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New models - Lexus - NX - 200t

Driven: Turbo four-pot to drive Lexus NX volume

T time: The Lexus NX200t is powered by the car-maker's first turbocharged petrol engine.

Lexus predicts 60 per cent of buyers will choose NX200t over hybrid alternative

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Lexus logo6 Feb 2015

LEXUS is counting on the new turbocharged four-cylinder versions of its NX SUV to be the most popular variants, edging out the petrol-electric hybrid 300h.

The NX 200t is likely to account for more than 60 per cent of total volume, with pent-up demand already ensuring that 230 orders have been taken in the week leading up to its early February on-sale date.

According to Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley, the addition of the 200t, combined with the NX’s segment-straddling sizing, should broaden the mid-size crossover’s appeal against the likes of the BMW X1 and Audi Q5.

“Sixty per cent of sales in the fullness of the first 12 months on sale will favour the turbo,” he told GoAuto.

Mirroring the NX 300h range, but starting from $2500 less than the petrol-electric four-cylinder hybrid equivalents released last October, the 200t is also expected to continue the early trend of being most popular in F-Sport guise, which kicks off from $11,000 more than the $52,500, plus on-road costs Luxury opener.

“In other Lexus models, our figures show a greater buyer attraction to the F-Sport and Sports Luxury models, and given the performance of the turbo engine, I expect that trend to continue with the NX,” Mr Hanley said.

“Its dimensions straddle smaller and larger offerings from other competitors, already giving it a sales advantage… or as I like to call it, the Goldilocks size.”

A first for any Lexus, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine is an all-new unit combining both Otto and Atkinson Cycle combustion methods according to driver input and prevailing conditions. The late intake valve closing of the latter cycle cuts pumping losses and fuel consumption.

Known as the 8AR-FTS, the all-alloy 1998cc Euro-5 emissions-rated unit features an 86mm bore and stroke, 10.0:1 compression ratio, double overhead camshafts, 16 valves, variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust outlets and a world-first cylinder head with integrated four-into-two exhaust.

It also features a twin-scroll turbocharger with a water-cooled intercooler, to deliver 175kW of power between 4800 and 5600rpm, and 350Nm of torque from 1650 and 4000rpm.

“Unlike some other competitors, we offer the most powerful version we can,” said Mr Hanley. “We don’t drop the power in order to drop the price.”

The 200t will hit 100km/h from standstill in 7.3 seconds in front-wheel drive Luxury 2WD guise, or 7.1 seconds in the all-wheel drive (AWD) versions that make up the rest of the range – a benefit brought on by the extra traction over the FWD vehicle despite a circa 70kg weight penalty.

This compares to the 9.2-second result recorded in the 40kg-heavier 300h AWD, which benefits from the addition of a 50kW rear-mounted electric motor driving the rear wheels, aiding the 114kW 2.5-litre four-pot petrol unit/105kW front electric motor combination found in the 147kW/270Nm variant.

On the fuel consumption front, the 200t averages 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres and 178 grams/km of carbon dioxide emissions, or 7.9L/100km and 184g/km for the AWD. Both require 95 RON premium unleaded petrol. The 300h returns 5.7L/100km/116g/km.

Bench-tested for over 10,000 hours and with over one million kilometres of road testing, the 8AR-FTS weighs just 160kgAnother difference between 200t and 300h is the method in which drive is transferred from the engine to the wheels, with the former eschewing the latter’s CVT continuously variable transmission for a six-speed torque-converter automatic.

Based on Toyota’s long-lived Aisin U660 transmission, the U661 adopts changes such as a different oil pump and lower-friction materials to deal with the idle-stop technology standard in all 200ts.

The 200t’s RX-derived AWD system is variable, going from full FWD to 50:50 rear-drive according to prevailing conditions the moment the wheel is turned, 10 per cent of torque is channelled to the rear, while AWD Lock is available up to 40km/h. Lexus’ first pre-loaded front differential is fitted to all models.

Loosely based on the RAV4 and sitting on the same 2660mm wheelbase as the Toyota – though about 90 per cent of parts have been changed – the NX employs MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone rear end, with the F-Sport and Sport Luxury upper-enders adding adaptive dampers. Steering is electric via a rack and pinion set-up.

Lexus NX chief engineer Takeaki Kato said the focus was on driveability in developing the 200t.

“My goal with the new turbocharged engine was to improve performance and fuel economy, with increased emphasis on driving performance compared with the hybrid,” The loss of the Camry’s hybrid system means boot space improves slightly, from 475 litres to 500L, extending to 1545L with the backrests dropped. A temporary spare resides beneath the floor.

The base Luxury FWD includes a powered tailgate, satellite navigation, three driving mode transmission, 10-speaker audio, vinyl trim known as Nulux, a touch interface multimedia system, reversing camera, heated front seats with eight-way power adjustment, keyless start, 18-inch alloy wheels, digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity. AWD adds $4500.

From $63,500, the F Sport AWD brings adaptive variable suspension, 360-degree view monitor, paddle shifters, an extra driving model (Sport+), wireless induction phone charger, blind-spot monitor, cross-traffic alert, all-LED headlights and cooled front seats.

The 200t Sport Luxury variants from $72,500 offer active cruise control, full LEDs with auto high-beam headlights, sunroof, smart key card, powered rear folding seats, leather interior, wood inserts, a 14-speaker audio system, head-up display, lane-departure warning and adaptive cornering lamps.

Finally, the 200t offers a braked towing capacity of 1000kg or 750kg unbraked.

Lexus NX pricing*
200t Luxury 2WD (a)$52,500
300h Luxury 2WD (a)$55,000
200t Luxury 4WD (a)$57,000
300h Luxury 4WD$59,500
200t F Sport 4WD (a)$63,500
300h F Sport 4WD (a)$66,000
200t Sport Luxury 4WD (a)$72,500
300h Sport Luxury 4WD (a)$75,000
*Excludes on-road costs.

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