2022 Lexus NX 350 Review: More Cluck For Your Buck

Design | Comfort | Technology | Performance | Safety | Fuel Economy | Pricing | FAQ

After transitioning its staid look to something flashier in the early 2010s, Lexus has taken a more conservative design tack for this decade. This evolution over revolution approach comes to the Lexus NX for 2022, after appearing on the IS. I’ll never understand this conservative approach, because the subtly redesigned NX is a dramatic improvement over the vehicle it replaces. It just doesn’t look like it.

The 2022 NX 350 has more power and more torque and is a touch more efficient, and it packs better active safety gear, a fresher cabin, and a wealth of smarter technology. This is a comprehensive upgrade that Lexus should be shouting about from the roof tops, even if it remains a solidly mid-pack offering otherwise.

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Gallery: 2022 Lexus NX 350: Review

  • Exterior Color: Cloudburst Gray
  • Interior Color: Black/Rich Cream
  • Wheel Size: 20 Inches

The 2022 NX looks like, well, an NX. Lexus hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, taking the expressive design of yesteryear and softening the hard edges without dramatically altering the overall shape. The fascia is more upright, lacking the up-turned nose of last year’s car while retaining the trademark Predator grille. Designers merged the headlights and running lights into a single housing that creates a more cohesive look. The side intakes still form a subtle L shape, but the vertical section is slimmer and less disruptive to the overall fascia.

The profile is largely unchanged from the C-pillar forward, and while there’s still a strong shoulder line over the rear wheel arch, the taillights don’t drip down toward the rear bumper in an odd vertical streak like they used to. The most dramatic changes happen in back, where a horizontal LED strip, sitting just above a new and avant gauche “LEXUS” word mark, links the updated taillights. The rear bumper and tailgate remain odd partners – the former too high and the latter too small – but overall, the rear of the NX is the most interesting and substantial part of this modest redesign.

The careful, conservative design philosophy goes out the window in the cabin, which is so dramatically and impressively updated that it’s easy to forget the mishmash of buttons and knobs and the hateful trackpad of the last NX. An optional 14.0-inch display dominates, centralizing most of the primary interfaces. There’s a a clearer differentiation between the vertical center stack and horizontal center console here, with the latter playing host to the odd, stubby electric gear selector introduced in the LC grand tourer. It’s one of barely a dozen physical controls, or about a third of what was on last year’s car.

Beyond the streamlined interface, Lexus made material upgrades, adding a rich strip of padded leather that supports the center stack and then bleeds down into the sides of the center console. It looked especially good on my test model, which paired black leather with Rich Cream hides and orange contrast stitching. Two-tone seats with subtle stitchwork and flashes of silver trim on the steering wheel and weird power door releases round out the comprehensive cabin changes. The 2022 NX’s cabin makes the best case for current owners to upgrade.

  • Seating Capacity: 5
  • Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
  • Cargo Capacity: 22.7 / 46.9 Cubic Feet

Lexus means luxury, but in a few ways the NX comes up short. I enjoyed the cushy, supportive seats of this non–F Sport model, and standard heating and ventilation is a good touch too. In back, there’s a pleasant rear bench with plenty of room for a pair of adults – wide-opening doors, a generous roofline, and a low-ish floor height mean getting in and out is easy whether you’re a jockey or an NBA all-star.

Gear storage space is adequate, with a sizable center console, big door pockets, and a roomy glovebox, even if the NX’s cargo hold is smaller than most of its rivals. But it’s the small rear aperture and high liftover height that have me most concerned. Getting access to the NX’s trunk simply isn’t that convenient.

The NX’s firm ride surprised me. This crossover handles potholes and imperfections stoically, with little impact on the steering or suspension’s composure, but the regular dull thud that accompanied each impact on Detroit’s lousy roads was tiring. Noise from the optional 20-inch wheels, shod in 235/50 Bridgestone Alenza rubber, is a constant companion too. And the new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is buzzy and coarser in its sound than the 2.0-liters from Audi and BMW. On the upside, the NX manages wind quite well – the blustery late-winter breeze rarely made it to my ears during testing.

  • Center Display: 14.0-inch Touchscreen
  • Instrument Cluster Display: 7.0-inch
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: Yes

Forget what you know about Lexus’ infotainment system. What was the worst in the luxury game has morphed into an incredibly attractive, responsive system that lives on a gorgeous touchscreen display. Arriving first in the NX, Lexus’ new infotainment offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, over-the-air updates, dedicated user profiles, a virtual assistant, and cloud-based navigation. There’s nowhere that the NX has improved more.

But it is not perfect. Unless you program radio presets, swapping stations is a cumbersome multi-step procedure. It also took several days to figure out how to change the digital cluster without diving into the infotainment (hint: you’ll need to use the steering wheel buttons). The NX also feels rather reliant on the optional 10.0-inch head-up display, which doesn’t get bright enough to really appear clearly on bright days. Also, the HUD vanishes entirely if you, like me, wear polarized sunglasses. The virtual assistant, meanwhile, is about as helpful as in any other car. The software understands native language, but it’s almost always quicker to dive in and do things yourself.

