Car review: First Lexus turbo model is supremely refined

The new Lexus NX200t F Sport comes with digital meters that measure cool stuff such as G-force. -- PHOTO: LEXUS
The new Lexus NX200t F Sport comes with digital meters that measure cool stuff such as G-force. -- PHOTO: LEXUS
Lexus NX200t F Sport. -- PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
Lexus NX200t F Sport. -- PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

NX200t charts own course as Lexus' first turbo model

Being Lexus' first turbocharged model, the NX200t has quite a lot to live up to.

For one thing, people expect a sizzling performer that is also economical when they hear the word "turbo".

But being a Lexus, it has to be different, right? After all, it is a brand that has distinguished itself brilliantly by being different.

So, the question is: What would a turbocharged Lexus be like?

So you can imagine the sense of anticipation that has been simmering since Borneo Motors launched the NX range last November.

Well, the wait is finally over - the NX200t has landed. The car is different all right. Instead of being rambunctious and revvy, it behaves pretty much like a normally aspirated Lexus.

It is supremely refined and very measured. Its 234bhp and 350Nm powertrain outpaces the NX300h's 194bhp and 270Nm ensemble, naturally.

The century sprint is dispatched in 7.1 seconds and its velocity peaks at 200kmh, compared with the hybrid's 9.2 seconds and 180kmh.

But the NX200t delivers its impressive payload so silkily that you would not know there was a turbocharger at work beneath its shapely bonnet.

Its 2-litre dual-injection engine is in fact forced-fed by a Toyota-designed twin-scroll turbocharger, with an intercooler keeping air temperature controlled before it is sent swirling into the combustion chamber.

The engine works with a six-speed autobox that strikes a good compromise between urgency and smoothness when transmitting output to all four wheels.

Unlike the hair-trigger throttle often associated with turbo cars, the Lexus responds to foot pressure with zen-like equanimity. Power delivery, needless to say, is seamlessly linear.

In essence, what you feel is a car that behaves more like a non-turbo big-displacement model than one that has a modest engine worked into feverish frenzy by a blower.

This behaviour puts the NX Turbo in line with all other Lexus models (with the exception of the RC and LFA, of course), where power always shares the stage with refinement.

In the case of the NX200t, there is not that much power to go around in the first place. The all-wheel-drive crossover, which is longer than the Range Rover Evoque but not as wide, weighs up to 1.86 tonnes.

That gives it a power-to-weight ratio of merely 126bhp per tonne. That is definitely adequate, but there is not a lot of surplus.

In the normal driving mode, the NX is clearly more lively than its hybrid brethren, but it is still not a car that will set your pulse racing.

But if you twist the drive selector to Sport+ (available only in the F Sport variant), you get a somewhat different car. In this mode, the revs pile on more readily and the NX goes from trot to gallop in a bigger hurry. Amazingly, there is no compromise to comfort and refinement in this mode.

Besides the Sport+ mode, the NX200t F Sport comes with a slew of sporty features. These include an aggressive-looking front grille, different wheels, steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather and sports seats.

The F Sport car gets performance dampers too, which do a fine job of balancing sportiness with comfort. Digital meters measuring cool stuff such as G-force and turbo boost are part of the package.

If you are considering the NX200t, you should seriously consider the F Sport package. It makes the already handsome NX more dashing and lets you have easier access to the car's athletic prowess. And unlike the performance of most other turbos, the car's abilities are felt, not heard.

The only letdown is the test-car's consumption of 13 litres/100km, which is quite far away from its claimed 7.9 litres. Well, if economy is your top priority, pick the hybrid.

christan@sph.com.sg


Specs

LEXUS NX200t F SPORT

Price: $264,000 with COE

Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shift

Power: 234bhp at 4,800rpm

Torque: 350Nm at 1,650-4,000rpm

0-100kmh: 7.1 seconds

Top speed: 200kmh

Fuel consumption: 7.9 litres/100km

Agent: Borneo Motors