Perfection (almost): The 2022 Lexus NX 350h
For the past few years, the Lexus NX has been threatening to dethrone its larger sibling, the RX, as my pick for the just-right-sized Lexus SUV.
When the NX arrived back in the mid-teens, I thought it might be too small to be a convincing luxury crossover. But it and the RX grew, as vehicles always seem to do, and Lexus introduced a truly small SUV, the UX, and...here we are. For 2022, the NX line is all new, with sleeker, more aggressive styling and a much more premium vibe. Which, for Lexus, is saying something.
I drove the hybrid version, the former NX 300h, now the NX 350h. It's a 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with two electric motors for a total system output of 239 horsepower. That's a 45 horsepower boost over last year's NX hybrid. Getting to 60 from a standing start should now take about seven seconds instead of the eight-plus in last year's model.
The big---no, HUGE---improvement comes in fuel economy. The '21's EPA average was 33 city/30 highway. The new NX 350h leaps to 41 city/37 highway.
All Lexus hybrids--UX, NX and RX---are all-wheel drive.
Inside, upgraded materials (again, for Lexus, that's saying something) and a new much, more modern cabin design including an infotainment screen that, for the first time, is a touchscreen, and close enough to touch.
The base price of the 2022 Lexus NX 350h is $42,125. Our tester had the Luxury Package ($7,450) which upgrades the wheels to 20-inch 20-spoke alloys and adds a perforated leather interior with unique chevron seat quilting, four-way lumbar support for the driver, a ten-inch head-up display, a 14-inch touchscreen, a trial of Lexus' Drive Connect with cloud-based navigation, Google points-of-interest data, and intelligent assistant including "Hey Lexus", driver seat, steering wheel and outside mirror memory, a moonroof, a power liftgate with kick sensor, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a power tilt-and-telescopic steering column. That puts the bottom line at $49,575.
It's all good until you get to the new infotainment system. It should be fantastic, right? It does away with the reviled Lexus trackpad, allows you to touch the controls, and maintains a physical knob for volume and two nice, big ones for temperature control.
But someone at Lexus---well, to be honest, Toyota (the new Tundra has the same system), decided to complicate it.
See, full functionality only happens with an account and an app. That's fine. The app is kinda cool and lets you do some neat stuff---locking and unlocking, starting remotely---keeping track of where the car is and whether it's locked, unlocked, windows are up or down...whatever.
But the infotainment system wants you to log in for things like Apple CarPlay and full functionality. I'll admit to laziness and just using the guest menu when I had the Tundra. But I felt guilty about that, so this time, I went through the process the right way. All this would be fine if you did it once, got in the car and the car remembered who you were. But no---it wants you to log in every. damn. time.
And that doesn't just mean touching the screen where your name appears, it means entering a six-digit personal identification number (PIN). Sound like a pain? Wait until it doesn't work----five times in a row.
I've talked to a few new Toyota and Lexus owners. It's not just our tester. It's not uncommon. They say they've been told there's an over-the-air software update coming that will fix it. But it hasn't happened yet. And these infotainment units have been on the market for six months now.
Lexus and Toyota have incentive to get this cured. Reliability scores are affected dramatically by things like people's frustration with user interfaces. It would be a shame to see Lexus' deservedly tremendous reputation for quality suffer when the car wrapped around the glitchy software is just so good.