Mountain Wheels: High-tech Lexus NX can deliver information overload

: All new for 2022, the smaller Lexus NX 350 offers a data-rich atmosphere for drivers who love that stuff, and 275 hp for those who love to drive.
Courtesy picture

Some automobiles are built to instantly resonate with every driver. And others…well, you feel an instant generational difference, as automakers begin to focus on drivers who may not be as enamored with driving.

The all-new 2022 Lexus NX, like many newer vehicles, wraps its owner so immersively in data and infotainment that the actual aspect of highway driving sometimes seems like an afterthought. In this case, it’s a bold move for Lexus, creating a younger-generation-focused machine that feels like an alternative to those once clunky RX models its new owners probably grew up commuting in for their entire lives.

I had an Ultrasonic Blue Mica NX 350 F Sport model earlier this year, that shade of blue being the standard color for Japanese SUVs, and I felt both truly disconnected and, at the same time, able to ignore the overload data and enjoy the ride.

The 183.5-inch-long vehicle, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $46,650, came to me as a $55,510 package that included ultra-bright triple-beam headlights, 20-inch wheels, a Mark Levinson stereo system and a panoramic sunroof. It also included a whole host of very forward-thinking technologies, with a 14-inch touchscreen, cloud-based “Hey Lexus”-style Drive Connect and Alexa personal assistant, and a surround-view monitor. A hybrid version and a rechargeable electric version of the NX will be available.

The First Edition NX was my favorite Lexus model because it embodied everything the brand stood for, but took a much lighter approach to the luxury/button-heavy mantra of its more expensive stablemates.

I think I actually had an overly-equipped 2022 NX as a starting point, but the fully loaded look here was probably a good look at where Lexus is headed (there’s also an NX 250, with an engine not 2.5-liter turbo engine developing 203 horsepower). It starts with the interior door handles that you push to open, pull to lock, highlighted in ejection seat red so you remember their functionality.

Luckily, I was trained on a set of versatile on-wheel dual thumb controllers that allow you to switch between different mode settings on a very large, very intrusive heads-up display.

There’s also that absolutely huge infotainment screen, which, like my first day in the new Tundra, wasn’t set up with my own phone account, so it didn’t quite work.

This surround-view monitor is also very trippy as it provides a seamless 360-degree image of the NX as you pull into close parking.

And, yes, it also has a motor and brakes. Who knew? There’s a new, somewhat oddly-configured 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that delivers a not-tiny 275 horsepower, which I was able to run very hard and produce more than enough thrust – which the buzzed pretty loud. Combined with an eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive, it promises a combined city/highway mileage of 25 mpg.

Still a smaller platform than the much-improved RX, the LX felt a little light at times (a snowy day, no snow tires, didn’t help), but on dry pavement, its lightweight feel is sporty and comfortable. .

The seats are exceptionally sporty, which is to say they might remind some young drivers of their old child seats. I can’t say if it’s the strategy, plus all the distracting data and entertainment, but some drivers may indeed find it a tight fit.

The advantage of touchscreens is to virtually minimize the usual Lexus button load, with just a tiny patch of auto-stop and other controls, hidden behind an equally small and unobtrusive gear lever. I read 768 pages of the NX manual to figure out what the little tree symbol was, hoping I found an organic snow mode or improved traction. No dice. Organic patterns on the speaker covers, tons of piano black across the entire digital instrument panel, and a zigzag pattern of the stack around the console all contribute to a very sleek look.

Andy Stonehouse, Summit Daily News


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