SUV Review: 2022 Lexus NX 350

The delightful surprises start before you even hop aboard

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The delightful surprises start before you even hop aboard. 

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Walk up to the all-new-for-2022 Lexus NX 350 and try the door handle. The handle-hoop is fixed in place, but there’s a thin, slim touchpad concealed on it’s backside. The slightest squeeze prompts a tiny electronic click, and the door is freed from its latch.

The first time you open the door, you’ll go in for a big grab and pull, but find the door releases from its latch with little more effort than clicking the button on a computer mouse.

It’s a delightful little surprise. Another? Exiting the vehicle. It’s just the reverse: a similarly light press on the slim interior door handle pops the door from its latch electronically. All four of the NX’s doors work this way, allowing occupants to board and exit using nothing more than a single fingertip. If you’ve got arthritis or a hand or wrist injury, the NX’s electronic latches can make life especially easy, every time you board and exit.

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Speaking of which, the NX’s just-right ride height and seating position means that most occupants will board and exit by simply sliding sideways into their seat; no need to climb up or plop down. That’s minimal effort to open the door, followed by minimal effort to get into your seat. 

The gear selector slashes driver effort, too. It’s a joystick, not a lever. You pick the gear you want with just a few few millimetres of fingertip movement: left and down for drive, left and up for reverse, and a small ‘click’ on the ‘P’ button for park. 

Before even setting off, drivers get several signals that this machine intends to be very easy and straightforward to operate. Seems Lexus was keen to make the latest NX feel very inviting and easy to use.  

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Other examples of the trend include the one-touch-every-time cruise control button that locks your speed in place with no need to pre-activate the system or fiddle with anything else, in any way.

The digital rearview mirror features a wide-angle camera feed, dramatically enhancing the drivers ability to gather information about the goings-on behind them, with no obstruction to their view. The backup camera, located on the central screen, gets an ultra-wide viewing angle and for maximum awareness and peace-of-mind when maneuvering in tight quarters. The graphics of both the backup camera and rearview mirror camera are top of the line, adding to the effectiveness of each system.

Elsewhere, the interior is one of the NX’s most valuable assets. On one hand, it’s beautifully trimmed and assembled, in typical Lexus fashion. Glossy plastic accents and metallic trim intersect and layer with stitched leather and a playful use of texture and colour to convey a rich and high-end feel. There’s something nice to look at or touch just about everywhere your eyes and fingers might go exploring. Using virtually any of the stalks, knobs or dials inside is met with a dense, high-quality feel and sound, too. 

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Ahead of the driver are two of the best displays I’ve recently encountered in a luxury crossover. The all-digital instrument cluster has a sporty, rounded design that reacts to the selected drive mode, and displays information neatly in an interface that’s compact, dynamic, and easy to read.

Further above, a bright and vivid head-up display projects vital running data into the driver’s line of sight, floating just above the vehicle’s hood. This HUD is on top of its game, too. Did I mention you’re going to love the gadgets on this thing?

Specifically, that HUD is able to preview the driver’s selection from the multi-function steering-wheel controls. Gently touch the control pads on the steering wheel, and your selection is previewed in the HUD. At a button press, the context and function of the steering wheel control pads is altered, again, previewed on the HUD above. You see what you’re about to click before clicking it, and without taking your eyes off of the traffic ahead. Over a dozen functions, including the position of the HUD itself, can be manipulated from two steering wheel mounted control pads — and all with no need to take your eyes away from the road. It’s one of the cleverest uses of a HUD I’ve ever seen, and takes the second-guessing right out of working numerous advanced functions on the go.

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The infotainment system display is another major touch that’s on top of its game. The central screen is glossy, vivid, and crisp. Graphics are sharp as a tack, response and precision from the touch-interface is as good as you’ll find in a car today, and the screen’s highly-polished surface allows your fingertip to smoothly slip-slide-glide in every direction. If you regularly use a high-end tablet during the day, you’ll find a similar feel on your drive.

