The 2022 Lexus NX 350 is an automotive dichotomy. Now in its second generation and eight years removed from its debut, the futuristic-looking sport utility vehicle is categorized as a subcompact luxury crossover. But that description may seem contradictory and inaccurate: Luxury in vehicles was once determined by spaciousness, top-end construction, top-line materials and a handsome, confident and powerful presence powering along the highway. The NX 350 has none of that.
Lexus remains the luxury brand of Toyota. Its upscale offerings were vaulted to the top of the well-respected J.D. Power & Associates ratings in 1991, the carmaker’s third model year. More than 30 years later, the brand’s SUV lineup gets similar industry ratings. But as represented to an extreme by the NX 350, Lexus has gone rogue. The manufacturer’s insistence on its in-your-face front grille remains perplexing. It looks out of place on a subcompact SUV; it’s an unnecessarily aggressive design best reserved for vehicles in dystopian movies. The NX 350 has further futuristic leanings with its sharply chiseled body design. It’s a collection of wicked curves and draftpersons’ imaginations. Collectively, it looks unfinished.
Exterior missteps are countered by the top-level mechanics, efficiency and overall quality driving, particularly in the hybrid trim. The SUV in its hybrid choice features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine matched with hybrid components to produce 239 horsepower—45 hp more than the 2021 model. All-wheel drive is standard on the hybrid trim, optional on other levels.
Acceleration is quick, a 7.2-second effort in the 0-to-60 miles per hour standard. It’s more than one second faster than last year’s model. The Lexus is propelled by an eight-speed automatic transmission with which shifting from park to drive or into reverse is somewhat rough.
The hybrid’s fuel efficiency is complemented by a smooth overall ride. Many vehicles’ hybrid engines have a whiny tone while advancing to freeway speeds. The NX 350h has the same trait, although it’s replaced by near silence at freeway speeds.
The NX 350’s exterior extremes are further offset by another positive Lexus quality—state-of-the-art technology. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are standard on all levels. A 10-inch head-up display projects detailed information well. Lexus reports its navigation system is now cloud-based, a more accurate mapping approach.
The Lexus reputation has also been honed through the years via its emphasis on safety. New for 2022 are forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, road signs and oncoming traffic warnings.
A 10-speaker stereo system is standard and includes a free trial of Amazon Music. A 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo system is optional on models equipped with the Premium or Luxury packages. Optional features include a panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, an ambient interior lighting system with 64 different color choices and black open-pore wood trim.
The NX 350 Hybrid seats five and has 22.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Though the back seat and liftgate adjust easily, its overall cargo availability of 46.9 cubic feet is less than many competitors’ dimensions.
As a new generation Lexus, the improved little SUV has positioned itself more competitively in a tough hybrid market segment that includes the Jaguar E-Pace, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Cadillac XT4, Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2 and Volvo XC40.
A subcompact SUV priced in the mid-50K range seems overpriced; a luxury vehicle priced the same seems fair. Lexus avoids both. It calls the NX 350 Hybrid a front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon.
FACTS & FIGURES
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 41 mpg city, 37 mpg hwy
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $48,500
Manufacturer’s website: lexus.com
Price As Tested: $56,405
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Hybrid Components, 8 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 4 years/unlimited miles