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2022 Lexus NX debuts with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, new touchscreen system

The redesigned NX crossover might be Lexus' most important car since the first-gen RX.

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The new Lexus NX looks great.

Lexus

This is the second-generation Lexus NX crossover, and it might just be Lexus' most important new car since the first-gen RX debuted in 1998. The 2022 NX rides on Toyota's latest TNGA platform, packs multiple new powertrains, including a plug-in hybrid and, probably most importantly, it has a brand-new touchscreen infotainment system.

When it comes to styling, the NX is fairly evolutionary. It has one of the best applications of Lexus' spindle grille yet, especially when it comes to the standard version with vertical slats, and the base car no longer has an underbite-ish lower bumper. The headlights are now one cohesive unit, while the taillights have a horizontal bar connecting them, though no cool fins like on the UX.

This rear-end treatment will spread to more Lexus models.

Lexus

The NX's surfacing is less angular and more sculpted than the old one, and it loses the cool, super boxy rear fenders. There's a nice crease that runs from the front fender and kicks up to meet the pointed C-pillar, with another line coming off the taillights to add definition to the rear haunch. Overall, it's much sleeker and more modern than the previous model without shaking things up. The biggest change comes at the rear, where Lexus ditched its traditional round emblem for a de rigueur written-out script. This treatment will start to spread across the Lexus lineup, though the brand's cars will continue to have the round logo in the grille.

As usual there's an optional F Sport package that adds a more aggressive front bumper with a different grille pattern, unique wheel designs (including the first application of 20-inch wheels on the NX), dark chrome exterior trim and body color wheel arches. The F Sport package also brings a different steering wheel, aluminum pedals, perforated sport seats and other interior enhancements, while an additional F Sport Handling Package adds upgraded dampers and Lexus' variable suspension system to turbocharged and hybrid models.

Finally, that damn touchpad is gone

The revolution comes when you step inside. That horrid touchpad setup is finally gone, replaced by the new Lexus Interface touchscreen infotainment system that Lexus designed in-house. A 9.8-inch screen will be standard, but the huge 14-inch screen you see in these photos is optional. The screen is canted towards the driver and is well integrated into the design of the dash, flowing nicely into the center console. With the larger screen you still get physical temperature knobs for the automatic climate control that contain a digital screen inside, as well as a physical volume knob and real buttons for the heated windshield and mirrors.

The new NX's interior is a huge leap forward for Lexus.

Lexus

Always present on the left side of the screen are icons for navigation, media, phone, vehicle and settings pages, which Lexus says are those most used by customers. Also always present at the very bottom of the screen are controls for fan speed and other climate functions, while above that is a row of buttons for additional features like seat heaters and an apps tab that can be hidden. There's no home screen per se, like you get in other brands' systems, and I think that's OK -- in my short time with the car, the system was easy to get comfortable with, and you don't need to dive into multiple menus to find what you're looking for.

The Lexus Interface system as a whole looks really good too, the navigation map especially. Everything is stored in the cloud and the system uses Google data for points of interest and other info. The nav can be used offline as the car knows when you're entering an area with bad service and will predownload what you need. Both Apple Music and Amazon Music are fully integrated as part of the native media suite, and Lexus says more apps like Spotify could be added in the future. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard.

The cloud-based navigation system uses Google data.

Lexus

The system also gets over-the-air updates, can connect to two different Bluetooth devices at the same time and offers the ability to create multiple user profiles to store different drivers' data and settings. A digital key is available for smartphones and can be shared with up to seven people, allowing for starting of the car and remote locking and unlocking. The NX also gets Lexus' new Siri-like Virtual Assistant, which Lexus envisioned as the primary way drivers will interact with the Interface. It uses multiple microphones, noise-cancellation tech and seat detection to make sure it can hear well, and it can control everything from navigation and media functions to climate controls and opening or closing the windows. 

Otherwise the NX's interior is pretty standard Lexus fare. Lexus says there's more headroom, legroom and cargo space than the old model, though no dimensions have been released. The NX comes standard with a crisp 7-inch digital gauge cluster, and a 10-inch head-up display is optional. The electronic shifter on the center console is kinda quirky, and it's surrounded by an optional wireless charging pad, a drive mode dial, both USB and USB-C ports and other controls. A digital rear view mirror, a panoramic sunroof and 64-color ambient lighting are all new options, and there are a bunch of new color and trim options. The NX also comes standard with heated front seats, while ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel are available.

The Digital Latch door handles are pretty cool.

Lexus

There's one other interesting thing about the NX's interior, and it may not be what you expect. In place of traditional, mechanical door handles the NX has what Lexus calls the Digital Latch. The doors are electronically controlled, though there is a mechanical failsafe, opening with a press of the sleek button in the door panel. (The exterior door handles use a button too.) This allows for the NX to have safe exit assist, which scans for vehicles and cyclists coming from behind and will warn the occupants and even keep the door closed to prevent an accident.

Lexus' first plug-in hybrid

Lexus is offering the NX with four powertrains at launch, three of which are new to the model. At the bottom of the NX lineup is the NX 250, which uses a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-4 paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It produces 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, and front-wheel drive is standard but all-wheel drive is an option. Then there's the NX 350, which uses a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 275 hp and 317 lb-ft, increases of 40 hp and 59 lb-ft over the previous turbocharged NX 300 model. The NX 350 also uses an eight-speed auto, and it comes standard with AWD.

Next up are the two hybrid models, both of which build off of the 2.5-liter engine. The all-wheel-drive NX 350h pairs the engine with two electric motors, one of which independently drives the rear wheels, and it has a total of 239 hp, 45 more than the old NX 300h. Lexus says the NX 350h will hit 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, a second and a half quicker than before, and it should achieve 36 mpg combined, a 6-mpg increase.

The NX 450h Plus is Lexus' first PHEV.

Lexus

But the biggest deal is the NX 450h Plus, which is Lexus' first plug-in-hybrid production car. It's basically the same powertrain as the Toyota RAV4 Prime, pairing that 2.5-liter four with a larger battery pack (likely the same 18.1-kWh unit as the Prime) and two electric motors. Lexus says the NX 450h Plus makes 302 total horsepower and has a 0-60-mph time of 6.0 seconds, matching the RAV4 in terms of power but 0.3 seconds slower to 60. Lexus says the NX 450h Plus has an electric range of 36 miles, and it can gain a full charge in two and a half hours on a 240-volt supply when using the optional 6.6-kW charger. With the on-board 3.3-kW charger, that time jumps to about four and a half hours.

Every NX will come standard with Lexus' Safety System Plus 3.0 suite of safety features. This includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring and road sign recognition. There's also oncoming vehicle detection and braking assist for left turns, and oncoming pedestrian detection and braking assist for both right and left turns.

Lexus says the new NX will enter production in the third quarter of 2021, and all four powertrains will go on sale at the same time. Pricing won't be announced until closer to the on-sale date, but we expect a starting price for the NX 250 close to the current NX 300's $40,085 base price, with the turbocharged NX 350 and hybrid NX 350h each coming in around $45,000. The NX 450h Plus could start at well over $50,000 before incentives.