Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 20, 2022
After driving every trim of the Lexus NX, the NX 350 might just be our favourite. It doesn’t harbour the zero-emission capability of the plug-in NX 450h+, nor the fuel efficiency of the hybrid NX 350h, but its combustion-only powertrain is more focused and polished. It’s also more powerful than the lethargic NX 250.
We adore the NX 350’s 2.4-litre turbo-four engine that pushes out a healthy 275 hp and 317 lb-ft, a significant 40 hp and 59 lb-ft over the model it replaces. There’s enough power here for any kind of driver, heavy-footed or not, and the NX 350 runs that output through an updated AWD system that serves sure-footed traction, and an 8-speed automatic, not a CVT like its hybrid siblings. That means it’s not revving to the moon and sounding like a broken record player whenever you floor the gas pedal. The shifts are generally unnoticeable and play behind the scenes, exactly what you want from a luxury SUV. Turbo lag is minimal and while not immediately propulsive, there’s a comfort to the way the momentum gradually and predictably builds, which never intrudes or surprises.
Sure, it’s not as efficient as either of the NX hybrid or plug-in hybrid models, and call us dinosaurs as we struggle to adapt to zero-emission mobility, but there’s just an honesty to the way the NX 350 feels behind the wheel and it’s genuinely relaxing and charming to drive as a result. That gentle driving behaviour and gutsy accelerative potential only serve to complement the rest of the NX’s impressive picture.
It’s now a much more mature-looking SUV than before. The front nose has been massaged into a less offensive shape, we’re a fan of the ‘LEXUS’ script on the trunk lid, and the rear lights are especially distinctive, linked together by a LED light bar that seems to be the norm on every SUV these days. But it’s the interior that steals the show and is a major improvement over its predecessor.
There’s less visual drama this time around, with bolder centerpieces and an airiness to the cabin. It’s no longer cramped and overly complicated - those that forgot what that looked like can refer to the cabin of the current-gen Lexus IS. We prefer this design and think it’s cozier than the NX’s many rivals like the Infiniti QX50 and Audi Q5, and less cluttered and button-intensive than the Acura RDX.
The leather is nicely stitched and the build quality is much better. But the biggest upgrade is with the infotainment unit. Gone is the messy haptic trackpad and in its place is an enormous touchscreen with a more fluid and friendly interface. It’s no longer a guessing game when you want to input a command - everything is clearly labeled and ergonomically arranged. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available too for those who prefer a more familiar layout.
Lexus was clever in keeping the volume and heating controls, two of the most heavily used functions, as real dials - none of that touch slider nonsense like what the Volkswagen Golf and BMW iX use. There are real button controls embedded into the steering wheel spokes, ensuring a low learning curve and effortless integration for Lexus newcomers.
The cabin details in the NX justify their own paragraph. The new gear shifter design, first used in the LC 500 Coupe, is a delight to use. It feels substantial and provides a sense of occasion every time you flick it into drive. Furthermore, the steering wheel and door panel arrangement reminds us of the luxurious LS 500 Sedan, and the electric door handles, which open at the push of a button, save space, and reduce operating effort. Even the drive mode dial is cleverly positioned for optimum reach, and sticks out prominently like it was meant to be pushed.
It’s safe to say the NX has come a long way with this second iteration, and it has clearly impressed us with its clean interior, improved ergonomics, and a logical infotainment system. The NX 350 is our pick of the litter for its gutsy engine that is not only smooth as silk but also incredibly eager to rev when pushed. It may lack the efficiency of the hybrid models but it provides a more focused and honest driving experience that’s completely free of distractions.
Model: 2022 Lexus NX 350 Executive
Paint Type: Nori Green Pearl
Base Price: $54,850
Price as Tested: $64,700
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,660 / 1,865 / 1,640
Engine: 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 275 hp
Torque: 317 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 10.5 / 8.3
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.3