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Lexus puts NX under microscope

Micro management: The first Lexus compact SUV, the NX, has been engineered to micro levels to minimise the many forces that can impact a car’s ride and handling.

Tiny troubles ironed out by Lexus engineers to turn NX into a smooth operator

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Lexus logo31 Oct 2014

By RON HAMMERTON

THE devil was in the detail for Lexus engineers when they set about smoothing out the wrinkles of the company’s first compact SUV, the NX, in the development phase.

Items such as body shake induced by windscreen wiper movement and changes in vehicle geometry due to differences in tyre tread were studied and addressed for the utmost refinement under a system dubbed microscopic force control.

The goal was to ensure the NX – launched in Australia this week in its hybrid 300h form – is not only silky smooth in the Lexus tradition but also rides and handles with minimal fuss.

The engineers said almost imperceptible forces could impact on vehicle stability and composure, with each needing to be addressed under Lexus’ own high standards.

They re-engineered, stiffened, insulated or dampened components to ensure the smallest force was reduced or eliminated.

They spent six months painstakingly adjusting the engine mounts to suppress engine start up vibration, reducing the shaking to just one-tenth of what its parent company Toyota will accept on its cars.

Interestingly, the engineers say this smoothing of engine vibration does not just induce a more pleasant driving experience but also improves handling stability.

They say vibration from the spinning crankshaft in a transverse-mounted petrol engine can cause flex down the roll centre axis of the car, thus upsetting the road holding. By addressing the vibration, this can be minimised.

This micro work extended to vehicle rocking caused by the blast of a passing car’s “wake”, and suspension mount movement caused by poor tolerances and materials.

Engineers and designers working on the NX’s features also got into the act, coming up with items such as touch-sensitive interior cabin lights – thus removing the need for fiddly switches – and exterior door handles without visible key holes.

The latter – which are rarely used in this age of keyless entry – are hidden under the lift-up handles, providing a smoother appearance in what Lexus says is a patented world first.

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