Whenever we get test units, they are usually a car company’s latest offerings. But things are a little different with the Lexus NX demo vehicle that you see here. At the instant I finished taking pictures of this vehicle, the automaker launched the all-new version of the compact crossover.
So here I was driving a vehicle that had essentially been rendered outdated at the very moment it was under my care. But I thought, what the heck. I had never been in a Lexus for an extended period of time. I might as well savor the experience of having one for a few days.
I have a lot of friends who dream of owning a German car, but the number of people I know who really like Lexus is two. One of them is Sam, our videographer who dreams of one day getting his hands on an IS. The other is my Florida-based uncle who has a third-generation LS with all the options. Both of them seem to be completely enamored by the brand, like it’s the best thing that ever happened in the world of cars.
I, on the other hand, have always been a Lexus skeptic. How can its cars cost significantly more than any Toyota? I rode my uncle’s LS a few times, and I didn’t see anything that would make it more appealing than the equivalent Celsior. Likewise, I believe that there is no reason why Lexus should be charging more for the LM than what Toyota is asking for the Alphard. But in this line of work, I’ve been proven wrong many times. And I was genuinely hoping that the NX would do just that.
Most Lexus cars for me are overly styled, and the controversial spindle grille doesn’t suit some of them (hello, GX and LX). Out of the automaker’s crossover and SUV line, the NX is the only one that I’d say is decent-looking. The rear has the right amount of rake, and the window line looks normal. The spindle grille feels right at home on this vehicle. On looks alone, I’d actually consider owning this NX or the one after it.
The interior is a hit-and-miss. The F Sport variant has contrasting red highlights on the seats, and the kind of trim which I found a little vulgar for a luxury car. Some of the displays and switchgear are clearly from Toyota (my father’s Hilux has the same controls, like the cruise-control stalk). And how can I forget the infotainment screen that’s controlled by the touchpad? I usually get the hang of most systems in one day. But the Lexus is one of the few that I never got used to.
But there is an air of quality to the NX’s cabin. The materials feel good, and some of the knobs and buttons have a satisfying resistance that just makes you want to play with them all day long. The car’s 10-speaker sound system is actually one of the best I’ve listened to. Clair Marlo’s ’Til They Take My Heart Away has never sounded so good inside a vehicle. I’m beginning to understand what makes a Lexus a cut above an equivalent Toyota.
Despite the F Sport badges, this is not a car I would call sporty. The turbocharged 8AR-FTS mill has over 230hp, but it doesn’t sink you into your seat under hard acceleration. Actually, pinning the throttle and expecting the car to respond with vigor is kind of missing the point. The NX is all about cruising. All that power is there so that the car doesn’t feel labored. The Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ driving modes should have been labeled “Super Chill,” “Chill,” “Normal” and “Sport,” respectively.
The armrest is quite high, which allowed me to sit like I was in a lounge chair. Unless the potholes were as deep as a senator’s pockets, the suspension system was able to suppress any bouncing or shaking. You hear the thud, but it doesn’t unsettle the car. In fact, the cabin felt so serene that only the faint tire noise somewhat intruded the passenger cocoon.
My Lexus experience came to an end in a rather weird way. If Toyota’s schedule is anything to go by, this generation of the NX will have been phased out in a few months. But despite that, I thought the car was fabulous. It’s solid and comfortable, and I think I finally understand why people like Sam and my uncle love the brand so much. I’m still not sure if I’d buy one, but the test drive allowed me to see Lexus in a new light.