These small faults overshadow what works well. Rest a finger on one of the steering wheel’s two directional pads and its function pops up on the HUD. If you can see the darn thing, it’s a helpful way to keep your hands on the wheel while still manipulating the NX’s tech. And the infotainment itself is genuinely good – the display is beautiful and the operating system uses bright, attractive colors. I just wish it were a touch more user friendly in small ways.

  • Engine: Turbocharged 2.4-liter I4
  • Output: 275 Horsepower / 317 Pound-Feet
  • Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic

Big powertrain updates come to the 2022 NX, with four available engines. While I’m plenty curious about the biggest additions – a naturally aspirated NX 250 and the plug-in-hybrid NX 450h+ – this NX 350 is the most common, alongside the familiar NX 350h hybrid. A turbocharged 2.4-liter engine takes the place of last year’s turbocharged 2.0-liter and packs 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. That’s an increase of 40 hp and 59 lb-ft over the last-generation NX 300.

Matched up to an eight-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive, the straight-line performance is solid. The turbocharged engine spools quickly and is all too willing to deploy max thrust, with peak twist hanging around from 1,700 to 3,600 rpm. Likewise, the gearbox is an absolute peach that’s quick to change gears up and down and engages promptly off the line. But ultimate pace eludes the NX. Its 6.6-second sprint to 60 is down six-tenths on a four-cylinder BMW X3, for example.

But while you’ll find more ponies in the NX than any of the turbocharged 2.0-liters from Germany, this engine’s punchy performance comes with an overall lack of refinement. The engine is loud and sounds coarse, with too much engine noise getting into the cabin. I’d be more lenient on this front were I driving an F-Sport model, but this is a bog-standard 350 that’s still too noisy even in the Comfort drive mode.

The NX’s handling is competent and, as Brett T. Evans noted in his first drive, far more inspired than the last-gen model. But this Lexus lacks the precise control of body motions found in German models, rolling more through corners and providing a largely detached sensation from the driver’s seat. Still, the improvements over last year’s NX are palpable, even in a non–F Sport model such as this, which lacks Active Variable Suspension and performance-focused dampers.

  • Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
  • NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
  • IIHS Rating: Not Rated

Lexus earns major brownie points for offering most of the NX’s active safety gear as standard through the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 suite. The standard bits – full-speed adaptive cruise control that adjusts for curves in the road, lane-centering tech, automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams – work well, responding to obstacles and conditions with gentle nudges or the polite application of brake or throttle.

But one new, optional addition feels like overkill. Front cross-traffic alert sounds nice in theory, but the execution here is flawed and frustrating due to the low threshold for activation. Sitting at a stop sign or light, if you so much as lift off the brake to roll forward while traffic is passing, the NX issues an audible warning which will give you a heart attack the first time it happens. After the coronary, each successive warning will merely annoy. The system is simply far too sensitive, and there’s no way to deactivate it.

The good news is that FCTA is an option and one you should pass on. The bad news is that Lexus bundles it with a surround-view monitor, automatic lane changes, and a steering wheel touch sensor. If you want any of those items, pony up $1,030 and several thousand miles of beeping.

  • City: 22 MPG
  • Highway: 29 MPG
  • Combined: 25 MPG

The EPA rates the 2022 NX 350 at 22 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 25 combined, making it the least efficient trim level in the lineup. Still, it’s slightly more efficient than the old NX 300 while adding more power and torque. You’ll also be shelling out for premium fuel in the NX 350, although that’s true of most of the vehicles in this segment aside from the Lincoln Corsair. Here’s how the NX shakes out relative to similarly powerful competition.

Base Price: $37,950 + $1,075 Destination
Trim Base Price: $50,075
As-Tested Price: $53,975

Prices for the 2022 NX start at $39,025 (including the $1,075 destination charge) for the base, front-drive 250, but if you want a turbocharged powertrain with all-wheel drive, pony up $42,625. Lexus expanded the NX’s submodel range, adding a Premium trim ($45,675) and an F-Sport Luxury trim ($51,025) to the standard F-Sport ($47,725) and the car featured here, the NX 350 Luxury ($50,075). My test model adds a couple of options, driving the out-the-door price up to $53,975.

None of these features come close to being must-haves, though. Making the strongest case is the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, which packs 1,800 watts of power for just $1,020. That’s a pretty solid deal even if the system itself is a so-so upgrade. The optional 20-inch wheels boost the aesthetics, but not by the $1,310 they demand. And finally, the $1,070 safety group mentioned above is an easy pass on my end – the aggravation it causes outweighs any benefits. Were I building an NX 350, I’d stick with the standard Luxury trim and save some cash. Follow that advice and you’ll pretty safely undercut the competition.

Considering the improvements Lexus made, I can’t complain about the NX Luxury’s price hike. This model costs $3,590 more than the old NX 300 Luxury ($46,485), but it packs a far better interior, dramatically improved technology, and a big boost in power and torque while offering better fuel economy. It’s not a perfect product by any stretch, but the new NX is a huge upgrade over last year’s car.

NX 350 Competitor Reviews:

  • Acura RDX: 8.6 / 10
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio: Not Rated
  • Audi Q5: Not Rated
  • BMW X3: Not Rated
  • Cadillac XT5: Not Rated
  • Genesis GV70: 9.6 / 10
  • Infiniti QX50: Not Rated
  • Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class: Not Rated
  • Volvo XC60: Not Rated

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