Lexus’ NX group of SUVs fits snugly between the smaller UX and larger RX, both of which we’ve driven before (the UX to Laguna Seca Raceway for an INDYCAR race; the RX to Indianapolis last winter for the PRI show). With the invitation for a short stay with a 2022 Lexus NX350 F Sport AWD, we jumped at the opportunity to flog it from a late Wednesday start to an early Monday end. The visit was short but sweet.
We picked up this new-for-2022 NX350 F Sport AWD, dressed in Redline with red and black interior in Chicago, intent on driving down to Indianapolis for the 106th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race a week and a half after our arrival. With our plane from Los Angeles three hours late, it was a tough drive down to Indy but the Lexus was definitely up for it.
The NX350’s inline four-cylinder turbocharged 2.4-liter engine put out 275 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 317 lb-ft of torque between 1,700-3,600. Redline is about 6,200 rpm. An eight-speed sequential automatic transmission – with paddle shifters – enables change of gear at a whim and that was an advantage in rush-hour Chicago traffic.
MacPherson struts and double wishbone suspensions, front to rear, are firmly planted and with F Sport enhancements to the dampers and springs, handling is superb. The electric power steering was spot-on at center; the 38-foot turning circle is exceptional for an SUV of this size. Braking is seamless. To put it bluntly, this package makes one feel that the NX weighs far less than its 4,035 pounds. Although the NX shares its chassis with Toyota’s RAV4, this Lexus feels supremely more luxurious and composed (although the RAV4 is no slouch).
The exterior of this new NX model design is all aggression with its enlarged, familial black snout opening the overwhelming feature of the front end. All lighting points to the snout with LED lamps angled the towards the center of the fascia. The engine compartment is easy to open and is mounted on struts. Most of the engine is visible. While there is some overhang at the front of this SUV, it’s minimal, as is the area aft of the rear wheels. Sides have a sculptured intake while the rear is fully businesslike with an orange band at the hatch and delicate lighting.
Lexus fits Bridgestone 235/50R 20-inch tires on 10-spoke black F Sport alloy rims. There are no door handles on this SUV; it’s all pushbutton. Mirrors fold inward when the NX is locked and there are courtesy lamps throughout the body that allow safe access to this SUV. The black roof rails accentuate this Lexus’ glowing red paint and add to the purposeful looks.
Inside the dual-color seating area is easy to get comfortable in and there are plenty of power seating adjustments for both driver and passenger; the driver has three memory options. Front seat passengers don’t get lumbar support but it’s handy for the driver. Matte silver finish in the tunnel area makes accessing the dual cup holders, wireless charging area for the phone, USB and USB-C plugs just above the floor for charging other equipment. Drive modes of Eco, Normal, Custom, Sport and Sport+ are activated through a knob on the central stack below the 14-inch [optional] touchscreen display.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto engage without much entreating and the 17-speaker, Mark Levinson premium audio ($1,020) is delightful. Included in the F Sport handling features of this SUV are the F Sport steering wheel with those paddle shifters, the supremely supportive seats, grille and bumpers, all with F Sport logos. F Sport lineage gives this Lexus NX 350 F Sport AWD front and rear performance dampers, the head-up display, a good-sized tilt/telescopic steerage column, handy rain-sensing wipers along with aluminum door trim, rubber-tipped pedals and scuff plates at no extra charge.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel accesses trip information with multiple options to access along with audio volume control, while the right side also has trip info, together with cruise control and lane departure. The sole issue we had with this vehicle was getting the wireless charging to continuously work, as the phone needed to be securely placed in order for it to properly charge. It was frustrating at best.
Rear seat passengers don’t feel like second-class citizens at all with their own air flow, two USB plugs along with 12-volt access. There is the ubiquitous pull-down armrest with cup holders, too. The Lexus NX 350 F Sport AWD’s hatch area is plenty large at 22.7 cubic feet behind the second row of seats, along with a cargo cover. Remove the rear seat passengers, easily stow those seats and cargo capacity increases to a nice 46.9 cubic feet.
The 2022 Lexus NX 350 F Sport starts life at $47,725 including freight – and then options are added. These include a cold weather package of heated steering wheel, wiper/window de-icer and PTC heater ($250); triple beam headlamps (LED of course) with washers and cornering lamps ($850), a separate $2,500 F Sport handling/luxury package: 14-inch touchscreen display drive connect with cloud navigation, intelligent assistant (“Hey Lexus”) and destination assist trial, 4G network dependent, thematic ambient illumination, power back door with kick sensor (handy and easy to use), intelligent parking assist, ventilated front seats.
But wait – there’s more! The Mark Levinson 17-speaker premium audio, the panoramic moonroof for $1,600, panoramic view monitor and lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert for $1,070, a 2,000-lb towing package for $160, the smart phone convenience package with digital key and wireless charger for $450, giving this Lexus a total cost of $55,325. Considering the quality inherent in this vehicle, that’s not an overwhelming price these days…
Lexus does ask drivers to use premium unleaded fuel – which we did for the single fill-up in Indiana – and the EPA states the mileage for this vehicle 22/28/25 mpg from the 14.5-gallon tank. That’s fairly accurate. On the drive down, we didn’t drive sedately – we were several hours late – so the mileage wasn’t wonderful at about 23mpg, but expect the figures to be accurate. One thing I’d like to stress – this SUV handles like it’s a sedan. It cuts, thrusts and accelerates beautifully through the wooded areas where our friends live east of Indy.
As a mid-size SUV with relentless luxury, the 2022 Lexus NX 350 F Sport AWD is a prime player in the game. While the NX is available as a hybrid this year, for those that consider the internal combustion engine an always-engaging part of mobility will be pleased with the smoothness of the power unit. As for the balance of the machine and its capabilities, there’s few that do mid-size SUV luxury better than Lexus. Returning it was sorrowful; that’s always the way with the good ones.
words and photos by Anne Proffit