2015 Lexus NX
Another episode of MotorWeek, another new compact crossover to check out. Or so it seems of late. But wait, this one is also luxurious! Sorry for the cynicism, but with all the downsized, fancied up crossovers we’ve driven lately it’s a bit like our road test playlist is stuck on repeat. But, we haven’t heard from one of the kingpins of affordable luxury yet: Lexus. That in until now with their all-new NX.
The 2015 Lexus NX is just the latest in a shifting crossover landscape to smaller luxury-minded utes. It’s hard to say whether it’s the search for additional fuel economy or the realization that maybe we don’t need so much space after all that’s powering the shift; but Americans are buying into smaller utilities of all types in larger numbers.
And while the benefits are obvious, so are the compromises, as there’s less area to spread out, as well as less space for cargo.
Most interior measurements of the NX are very similar to the Toyota Rav4 on which the NX shares basic underpinnings. Except for cargo space which due mostly to a faster roof is much less, at 17.7 cubic-ft. behind the rear seats and 54.6 with them folded.
While unmistakably Lexus, the NX design is another clear step in the brands attempt to trade a soft image for a more dynamic one. Indeed, when you step inside things are much more “sporty” than over the top luxurious. Even the seats are sport-minded, yet still very comfortable. And the tight space with wide center console also implies sportswear more than business casual.
Rear seats however, feel more generous; and more in-line with what you expect in a luxury-minded crossover. And you can take it further still if you go the F SPORT route, which instead of the usual cow and tree materials, things go black and metallic.
Front seats are even more aggressive, and the LFA-inspired gauges, with boost gauge and G-meter, set the tone when you trigger the start button. There are aluminum pedals for your feet, a unique steering wheel with paddle shifters for your hands, and for your ears, Active Sound Control that lets you dial in as much engine sounds as you want.
Those sounds come from the first turbo engine ever in a Lexus. It’s a 2.0-liter unit with an integrated intercooler and exhaust manifold, and a twin-scroll turbocharger. Output is 235-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque.
It’s a sweet engine. Both smooth running and quiet when you want it to be; powerful and aggressive when you don’t. And it works very well with the standard 6-speed automatic transmission.Lexus claims a 0-60 time of 7.0-seconds.
In addition, there’s also a hybrid NX 300h. It uses a re-tuned version of the Camry’s 2.5-liter I4 gas-electric system with total output of 194-horsepower. And like the Highlander, all-wheel-drive is available with the addition of a motor generator mounted in the stern that drives the rear wheels.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are yet to be finalized, but Lexus claims 21-City, 28-Highway, and 24-Combined for an all-wheel-drive 200t; and 35-City, 31-Highway, and 33-Combined for a front-wheel-drive 300h.
For our early drive time around Whistler, British Columbia we naturally chose the athletic F Sport and were not disappointed. Handling is great, nothing at all like the rolling couch-like manner of the RX. Handling is aided by the front axle’s “pre-load” differential.
But as much as we were enjoying the nimbleness, the rougher ride that accompanies it is a bit much for most buyers in this segment. The ultra-antagonistic look might also be a turn off, but the more time our eyes spent with it, the more they liked what they were taking in. Sharp angles are without a doubt the theme; and L.E.D.s are used for lighting both front and rear. Here again, F Sport brings even more to the table with a mesh grille, black side mirrors, and exclusive 18-inch wheels.
Pricing hasn’t been finalized as of yet, but we think a mid-$30,000 start would be just about right, based on other recent compact luxury entries.
One thing is certain. Lexus knows how to do plush, luxury crossovers well; evidenced by over 1-million RX sales. And while there is certainly a demand for a smaller version of the RX; the 2015 NX is not that at all.
In its continuing effort to replace some of the brand’s traditional opulence with excitement, Lexus has created a very dynamic looking and performing compact luxury crossover. And it looks like from here on out, instead of wondering whether they’ve gone far enough, people will be debating whether this time Lexus has gone too far.
- Engine: 2.0 liter
- Horsepower: 235
- Torque: 258 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 7.0 seconds
- EPA: 21 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
Toyota Goes Bigger And Better
The Toyota Highlander has been been of the best-selling 3-row family utilities for years now. But Toyota is always looking to grow their business, and now they’re attempting to do that by growing the Highlander. Say hello to the Toyota Grand Highlander.
