a wider-view reversing camera.
The infotainment display is up from seven to 10.3 inches, the switchgear is improved and LED headlamps are fitted - adaptive on the F Sport and Sports Luxury. There is minor front and rear restyling.
There are zero updates to the running gear in either NX but Lexus says the suspension now gives better control in the Luxury - with improved dampers, a bigger rear anti-roll bar and changes to rubber bushings.
It also claims major improvements in the adaptive variable suspension in the F Sport and Sports Luxury, with a jump from 30 to 650 individual settings to match conditions.
ON THE ROAD
Only Lexus tragics will pick the visual changes to the updated NX.
The car seems a touch quieter on suburban roads in Adelaide and I'm hoping the suspension upgrades reduce the soft and bouncy feel of the original NX. No such luck.
The Luxury contrives to be both floppy and jarring at the same time and the F Sport hybrid is very disappointing. There might be 630 computer settings but none works for me - it thumps and crashes over potholes and bumps in all three driver settings and never feels composed or relaxed. The clock, with analog face, gets digital updates via GPS.
The starting price is up, to $54,800, which Lexus says is offset by extra equipment including more safety gear. The biggest benefit for buyers is an F Sport model with front-wheel drive, bringing sportier looks from $60,800. The flagship Sports Luxury AWD hybrid hits $76,300.
Auto safety braking that detects pedestrians heads an update including rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist and a wider-view reversing camera. The adaptive variable suspension now has 630 switching levels and there are LED headlights.
Zero changes to engine or transmission in either the 2.0-litre turbo 300 or the 2.5-litre Prius-style hybrid. Lexus claims major changes to the suspension on all models and reduced cabin noise.
The NX is comfortable and a bit quieter but the suspension changes make the new model worse. The variable setting struggles to cope with our roads.
Very minor changes at the front and rear, centred on the signature "spindle grille”, as the F Sport cars get more blackout panels for a slightly more aggressive look. The infotainment screen is bigger, some switches are improved and the bigger clock keeps accurate time via GPS.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE From $54,800 (300 Luxury FWD) to $76,300 (300h Sports Luxury AWD)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 4 years/ 100,000km, no capped servicing (free first service)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 175kW/ 350Nm, 2.5-litre hybrid, 147kW; 6-spd auto, FWD/ AWD (not new)
SAFETY 5-star, 8 airbags (improved package)
THIRST From 5.6L/100km combined (hybrid helps)
SPARE Space-saver (boot benefits)