Lexus has updated its NX luxury small crossover for the 2022 model year, putting it on a new platform, giving it some updated styling and bringing a bunch of new technology to the party — including something special: an all-new, fully up-to-date multimedia system. I don’t know what has me more excited about this thing — the looks, the new plug-in-hybrid model or the fact that Lexus has finally, finally ditched the screwy touchpad in favor of a huge new touchscreen. Fact is, there’s a lot to like about this new 2022 NX, not just the new styling or tech.
Let’s start with the obvious exterior update. If you have trouble telling this one apart from the outgoing NX, well, that’s not unexpected. Lexus styling doesn’t change that much these days, and it all seems to be a variation on a common theme: spindles. But this is actually an entirely different vehicle than the outgoing one, and the styling is considerably refined. The bulging fenders are much better executed to make for better proportions, but the best view might be the rear-three-quarters, where the new, full-width taillight lends a wider stance to the NX. You also might notice that the Lexus “L” badge is gone in back, replaced with a new Lexus block script that you’ll start to see appearing across the Lexus lineup. The overall look of the new NX is cleaner and more aggressive — a nicely modern update to the nameplate.
The new powertrains sound like winners too, with either the 275-horsepower, turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the new NX 350 or the slick new plug-in-hybrid, the NX 450h Plus, which can reportedly go 36 miles on electric power alone. But perhaps the latter variant’s most interesting feature is its new Predictive Efficient Drive system, which couples with the navigation system to learn the user’s driving style, analyzing real-time traffic on the route ahead to optimize when and where to use the hybrid battery for better fuel consumption. It even learns where you normally slow down and stop on your daily commute, automatically increasing regenerative braking in those areas. Not gonna lie, that’s a little creepy.
The interior gets a thorough redo as well, with new materials, new color choices and even a new lighting system that offers 14 themes or 64 custom lighting hues. But really, there’s only one story about the interior that needs to be told, and that’s this: the new Lexus Interface multimedia system.
Gone is the absolutely terrible joystick controller from old Lexus models (and the touchpad that followed it in many of them, including the NX), which made you try and match your hand movements on the lower console to a cursor on the media screen. In its place is a beautifully clear, optional 14-inch touchscreen that features a new, Lexus-developed multimedia system (a 9.8-inch screen is standard). It’s responsive, modern and clean, and it uses the standard Lexus font that we see elsewhere in the car.
The primary interface Lexus wants you to use is voice controls. The system uses dual microphones and enhanced noise cancellation software to allow front occupants to access a host of vehicle controls and services. The navigation system uses maps and places of interest provided by Google — and it’s completely cloud-based, meaning the maps are always updated with the latest and greatest information.
It all works pretty well, I must say. The functions, menus and apps aren’t groundbreaking by any means, and there really isn’t much here that isn’t already available from competitors like Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX system. But the Lexus system is clean and efficient, and it works as it should. The voice commands are strong, and the human-machine interface worked smoothly without error in my experience. My only complaint: Lexus could have made the system look a bit more suited to a luxury brand. From an artistic standpoint, Lexus Interface is rather generic, and it seems better suited to work in a vehicle from Lexus’ parent automaker, Toyota, instead of an expensive luxury model. With interiors getting increasingly simplified with buttons replaced by touchscreens, how those screens look will replace how the buttons feel in determining how posh a luxury vehicle seems.
I’m excited to test this new Lexus SUV further, as its combination of improved styling, an upgraded interior, plug-in hybrid technology and a fully modern, up-to-date multimedia system finally might move the NX off of our “not likely to recommend” list (the previous multimedia system was deal-breaker bad). We’ll bring you a full review as soon as we get some time behind the wheel, later this year.