A new luxury crossover is nice — but more importantly, NO MORE TOUCHPAD INFOTAINMENT!
Tonight, Lexus pulled back the curtain on their newest iteration of the NX luxury compact crossover. While the car features a number of lovely styling cues and a quartet of drivetrain options, the real news here is a completely overhauled infotainment system that will no doubt silence the critics of the old systems that used either touchpads or joysticks.
The new engines include an all new 2.4-liter turbocharged four in the NX 350, producing 275 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission, as well as a plug-in hybrid in the NX 450h+, with 302 hp much like the mechanically-similar Toyota RAV4 Prime. The NX 450h+ should manage up to 36 miles (52 km) of all-electric driving on a full charge. A regular hybrid NX 350h now produces 239 hp, and should achieve 36 mpg combined (6.5 L/100 km).
The styling is mostly an evolution from existing Lexus crossovers—however, a new wordmark spelling out L E X U S spans the tailgate. Lexus indicates that future models will be moving away from the familiar oval badge for the rear badging.
The Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 safety suite is standard, and includes blind spot monitoring. A Safe Exit Assist feature works in conjunction with the vehicle’s exterior sensors to scan for oncoming traffic as occupants attempt to open the door from the inside, and will use the electronic locks to keep the doors from opening into a moving object. Lexus demonstrated this feature with an engineer riding a bicycle (un-helmeted!) alongside the parked NX as a demonstrator attempted to open the door.
Quite a few attendees at the preview indicated, incidentally, that they were hoping the system would fail – sending the hapless bicyclist flying. Automotive journalists are a sadistic bunch.
(Editor’s Note: Canadian-spec NX models will go one step further, augmenting Safety System+ 3.0 with an adaptive high-beam system. The system uses a camera to adapt the headlights based on vehicles in front of the NX.)
The important news for the entire Lexus lineup is the new multimedia system, making it’s debut in the new NX and eventually filtering out to the entire lineup. Depending on the trim and model, screens range from eight to 14 inches, all of which feature the same functionality—including a responsive touchscreen rather than the console-mounted interfaces that have proven to be unsatisfactory for the better part of a decade. Lexus tells us that other models throughout their lineup will be seeing an upgrade to this new system during mid-cycle refreshes.
Lexus designers and engineers emphasized the new system’s flexibility, adaptability, and upgradeability. Over-the-air updates will be available as new features are developed—though users can opt out of the upgrades if desired. Audio offers the usual AM/FM radio, SiriusXM radio, and wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, as well as the Apple Music and Amazon Music streaming services which can be connected to the user’s existing accounts.
A voice-activated Virtual Assistant was developed with Toyota’s Connected Technologies that uses natural speech patterns to help occupants use navigation, media, and phone applications. If the driver would prefer, however, the usual Apple Siri and Android Google virtual assistants could still be used in conjunction with the driver’s mobile device.
The navigation is cloud-based, though it will pre-download and cache certain areas based on known cellular dead spots as needed. The navigation uses Google point of interest data to help users find information about their destinations – and, again, the user’s preferred navigation from their mobile phone could easily be used should they desire via the wireless connectivity features.
Any Lexus vehicle fitted with this new infotainment system, current or future, can be enabled with a digital key linked through a smartphone. This allows multiple users to access or drive the vehicle via app—including up to seven guest users. Notably, users can maintain their preferred vehicle settings within the app—backed up to the cloud—allowing a driver to get into a different Lexus vehicle and keep the same audio presets and navigation preferences. Clearly Lexus is looking forward to multiple-Lexus households with this feature, though it will be a nice transition in a couple years when moving from one leased vehicle to the next.
Pricing on the new NX was not made available at press time. Lexus plans on approximately sixty-five thousand units sold per year.
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