And The First Shall Be Fashionably Late: The 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport.
For the company that invented the modern luxury crossover with the RX 350, Lexus has taken a comparatively long time making its entrance into the hottest segment in the automotive industry...the small luxury crossover.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport.
2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport.
BMW's X1, Mercedes-Benz' GLA, the Audi Q3, Acura's RDX and Lincoln's MKC  are all present and accounted for...and cashing in on the demand for small but upscale CUVs.  Now, Lexus has arrived...and it could be a game-changer.

On paper, a small crossover from the company that makes the RX 350, known for its sensory deprivation and loved by the ladies who lunch, and based in small part (less than 10% shared parts content) on parent Toyota's RAV4 might not promise much. But Lexus has decided to do things differently with the NX.

To begin with, it is equipped with the first turbocharged engine in a Lexus ever and the first in a Toyota product sold in America since the last Supra Turbo in 1997 (1996 in California).  At 235 horsepower, it's geared for smooth mid-range boost, not tremendous off-the-line power, but it still packs the NX 200t with a sporting feel that comes as a surprise. It's also a fairly economical engine, delivering 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway, according to the EPA.

A base price of $34,480 is where the front-wheel-drive NX 200t begins.  All-wheel-drive has a base of $35,850.  But our test vehicle was the NX 200t F Sport.  The price of admission: $36,850.  They all come with the typical long list of standard Lexus features---click here---but what makes the F Sport worth $2,370 more makes it much more involving to drive.

Choosing F Sport gets a sport-tuned suspension, F Sport NuLuxe seats, metallic sport trim, an F Sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, cornering front fog and driving lamps, premium LED daytime running lights, F Sport door scuff plates, active sound control (a volume control for synthezised engine noise---choose as little or as much as you like) and 18-inch F Sport wheels.  That may sound mostly non-performance related, but Lexus was serious about the sport-tuned suspension, including its own beautifully balanced IS sedan among the benchmarks.

Interior view of 2015 Lexus NX 200t
2015 Lexus NX 200t interior (non-F Sport trim shown)
It is a Lexus, so there are options, and our test vehicle had plenty---$220 for a Qi-compatible wireless charger (iPhone users need not apply), $505 for the F Sport Comfort Package which includes a memory power tilt and telescoping steering column and power 10-way driver's seat with lumbar support, $125 for a Homelink garage door opener, $75 to upgrade the all-season tires to summer ones, $2,140 for the Navigation Package, which upgrades the audio system to a 10-speaker premium system and includes the Lexus Enform app suite, $660 for heated, memory auto-dimming electrochromic outside mirrors with blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse tilt, $500 for intuitive parking assist, $400 for a power back door---it's not a liftgate, hmm?---$1,100 for a power tilt and slide moonroof, $69 for a cargo net and $99 for a cargo mat.

Put all that together with $925 delivery, processing and handling fee and the as-tested price comes to $43,398.  A very competitive price in this category, with performance abilities that should attract younger and more male drivers than one might have expected from a smaller sibling of the RX 350.  It also shows that Lexus continues to be serious about making cars that are fun to drive. If you're considering a small luxury crossover, the NX 200t is a strong contender and should be a must for a test drive.