2017 Lexus NX200t AWD: Everything I ever thought a Lexus would be.
Price: $49,324 as tested. $36,485 for a base model. Bigger option packages are noted below.
Marketer’s pitch: “The pursuit of perfection.”
Conventional wisdom: Consumer Reports likes “the Lexus' reputation of reliability," calls it "relatively agile,” but does not like the “lousy visibility, especially to the rear and sides, annoying touchpad infotainment/navigation system controls, snug driving position, and tight cargo space.”
Reality: My expectations of a Lexus were not that hot to begin with.
Not my first rodeo: My introduction to Lexus models came a little over a year ago, when I first had a GS-F. In the fall, I had a chance to drive an RX350 F-Sport and to race various Lexus models on a track.
They were all awesome.
This time around, though, I faced my first Non-F Non-Sporty Lexus, and I was rewarded with — what I first imagined a Lexus would be.
Up to speed: A 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that creates 235 horsepower remains a marvelous feat, when considering power output of even five years ago.
But, see, the problem is, we’re now spoiled. Three-hundred-plus seems to be the order of the day.
The NX200t can move quickly when pressed, but expect to add a lot of acceleration motion and reap just a gasp of a reward. Topspeed.com says the zero-60 time is 6.9 seconds, but I totally didn’t get that feeling.
On the curves: Here, the NX200t offers a little excitement. Winding country roads can be taken at some impressive speeds, and body roll is kept to a minimum. Granted, we’re not talking full-on riding on rails, but for a midsize crossover, this is nice.
Shifty: Any fun offered by the engine is not abetted by the transmission. The six-speed automatic transmission really feels Toyota-y, which is not too surprising, as that is the parent company of Lexus. If you choose shifting it yourself, it feels slushy and tiring. Allow the transmission to do the work, and it’s only acceptable.
Inside: Lexus luxury surrounds the driver, provided (s)he is willing to pony up the extra $4,765 for the Luxury Package. After parting with that bit of pocket change, marvel at the black shadow wood trim, heated/ventilated front leather seats, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, and moonroof — and the fact that you once bought an entire car for less money.
Driver’s Seat: Because Mr. Driver’s Seat is special, he needs the 10-way power seat with lumbar support (also courtesy of the Luxury Package). No matter; comfort is awesome for the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and Sturgis Kid 4.0, and the seat didn’t seem all that snug.
Friends and stuff: The rear seat offers decent legroom for passengers, but spacious this SUV is not. The cargo volume of 54.6 cubic feet behind the second row is smaller than a Kia Soul. Just saying.
Play some tunes: If I deducted points for every minute I spent shouting at the stereo the first time I drove a car, the NX200t would probably be the lowest-rated car ever tested in the history of the universe, even lower than a Pinto, Gremlin, or Vega.
Lexus has chucked the somewhat random joystick controller in favor of an exceedingly random touchpad.
After my initial slight puzzlement (my words)/nuclear meltdown (Sturgis Kid 4.0’s words), I found that one needs to approach the Lexus touchpad (cue orchestral strings) like a butterfly landing on one’s shoulder, or the search for endless love — with a gentle touch, just a hint of a swipe from a warm summer breeze...
... (brass false note) which is why I still want to smash that stupid thing. This is a car, not a relationship.
And you’ll pay $1,815 for the privilege, as part of the Navigation Package. The 10-speaker system delivers superawesome sound, as do your swearing vocal chords when trying to access your favorite song. Ahem. Or so I’m told.
Night shift: The LED headlights are terrible, especially considering they’re part of a $1,410 package that includes lane-departure warning and automatic high beams. The lights are too focused and hard to see on low beams. The interior lights are nice, though.
Fuel economy: The NX200t’s underpowered nature would be mildly tolerable if it paid off in fuel savings. But 21 m.p.g. in premium fuel is disappointing.
Where it’s built: Miyawaka, Japan.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports says it’s a 5 out of 5 for predicted reliability blah Toyota blah blah Lexus blah blah awesome sauce.
In the end: Don’t get the touchpad. Don’t even think about it. Otherwise, sure, the NX200 is nice enough and fun enough, and reliable. But if you’ve tried the F-Sports, it’s hard to go back.