Seven years is a long time by automotive standards and time hasn’t been entirely kind to the Lexus NX. When it debuted in the 2015 model year it brought a fresh look to the emerging market for small luxury crossovers. Today, however, it appears dated and its technology is far from cutting edge — a big problem considering the tech-centric buyers NX targets.
So, the launch of an all-new model for the upcoming model year is critical in this growing and increasingly competitive segment. The good news is when Lexus said it would give the 2022 NX crossover a ground-up redesign, it wasn’t resorting to hype.
The 2022 Lexus NX retains only a few carryover parts with pretty much everything else new, from the chassis to the body design, the completely new Lexus Interface multimedia system to the NX’s first-time plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
In fact, Lexus bucks the industry trend when it comes to what it offers under the hood. Not only has it come up with two distinct gas-powered options, but also buyers will be able to order the new NX with either a conventional hybrid or the aforementioned first-ever plug-in hybrid package — the latter delivering the crossover’s best mileage as well its best performance.
Visually, Lexus improved the new NX inside and out. Though the 2022 model doesn’t stray far from the basic dimensions of the outgoing offering, it is less of a hodgepodge of angles and curves. There is a more complete and cohesive feel, overall.
First shown at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show — and launched in the U.S. for the 2015 model year — the NX has become one of the most important products in the Lexus line-up. It initially served as the luxury brand’s entry model but that role has since been taken over by the smaller UX. So, product developers had the freedom to move the 2022 makeover a bit more upmarket.
It’s adopted a more mature design, with less of the hodgepodge of angles and curves found on the original NX. Some key details carry over, including the coupe-like roof and Nike “swoosh”-style daytime running lamps — though the Lexus signature spindle grille has a slightly new look. It’s now made up of “U”-shaped blocks with a more three-dimensional feel.
Like other manufacturers, Lexus designers made sure to better differentiate between different trim levels. The NX 450h+ features new 20-inch wheels, for example up from the 18-inchers that were the biggest available on the outgoing crossover. The performance version also adds a black roof rail and mirror caps.
Across the line, all NX models adopt a new logo — or, more precisely, a spelled out “L-E-X-U-S.” The traditional “L” logo is retained on the nose.
The 2022 NX grows ever so slightly longer, wider and taller than the outgoing model. Designers took advantage of this — and the all-new platform — to offer a wee bit more passenger space. But where the new dimensions are most notable is in terms of improved cargo space, which jumps a full 14% with the second-row seats up.
The 2022 model’s makeover gives the NX cabin a more cockpit-like layout, even the new infotainment screen angles towards the driver. The new crossover features a 7-inch Multi Instrument Display and, in base trim, a 9.8-inch touchscreen. Buyers can add a 10-inch head-up display, or HUD, and upgrade to the new infotainment system’s 14-inch touchscreen.
Lexus took the focus on technology to extremes, in some cases. The old car’s traditional handles have been replaced by buttons that electrically open and close the doors. One benefit is the ability to integrate the latches into the crossover’s safety system. If it senses a car or bicyclist approaching it won’t let the door open until the coast is clear again. The system does offer mechanically operated releases in case the battery has died.
For the newly added base 2022 NX 250, Lexus went with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-4 producing 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It pushes power through an 8-speed transmission and is available in both front and all-wheel-drive. It will take you 8.2 seconds to hit 60. Fuel economy, meanwhile, is an EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined.
The mid-range powertrain is a turbocharged 2.4-liter package on the NX 350. This option delivers 275 hp and 317 lb-ft. It also uses the 8-speed automatic and can hit 60 in 6.6 seconds. That’s a half-second quicker than the outgoing model. Fuel economy is an estimated 25 mpg combined.
With the NX, Lexus is betting that buyers want plenty of options. That’s especially apparent with the powertrain line-up where buyers will get the choice of not just one but two hybrid packages. And where, in early incarnations, the Japanese luxury brand positioned hybrids as its “green” option, the 2022 Lexus NX moves in a very different direction.
Sure, the conventional hybrid package, the NX 350h, still yields better fuel economy than either of the all-gas versions, but it also delivers reasonably good performance. It takes the 2.5-liter inline-4 and pairs it with twin electric motors to produce 239 hp — up 20% from the outgoing hybrid package. Fuel economy jumps to 39 Combined, and the hybrid hits 60 in 7.2 seconds — 1.5 seconds quicker than before.
