Lexus was among the first luxury car makers to explore the premium crossover SUV segment back in the late 1990s with the hugely successful RX, which pre-dates the likes of the BMW X5, Audi Q7, and Volvo XC90. But whilst its chief rivals were later into the game, they were also quicker in expanding their portfolios with smaller-sized alternatives, many of which have become very successful and profitable models.
Lexus took their time in coming up with an alternative to the likes of the X3, XC60, and Range Rover Evoque, but they were most certainly not standing still; since 2009, some 2,000 of the company’s engineers have been working on an all-new compact SUV model to slot beneath the RX in its model line-up, and their hard work has manifested into the all-new Lexus NX that was officially launched in Malaysia today.
Available in five variants priced between RM300k and RM385k, the NX is poised to be a game-changing model for Lexus in both a global and Malaysian context. Since the commencement of order taking back in October 2014, Lexus Malaysia has picked up around 600 orders for the NX, and a target has been set to put 2,000 units on the road by October 2015. If achieved, this will represent a very significant increase in Lexus Malaysia’s numbers – in 2014, the company’s best sellers were the ES with 900 units and RX with 500 units.
Two petrol engines power the NX; the familiar 2.5-litre 2AR-FXE Atkinson cycle that is also seen in the ES provides 153hp and 210Nm for the range-topping NX 300h. It works in combination with two electric motors – a 141hp/270Nm motor up front and a 67hp/139Nm motor at the rear – to form an electronic all-wheel drive system. The rear motor supplies traction only to minimize front wheel spin and also serves to recuperate energy in regenerative braking mode. Net system output is rated at 197hp.
Like all Lexus/Toyota hybrid models, the NX 300h utilizes a sophisticated E-CVT to facilitate transmission of power to its front axle. The transmission consists of an electric motor generator and an electric drive motor linked by a double set of planetary gears. The planetary gear set simultaneously fulfils three roles: as a power-split device between the generator and the front wheels; as a reduction gear for the electric motor and, when both work together, as an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Of greater interest to us, however, is the all-new 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo engine driving the NX 200t. Developed internally by Lexus, the highly-advanced 8AR-FTS engine features technologies such as Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence Wide (VVT-iW), direct and port injection, and it has the ability to switch between Atkinson and Otto combustion cycles based on throttle loads – its default mode of operation is the Otto cycle, but in steady cruising, it engages the Atkinson cycle mode to maximize fuel efficiency. To ensure reliability, Lexus has subjected the engine to some 10,000 hours of bench testing in addition to 1 million kilometres of on-road evaluations.
Unlike common practice adopted by European manufacturers, Lexus has chosen to offer its new turbo engine with only one output setting and it generates 235hp @ 4,800 – 5,600rpm and 350Nm @ 1,650 – 4,000rpm. The engine pairs with a 6-speed automatic transmission featuring software enhancements such as Torque-Demand Control Logic (which maximizes torque delivery under hard acceleration) and G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI, for optimum gear selection around corners). All-wheel drive is also standard in the Malaysia-spec NX as well; Lexus Malaysia is studying the prospects of front-wheel drive and will introduce such a variant should they determine there’s justifiable demand for it.
All-round independent suspension support the NX’s chassis on the road with MacPherson struts up front and a newly-designed trailing-arm double wishbone at the rear. Lexus claim that this architecture not only enables an optimum balance agility, stability, and comfort, but also enables packaging of an impressively low and flat floor. The NX 200t F Sport variant, a variant which accounts for 40 percent of bookings thus far, additionally gets adaptive variable dampers and Sport Absorber to enable more aggressive handling characteristics.
A number of Lexus-first equipment get their introduction in the NX. Depending on variant, these features include power folding 60:40 split rear seats, Qi wireless charging (works only for selected mobile phones), and a smart card key to complement the standard keyless entry system. Interface with the 7-inch central screen has been fully revamped with the introduction of a new Remote Touch Interface that is said to incorporate a smartphone-like operation feel with vibration feedback. It replaces the joystick interface that served many a recent Lexus model.
On safety, all versions of the NX get eight airbags, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, and reverse camera as standard. High variants additionally receive blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and a 360-degree panoramic view monitor fed by four cameras placed around the vehicle (front, rear, and one on each side mirror).
OTR pricing of the all-new Lexus NX with insurance for individual private registration in Peninsula Malaysia are as follows:
– NX 200t: RM299,873.80
– NX 200t Premium: RM331,697.80
– NX 200t Luxury: RM352,199.80
– NX 200t F Sport: RM378,875.80
– NX 300h: RM385,063.50