A new age for Lexus with the new NX crossover, now with Plug-in Hybrid

Lexus is opening a new chapter in their book with the announcement of the new NX crossover. Together with this is a revised aesthetic that focuses on function and simplicity while maintaining the sportiness it’s known for. It continues the brand’s “Lexus Electrified” by adding a new Plug-in Hybrid variant as the top of the line model while also showcasing new engines along the way.

The introduction of a Plug-in Hybrid model for Lexus is the next step towards their electrified goal. The NX 450h+ uses a combination of 2.5L engine and a high-output battery capable of 18.1 kilowatt-hour. There are no power ratings yet for this system but Lexus claims the EV output alone is “equivalent to a 2.0L engine” and that on a sprint, this can go 0-60mph at 6 seconds flat. As for EV range, it claims to roughly cover 58 kilometers.

A newly developed powertrain is also available for the NX. It’s in the form of a 2.4L turbo with Direct Shift 8-speed automatic and electronically controlled full-time All-Wheel Drive. This combination puts out 275 horsepower and 430 Nm of torque, and a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds.

For the entry variants, the NX is available with a 2.5L engine and eight-speed transmission available in either FWD or AWD. It has 203 hp and 249 Nm of torque with a 0-60mph time of 8.2secs (FWD) and 8.6secs (AWD).

Close the hood and you’ll notice it now ends nearer the edge of the grille, which is just one of the subtle design differences in the new NX. The spindle grille now doesn’t have chrome and there are slits at the bottom for better cooling performance in the engine bay. The headlights are also now darker to emphasize the distinct daytime running lights.

Curves are now more gentle at the sides, while the rear takes the bulk of design revisions. Most noticeable is the light bar on the tailgate that connects the new L-shaped taillights. Below it is the Lexus branding, making the logo just a front-end affair and honestly I prefer it than seeing the badge. The spindle shape has also become wider while at both ends of the bumper are vertical slits for a sportier vibe.

Inside is a new cockpit design called the Tazuna Concept based on tazuna, which is the Japanese word for reins used to control horses. It was first seen in the LF-30 Electrified concept car in 2019 and here, it’s not just an eye candy. The optional 10-inch heads-up display, 7-inch gauge cluster, and touchscreen offer a seamless view for the driver for easy delivery of information. The start-button, shift lever, and drive mode switch are also near the steering wheel for more intuitive operation. There’s also a new Touch Tracer Operation on the steering wheel with activity seen on the heads-up display or gauge cluster. This was implemented for easier changing of settings on the fly without the need to look at the steering wheel.

At the center of the dash is a 9.8-inch touchscreen as standard with an optional 14-inch touchscreen unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It supports hi-res audio playback delivered either with the Lexus 10-speaker system or the Mark Levinson 17-speaker setup.

Lighting also adorns the cabin with a preset of 14 color options or if that’s not enough, there’s 50 more in the color palette of the NX to suit your mood.

As for cabin isolation, Lexus claims a 15% reduction in airflow and wind noise coming in. The 2.4L model has additional Active Noise Control and Engine Sound Enhancement for a quieter cabin but with more audible grunt from the engine.

Safety is also improved with the adoption of Lexus Safety System+ 3.0. This includes Risk Avoidance Emergency Steer Assist, Left Turn Oncoming Vehicle Detection/Braking, Right/Left Turn Oncoming Pedestrian Detection/Braking, Oncoming Vehicle Detection to Pre-Collision System, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Management, Intelligent High-Beam, and audible Lane Assistance.

What’s unique is the new Digital Latch System with Safe Exit Assist. This enables doors to open at a touch of the button while the latter feature ensures you can do so safely by using cameras around the vehicle.

The new Lexus NX is built on the GA-K platform that was previously used on the Lexus ES since 2018. Body rigidity is improved while utilizing lighter materials and placing a lower center of gravity. Suspension was also improved with reinforcement braces while steering adopts a variable rack gear that enhances stability at high speeds, quick cornering response, and handling at low speeds.

Although an official premiere, the new Lexus NX technically remains a prototype. The start of production will begin at the third quarter of this year with pricing to be announced just before it becomes publicly available.

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