The other new trim for 2022 is the Lexus NX 450h+, Basically, it’s a beefed-up version of the conventional hybrid with a larger, 18.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Having more electrons to draw from, Lexus could scale up the motor drive portion of the package to deliver 302 horsepower. Launching from 0-60 in just 6 seconds, the 450h+ is by far the quickest version of the new NX, as well as the most fuel-efficient. It achieves an EPA rating of 84 MPGe.
It also gets up to 36 miles in all-electric mode when fully charged. And the system then can be switched to “Charge” mode. Unlike many other PHEVs, that will let it regenerate energy, both from the brakes and from the gas motor, so it can later yield still more EV-only range. At all times when in gas mode, the NX 450h+ continues to improve mileage by functioning as a conventional hybrid.
For those who plan to do a lot of driving in EV mode, Lexus offers an optional 6.6 kW “Expedited Onboard Charger” that will take the plug-in up to 100% of capacity in 2.5 hours. The standard charger requires 4.5 hours. Lexus decided not to permit the plug-in hybrid to use the new DC public quick chargers.
Safety and Technology
The new Lexus Interface is one of the more significant updates to the 2022 NX and “will get rapidly phased in across all of our vehicles,” said Steve Basra, Toyota’s global vice president of Connected Technologies. Developed in-house, the system is already showing up in the complete makeover of the Toyota Tundra for 2022.
The cloud-based system is significantly faster and far more intuitive. You can access pretty much any key control, such as audio, navigation or secondary climate functions, either from the home screen or with one additional tap. The system can be highly personalized and a driver’s individual settings can be both accessed by a smartphone app and, as the system rolls out, they’ll automatically transfer to any other Lexus you drive.
Features like Alexa, Sirius XM, Apple and Amazon Music are built in (with others, such as Pandora, possibly coming later). The system also features a more powerful voice assistant, on the order of Mercedes’ MBUX, if not Amazon Alexa. And, with the car’s new over-the-air update functionality, expect to see features added — both to the Lexus Interface and other vehicle systems.
The new NX has plenty to appeal to tech fans, including the newly added ability to use a smartphone as a key, letting a motorist leave the conventional fob back home. The function can be shared among family and even assigned to two other people who might need temporary access to the vehicle. Qi wireless charging is, of course, another available feature.
The NX package is completed by an assortment of advanced driver assistance systems, the newly upgraded Lexus Safety System+ 3.0. Standard features include forward-collision warning and auto braking, a system to detect oncoming traffic — and apply the brakes, if necessary — when making a left turn, road sign recognition and more.
I had the chance to try out all but the base version of the 2022 Lexus NX during a long day of driving in and around Phoenix and was impressed with the different driving manners each had to offer — though the most notable difference came with the optional F Sport package which delivered appearance and handling upgrades to the crossover. Among other things, the upgrade impacted steering feel, transmission shifts and the active damping suspension. Shift into Sport Sport+ mode and the CUV’s overall feel becomes more spritely, with tighter steering and an overall more hunkered-down road feel.
This is no sports car, but there’s a definite improvement in overall driving manners from the prior generation NX. The adaptive damping available with F Sport packages really does make a difference and can’t be recommended strongly enough for those who like this compact crossover but want the improved handling and ride.
Same can be said for the NX 450h+ package which make a clear difference in power and acceleration while also allowing you to drive reasonable distances in all-electric mode — and getting great mileage to boot.
The original Lexus NX was a breakthrough product for the brand, landing at just the right time to capture the growing number of buyers shifting from small luxury sedans to SUVs and CUVs. But a lot has changes since it debuted in 2015 and a major refresh clearly was necessary.
The exterior design of the 2022 Lexus NX can best be described as “cleaned up,” as it otherwise hews closely to the look of the original car. The interior gets a much more notable upgrade especially when you factor in all the new technology. And for tech fans, the new multimedia system alone is worth checking out.
As for pricing, you can get into the base NX 250 for as little as $37,950 — before factoring in delivery fees. To that, add $1,600 for all-wheel drive. The NX 350 takes you to a starting price of $41,550, with the hybrid NX 350h at $41,050. To get into our preferred package the 2022 Lexus NX 450h+ will require you to dig significantly deeper into your wall, at $55,650 before the few options available. Note the plug-in is offered in two trims, Luxury or F Sport My personal choice is the latter. One thing to note is that the PHEV is eligible for any state EV incentives and up to $75,000 in federal tax credits.