Buy the F Sport. Or not. Either way, you'll be happy.
The Lexus NX appeared at the end of 2014 as the smallest of the Japanese brand's crossover and SUV lineup. Since then, the even-smaller UX has come to market, but the NX is a compact crossover with Toyota RAV4 and Venza-based underpinnings that continues to sell well enough to earn itself a redesign for the 2022 model year. In addition to the new bodywork, more space inside, and a massive and needed update to the infotainment system, Lexus introduced four new powertrains, including two hybrid options.
The hybrid models make more power, with the NX 350h delivering 239 horsepower, while the NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid sends 302 hp to all four wheels. The non-hybrid models have two engine options. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine without a turbocharger makes 203 horsepower, while the NX 350 comes with a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine making 275 hp. We hadn't spent much time with the NX 350 in its F Sport trim, so Lexus sent one for us to get acquainted with.
When the NX first arrived, it was heavily stylized, and that's still the case. The changes are small but effective. The spindle grille tapers more at the top now, the running lights are encased with the headlights, and the taillights now stretch across to go under the light bar. Oh, and the tailpipes are now hidden behind the bumper.
New colors for 2022 are Redline, Cloudburst Gray, and Grecian Water, and the F Sport model gets Ultra White, Obsidian, and the striking Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0 our tester is wearing in the photos. The F Sport also gets an exclusive black grille and more aggressive front and rear fascias.
The NX in any trim brings the premium feel you expect from Lexus, and there's more room. Space in the back still doesn't quite compete with the Acura RDX or BMW X3, but it's enough for a pair of growing kids. Cargo space is decent for a small family, but Lexus is clearly thinking of commuters with this recent update.
The standard seats in the NX 350 are supportive and comfortable, while the sports seats add bolstering that manages to be effective at keeping you in place without being in any way aggressive. The F Sport front seats are heated and ventilated as standard while, for decoration, there's Dark Graphite Aluminum trim, aluminum pedals, and a black headliner.
The new infotainment system drops the much-despised trackpad, and a 9.8-inch touchscreen display is standard, while a 14-inch unit is available as an upgrade. In either size, it's sharp and clear and reacts quickly and smoothly. The large screen pays off when it comes to using maps, and any bigger would be awkward with the standard-installed Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new voice assistant is also good, and unlike some other brands' systems, its voice recognition is on point.
Essentially, Lexus hasn't gone nuts with its new system, and there are physical knobs to do things knobs should do and buttons for button things. Overall, it's a massive and welcome upgrade.
The hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are more powerful, but the turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder feeding all four wheels isn't a slouch with its 275 hp. It's not going to set any records, either, which is fine when it doesn't have the F-Sport badge attached.
To be fair, Lexus advertises it as "NX F Sport Handling," but it's about time Lexus stopped diluting the badge's meaning. Complaining aside, the engine is quiet and responsive, and the eight-speed automatic transmission has to be poked hard to give anything near what can be described as a jolt to the passengers. In terms of power, it's neither under nor overwhelming and suits the NX perfectly.
The F Sport's adaptive variable damping is nice, and it does do good things to the chassis dynamics in Sport mode. However, Sport mode is unnecessary as the NX is at its best as a cruiser and as a little hustler around town. It's lovely to drive and highlighted by a smooth powertrain and compliant suspension that isn't soft enough to lean the chassis through the bends. On the F Sport, the suspension isn't bothered by the wholly unnecessary 20-inch wheels. The interior is quiet, and it, well, has the Lexusness we want.
In Sport mode, the NX F Sport does wake up and carve corners with some verve, but we didn't find ourselves looking for an excuse to prod the button. If you want something more entertaining to drive, the 450h+ with its 302 hp is more deserving of the F Sport badge and balances a sporty feel and extra power with its inherent Lexusness.
If you're looking at premium compact crossovers, the NX is absolutely worth test-driving. It's a perfectly satisfying car to drive, the infotainment system is now excellent, and it has decent room for passengers. The NX, in general, drops a few points in the cargo space department, but it pulls back on standard safety tech courtesy of Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, which makes particularly good use of exterior cameras. If you want something sporty, though, there's more fun to be had elsewhere on the cost scale between the Mazda CX-30 and BMW X3, with the most comparable being the Acura RDX. For just daily driving, though, the NX is everything it needs to be and a little bit more. Skip the underpowered $39,755 NX 250 and head straight for the $43,515 NX 350, or, if you want the adaptive suspension and bolstered sports seats, we won't begrudge you the F Sport, but you'll pay at least $48,615 to get into one.