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Driven: Lexus tweaks chassis, pricing for updated NX

Popular pick: The NX is Lexus’ top selling model in Australia and the Japanese premium car-maker expects it to maintain its strong sales form.

Prices rises accompany Lexus NX facelift, but with extra equipment

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Lexus logo18 Oct 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

LEXUS Australia has tipped its NX medium SUV will continue to be a strong seller popular despite fresher competition, with the newly facelifted model aimed at tempting buyers with a revised chassis tune plus new infotainment and safety equipment.

According to Lexus Australia chief executive Peter McGregor, the steady sales performance of the NX this year would be enhanced by what he described as a “significant specification” update, as well as the addition of a new model grade.

“Since it launched three years ago, NX has broken sales forecasts around the world and has established itself as the top-selling Lexus model here in Australia,” Mr McGregor said at the national media launch of the NX in Adelaide this week.

“So far this year I’m pleased to say that NX sales are at record levels – and, okay, it’s only by the narrowest of margins, but one point is in fact enough to win a grand final.

“To build on this momentum and maintain this strong appeal, Lexus has a package of improvements covering exterior and interior styling, safety and equipment features.”

According to VFACTS September results, the NX is indeed up by a single sale year to date, having found 2561 buyers.

The NX continues to be available in Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury model grades, with a duo of powertrains – a 175kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder tied to a six-speed automatic, or 147kW 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder/electric hybrid with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).

However, the former has been renamed NX300 – replacing NX200t – while the latter remains NX300h, and where previously front-wheel drive (FWD) was only available in entry Luxury model grade, it is now available in F Sport, with all-wheel drive (AWD) optional on both and remaining standard on Sports Luxury.

It is the addition of an NX F Sport FWD that Mr McGregor tipped would be the only significant shift in buyer preference expected with the facelifted model.

“This is a considered response to consumers who want the aggressive F Sport styling with a more affordable entry point,” he said.

“I think with the addition of the F Sport two-wheel drive we’ll probably see some of those Luxury sales convert to F Sport. (Currently) the grade split is 52 per cent Luxury, 32 per cent F Sport, and the balance (16 per cent) Sports Luxury.

“The split is 40 per cent two-wheel drive, 60 per cent all-wheel drive. Turbo is around 65 per cent, hybrid is around 35 per cent. (But) we’re not forecasting a significant change at all, basically we’re following our customer’s requirements so we’re not forcing one or the other onto the market.”

Compared with the previous entry NX200t Luxury, the new NX300 Luxury has increased by $1250 to $54,800 plus on-road costs. The new NX300 F Sport FWD has, however, brought down the ticket to middle-specification ownership to $60,800 – a hefty reduction from the outgoing $64,330 NX200t F Sport AWD.

The top AWD-only NX300 Sports Luxury now also asks $819 extra, at $73,800.

Lexus has standardised the price premium for the step to the NX300h hybrid available on all three model grades.

While it follows the same FWD or AWD structure as the NX300, the hybrid price premium over the petrol previously ranged between $2550 on Luxury to $3519 on Sports Luxury. It now costs $2500 above petrol-only Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury model grades.

Down from $4590, choosing AWD with either petrol or hybrid power asks a standardised $4500, and such combined reductions mean the two most expensive models, the NX300h F Sport AWD and NX300h Sports Luxury, score overall price drops of $480 and $200 respectively, to $67,800 and $76,300.

Mr McGregor insisted that “it will be clear that the value of the new features outweighs the price changes.”

All NX model grades now feature a Lexus Safety System+ package, adding pedestrian detection to the previously standard autonomous emergency braking (AEB), and the addition of steering vibration to the lane-departure warning.

In addition to new styling cues – which includes a new gloss-back multi-block grille, bi-LED headlights, L-shaped tail-light bezels and front/rear bumpers – the Luxury for the first time adds a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, auto up/down high-beam and adaptive cruise control to its active safety suite.

The Luxury now also includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while the F Sport and Sports Luxury now add sequential indicators and full LED headlights with adaptive automatic high-beam that can block out the portion of beam affecting individual traffic at speed.

All variants score a 10.3-inch centre screen (up from 7.0-inch), a wider view for the rear camera, improved parking sensors and infotainment touchpad response, plus a Custom mode for the Drive Mode Select System.

The chassis of every NX now features firmer rear bushings, and rear stabiliser bar stiffness has increased by 22 per cent on NX300h and 19 per cent on NX300, “to suppress roll angle and hence optimise vehicle turning posture”.

On the Luxury, new fixed dampers have reduced friction, while the F Sport and Sports Luxury gain a latest-generation Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with 650 damping levels versus the previous NX’s 30 available levels.

Otherwise the 4640mm-long, 1845mm-wide and 1654mm-tall NX continues to offer boot volume of 500 litres.

The NX300h FWD uses 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres of regular unleaded petrol, according to official combined cycle fuel consumption figures, while the NX300h AWD, which raises kerb weight from 1740kg to 1800kg, consumes 5.7L/100km.

Although the NX300 is between 40kg and 45kg lighter than its hybrid sibling, the FWD uses 7.7L/100km and AWD sips 7.9L/100km. Lexus does not provide 0-100km/h figures for the hybrid, however the turbo petrols cover the distance in 7.1 seconds (AWD) and 7.3s (FWD).

Asked whether a specification update would be enough for Lexus to fend off fresh competition in the form of the new-generation Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60, and forthcoming BMW X3, Mr McGregor replied: “I think the momentum on NX sales will also continue.

“The NX is already the best-selling Lexus in Australia by virtue of its volume (and) we’ve added significant specification in areas we believe is where the customer wants it, and again at very good value for money.

“Lexus prefers to be faithful to our identity rather than in relation to where we stand with our competitors. We remain intent on providing the value that is regarded as important even by our most discerning drivers.”

The other role of the NX, he surmised, was to bring new buyers to the Lexus brand and continue to lower the age of the average Lexus buyer.

“A significant portion (of NX buyers) are new to the brand in total and then, of the balance, half of them tend to be replacement and half tend to be additional,” he continued.

“When we were mainly focused on sedans and higher level SUVs, the average buyer age was (also) fairly high, you know, we’re talking 50, 55. But the NX, especially the attraction for the step up buyer, is probably new to the luxury market the average age is coming down.

“It’s nothing like going from 55 to 35 (but) you know, we measure these things basically in years and if you can get a three to four-year reduction, five-year reduction, you know, you're doing very well.”

2017 Lexus NX pricing*
NX300
Luxury FWD (a)$54,800
Luxury AWD (a)$59,300
F Sport FWD (a)$60,800
F Sport AWD (a)$65,300
Sports Luxury AWD (a)$73,800
NX300h
Luxury FWD (a)$57,300
Luxury AWD (a)$61,800
F Sport FWD (a)$63,300
F Sport AWD (a)$67,800
Sports Luxury AWD (a)$76,300
*Excludes on-road costs

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