Toyota has no problem selling utility vehicles; they currently have eight in their lineup to choose from, divided into distinct body-on-frame and unitized crossover families. Well, add one more to the crossover list, it’s the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander. Now, don’t think of the Grand Highlander so much as just a bigger version of the Highlander as it is an all-new vehicle. Longer than the Highlander by 6 1/2-inches, the priorities were to deliver true space for adults in the 3rd row while still providing more cargo room behind it.
Though large and in charge, it seems to take most of its styling cues from a much smaller member of the Toyota family, the latest RAV4. That means a big “hammerhead” trapezoidal grille, minimal overhangs, and different wheel designs than the current Highlander, all but the base XLE trim rolling on 20s.
Overall length beats Honda Pilot by 1½- inches, and 4½-inches over the Kia Telluride, so it’s a biggie!
On the road, there’s a Lexus-like refinement and borderline luxury car smoothness to the ride; above what the current Highlander delivers.
Though, there is an actual Lexus version of the Grand Highlander already announced, the TX.
The Toyota Grand Highlander feels very powerful too, when dealing with our tester’s Hybrid Max powertrain.
It sports a 2.4-liter turbo-4 with electric motor assist to deliver 362-horsepower and 400 lb-ft. of torque through a 6-speed automatic. All wheel drive is standard and max tow rating is 5,000-lbs.
But that’s just 1 of the 3 powertrains. Shared with the Highlander is a 245-horsepower 2.5-liter Hybrid with a CVT. The base engine is a 265-horsepower 2.4-liter turbo I4 with an 8-speed automatic. Both available in front or all-wheel drive.
Our Hybrid Max has unique front and rear bumpers, along with dual exhaust. So we let that 6-speed shift us down our Mason Dixon Dragway test track.
For such a big vehicle, it gets up to speed quickly, leaving the line with a slight chirp of the tires on its way to 60 in just 5.6-seconds. You can feel the EV motor boost at launch, but it also aids in keeping power delivery consistent all the way down the track.
Gear changes were very smooth and it felt solid and stable throughout the ¼-mile, which we finished in 14.3-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour.
The Grand Highlander preferred a more leisurely pace through our handling course. Still, it doesn’t feel overly big or ungainly.
Yet you could really feel the 4,900-lbs. of weight of our Platinum Hybrid Max through here with significant body roll and apparent understeer.
Light steering and an overall soft feel are additional indicators that the main aims here were getting the family up to speed quickly and down the highway in comfort.
In braking runs, there was a noteable amount of nose dive, but stops from 60 were straight and consistent, with a good 115-foot average stopping distance from 60 miles-per-hour.
While an all-new vehicle, there’s a very familiar unassuming quality-minded Toyota interior, with their latest multimedia system which gets a 12.3-inch touchscreen standard.
The 3rd row is indeed much more than an afterthought; access is easy even for adults, there’s great space back there, and belts for 3 occupants. Plus, they were even able to provide 20.6 cubic-ft. of rear cargo space. Folding the 60/40 split 3rd row grows the space to 57.9 cubic-ft, and there’s a generous max of 97.5 with all seatbacks folded.
But while still roomy, it does seem like a bit of 2nd row space was compromised; either a 3-person bench or a pair of captain’s chairs makes for 8 or 7-passenger capacity.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the Hybrid Max are 26-City, 27-Highway, and 27-Combined. We averaged 26.2 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
That makes for an average Energy Impact Score, with use of 11.0-barrels of oil yearly, with 5.5-tons of CO2 emissions.
Being the grandest of all Highlanders, no need for basic L or LE trims; the Grand Highlander is available in XLE, Limited, and Platinum grades only, starting with XLE at $44,465, which is certainly on par with what you pay for a top-notch 3-row family utility these days.
For Toyota, making a bigger and better version of their fast-selling Highlander was a no-brainer; and somehow in the process, they managed to seemingly shove an entire Sienna minivan in there. The impressive 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander not only gives Toyota buyers a bigger option to step up to, it primes them to be an even bigger player than they already are in the 3-row crossover game.
- Engine: 2.4-liter I-4 Turbo
- Horsepower: 362
- 0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 26.2 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 400 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.3 seconds at 98 mph
- EPA: 26 City / 27 Highway / 27 Combined