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Wireless Android Auto takes 10 seconds to set up and works like charm, too. So, here’s one of the best infotainment systems I’ve ever used, next to one of the best HUD’s I’ve ever used. If you’re a sucker for cool gadgets and tech (like me), you’ll find yourself very nicely supported by an NX 350 like my tester.

It’s adequately spacious, too. Four adults will find sufficient space, though headroom will begin to run out fairly quickly for those much taller than 5’11. Rear seats offered plenty of leg and knee room for this writer, who clocks in at 5’10 and 200 lbs. I could sit comfortably behind myself with no issue, and rear seats are just as easy to board and exit as those up front.

Further rearward, the power folding rear seats work like a charm, quickly opening up the cargo area at a button press when required and even auto-folding the headrests so you don’t have to.

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My tester ran Lexus’s new turbocharged four-cylinder engine: a 2.4-litre unit making 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. Lexus says that’s good for 0-100 km/h in 7 seconds. There’s a new AWD system this year that’s more intelligent and better optimized to a wider array of driving styles, and an 8-speed automatic is standard kit.

The turbo four is pleasingly gutsy, especially where its generous low-end snap fires it out of merge lanes and on-ramps with little more than half a jab on the throttle. Abundant low-rev torque means less need to get the engine spinning fast, and lighter-footed drivers will enjoy pleasing response and relatively low noise levels from under the hood.

This engine feels the part where output is concerned, though shoppers after a pleasing soundtrack from their crossover SUV, or (conversely) the quietest four-cylinder engine out there, do have better options.

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The new Lexus turbo-four is big on torque, but not so big on either exciting sound effects or all-out refinement.

At this price point (roughly $64,000 for my decked-out tester, by the way), I figure the more responsive and character-rich powertrains of competitors like the Acura RDX or Porsche Macan are a better fit for the enthusiast driver, while comparable BMW and Mercedes powerplants should prove slightly smoother and quieter when pushed.

The soft and easygoing suspension proved ideal for solid ride comfort over the crumbling city and backroads of Sudbury, Ontario. Many luxury sport utes, and especially those with sportier intentions, take roads like this fairly harshly.

On the other hand, it takes a pretty unforgiving surface to knock the NX’s ride comfort down a few pegs. It pitter-patters over many of the frost-heaves and potholes that crank and smash the suspension in more stiffly-sprung machines, and a generous amount of nicely-controlled suspension travel keeps the body motions from getting too dramatic on lumpy frost-heaved surfaces.

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Other than the odd whack or pop from the shocks on worst-case scenario surfaces, my tester felt comfortable, solid and laid-back on the sort of roads that can make many luxury crossover drivers grit their teeth.

If this is important to you, also consider the Porsche Macan, whose ride quality stands up similarly well on surfaces like these relative to its more spirited intentions. Another option is Buick Envision Avenir, one of my favourite luxury crossovers when it comes to backroads ride quality and a suspension that knows how to take a licking without feeling like it. Alongside the Lexus NX, these luxury crossovers amount to my top recommendations where rough-road ride comfort matters.

On my tester’s standard suspension setup, things felt more comfortable than athletic. Lexus will sell you an F Sport version of the NX with improved handling capabilities, if you like. 

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In addition to the F Sport, there are also four-cylinder, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions of this machine. This allows drivers to enjoy one of the best infotainment suites on the scene with whatever powertrain and handling configuration best suits their tastes.

You’ll hear more from me on the latest-generation NX in the future,  particularly relating to the Plug-In Hybrid model. After my introduction to the latest-generation machine, I figure the new-for-2022 NX 350 will connect most easily with the light-footed driver whose main priorities include generous power and excellent ride comfort in most situations.

I think some shoppers will be left wishing for a bit more headroom, but ultimately, here’s a machine that’s easy to use from tip to tail, and one with its display, infotainment and graphics situation fully dialled in to 2022 standards.

By the way, most of the 2022 Lexus NX model range is Canadian-built, too.

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