2015 Lexus NX raises the bar for luxury crossovers

Automotive superstars Toyota and Lexus have been pioneers in the crossover utility vehicle market, producing the RAV4 compact crossover and the RX midsize luxury crossover, both of which have been around forever, ensconced as the head of their class in sales numbers.

In a few months from now, Lexus showrooms will be dominated by a new model, the five-passenger NX, a compact luxury crossover the company says will take Lexus “to a whole new place.”

The NX platform is loosely related to that of the RAV4, but 90 percent of the car is entirely new. It takes the appeal of a smallish crossover, embellishes it with Lexus premium features, and gives it a radical exterior so chiseled you could cut yourself washing it by hand. The NX threatens to make other compact luxury crossovers look lumpish; I expect, however, that its dramatic spindle grille might be the recipient of some criticism.

When the 2015 Lexus NX goes on sale in December, it will be offered in a couple of configurations: the NX 200t featuring the first turbocharged four-cylinder engine from Lexus, and the NX 300h hybrid. Both are front-wheel drive with the option of all-wheel drive configuration. A performance F Sport variation of the 200t will also be available, adding sport-tuned suspension, special grille and wheels, and an F Sport appearance package.

The four-cylinder engine, which generates 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, is accompanied by a new six-speed automatic transmission designed to handle the turbo. The hybrid comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a kick-down function to boost acceleration performance when needed.

Official EPA fuel economy ratings won’t be available until closer to the on-sale date, but factory-estimated figures from Lexus for the NX 200t are 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway with FWD, and 21/28 mpg with AWD. The NX 300h is factory-estimated at 35 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with FWD; 33 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with AWD.

Inside the passenger cabin are two rows of seats and a rear cargo area providing 17.7 cubic feet of stowage space with the rear seats up and in their rearmost position. With rear seats folded down, cargo space is 54.6 cubic feet. A power folding option is available for the rear seat, which has a 60/40 split and can be reclined.

There are four compartments under the cargo floor where valuables — or for that matter even things of little or no value — can be stashed out of sight. A classy folding tonneau board covers the cargo area instead of the pull-shade type cover used in most crossovers. The board is removable and can be stored beneath the floor panel.

In addition to the requisite array of modern infotainment technology, the 2015 NX is the first Lexus with an available Qi wireless charging tray inside the center console box. You can recharge your compatible smartphone or other device just by placing it in the tray.

Pricing information for the 2015 NX isn’t available yet. Lexus plans to announce it two months before the on-sale date.

This is an overview of the 2015 Lexus NX based on an introductory event held by the manufacturer. Although the vehicle was driven briefly during the event, automotive reviews that include driving impressions and other opinions appear only after a vehicle has been given the standard weeklong test-drive.

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