The 2016 Lexus NX 200t: Luxury that makes sense
What happens when you separate ego and bravado from an automobile?
You get a darned good vehicle — one invested in safety and reason, reliability and common sense, and accessibility, which means approachable affordability.
You get a front-wheel-drive version of the 2016 Lexus NX 200t hatchback/crossover vehicle, which hasn’t changed that much from the 2015 model and is not likely to be discernibly different from the 2017 version.
Why is that? Toyota, maker of all things Lexus, is saving money on production changeover costs, yes. But major technological changes are happening yearly, are improving the safety of the vehicle, and are being introduced, often as options, at an arguably reasonable cost.
An all-wheel-drive version is available — at a higher cost, of course. Get it if you live in a heavy snow zone. Also, if you live in a heavy snow area, don’t buy this one, or any other vehicle, with low-aspect-ratio summer sports tires. You will be wasting money. Summer lasts only three months at best.
But getting this one with front-wheel-drive and all-season radials makes perfect sense. Options? Yes. You can go for the 18-inch-diameter wheels of the available F-Sport package. But if you are going to spend extra money, make it make sense.
This column strongly recommends options such as the blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning system, forward-collision alert, and rear cross-traffic warning system. Why? I’ve driven with them on almost every new vehicle available today. They cost extra money, yes. But they work. They can save you lots of pain and suffering. Frankly, I think that much of what now is offered as optional equipment in advanced electronic safety ought to be federally mandated as standard vehicle safety equipment.
But Toyota/Lexus already seems to be moving in that direction. In the process, Toyota and its Lexus luxury division appear to be upending the traditional exclusive-beyond-reason definition of luxury. I’ve spent nearly the past six months in Lexus vehicles and have come away with this:
Lexus luxury has got to involve more than ego. It must work perfectly, reliably. It has to honor economy without ever flirting with cheapness, which means it has to be reasonably accessible. Above all, it has to make sense.
The 2016 NX 200t makes sense, especially as equipped for this column — F Sport 18-inch-diameter wheels, high-grade F Sport interior trim featuring attractive but easily washable NuLuxe premium vinyl seat trim, and a turbocharged (forced air) 2.0-liter, gasoline four-cylinder engine (235 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque) that also delivers an overall 26 miles per gallon using required premium grade gasoline.
The NX 200t is tight, exceptionally well-made, comfortable and safe — that’s “safe” with an overall five-star federal safety crash rating. It’s a good driver, too — light on its feet, much lighter and better handling, I think, than the available gasoline-hybrid NX 300h.
Criticisms? Of course. Consider the NX 200t as a little urban wagon with 17.7 cubic feet of storage space with middle and rear seats in place. Maximum storage is about 55 cubic feet. That means it’s nobody’s macho hauler, a fact highlighted by its dainty hauling capacity of 2,000 pounds.
If you can live with those numbers, you can live with this one — happily.
Bottom line: This is the perfect luxury urban runabout for small, affluent families.
Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets good marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: The styling is aggressive with high fit-and-finish inside and out, which probably is why it stays on the bestseller list despite its marginal utility.
Body style/layout: The Lexus NX is a compact, entry-level luxury, front-engine, five-door hatchback/crossover vehicle of modest utility. It is available with standard front-wheel or optional all-wheel drive. There essentially are two trim levels — base and the F Sport package used for this column. The hybrid 300h is a separate entry.
Engines/transmissions: It comes with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder 16-valve gasoline engine with variable-valve timing (235 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 17 cubic feet. Maximum cargo storage is 54.6 cubic feet. The NX can be equipped to tow up to 2,000 pounds. Fuel capacity is 15.9 gallons. Premium gasoline is required.
Mileage: I averaged an overall 25.8 mpg city and highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front/solid rear disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; traction and stability control; post-collision safety system; side and head air bags.
Prices: The 2016 Lexus NX 200t starts at $34,965 with a dealer’s invoice price of $32,692. Price as tested is $40,640 including $4,725 in options (F Sport luxury trim, onboard navigation and advanced electronic safety items) and a $950 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $37,990.