2015 Lexus NX 300h (© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.)Click to enlarge picture

For 2015, Lexus adds a compact crossover slotted below its popular RX model. Like the RX, the NX is offered in standard gasoline and hybrid variants.

Lexus basically invented the luxury crossover when it modified a Toyota Camry platform with a wagon body style and a higher ride height for the 1998 model year. The result was the Lexus RX, and it has been a perennial best-seller ever since. The RX, however, plays in the midsize segment and aims to insulate occupants from the road, which draws an older buyer. That leaves room for a smaller crossover with more nimble moves aimed at a younger buyer. Enter the 2015 Lexus NX. This compact crossover is 5.5 inches shorter than the RX and is tuned for a sportier driving character. In fact, the N in NX stands for "nimble." We drove the NX in Whistler, British Columbia, to find out if there is room for two 5-passenger crossovers in Lexus' lineup. Long story short: There is.

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Model lineup
The 2015 Lexus NX is offered in two main variants, the 200t and hybrid 300h. An F Sport is also treated like a variant, but it's really an option package. Standard features on the 200t include vinyl upholstery, keyless access and starting, 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, 60/40-split folding rear seats, multi-information display, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Siri Eyes Free iPhone integration, AM/FM/HD radio with 7-inch center screen, HD traffic and weather data services, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, USB port, rearview camera, Lexus' Enform Safety Connect, and 17-inch tires on alloy wheels. The 300h adds a standard navigation system.

The F Sport comes with P235/55R18 tires, sport-tuned suspension, unique front bumper with mesh grille, LED fog lamps, aluminum pedals, vinyl sport seats with contrast stitching, paddle shifters, turbo boost gauge, G-meter, and unique interior trim.

Notable options include leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, a towing package, a precollision system with radar cruise control, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert, LED headlights, sunroof, and intuitive park assist.

View Pictures:  2015 Lexus NX

Under the hood
The Lexus NX provides a choice of two powertrains. The 200t features a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It sends its power through a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. Lexus estimates the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings for the 200t at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 21/28 mpg with all-wheel drive.

The 300h teams a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors (three motors for the all-wheel-drive variant) for a total system output of 194 horsepower. Fuel economy estimates for the 300h are 35 mpg city/31 mpg highway with front drive and 33/30 mpg with AWD.

The all-wheel-drive system can send up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels when the front wheels slip.

Inner space
Many RX drivers will find the NX's interior to be a completely foreign environment. Its sporty design, inspired by the Lexus LFA and IS, is much different from that of the RX. However, the materials will be familiar to any Lexus owner. The dash, door panels and armrests are covered in a soft-touch faux leather called NuLuxe, and the design is accented with metallic colors. NuLuxe is also the standard upholstery instead of leather. It looks a lot like leather but isn't as supple. Real leather is available in various packages.

Instead of an upright seating position with wide seats, the NX's cockpit leans the driver back in more of a sport sedan driving position. The base seats have decent side bolstering to hold passengers in place and the F Sport's sport buckets are more heavily bolstered. Those seats are too narrow for larger folks, making occupants sit up on them instead of settling into them. Traditional Lexus buyers will find the F Sport's aggressive seats off-putting.

The NX also has the next generation of Lexus' Remote Touch infotainment interface. It features a new pinch-and-stretch touch surface on the center console. The touchpad controls a cursor on the dash's 7-inch screen. The cursor snaps into place with haptic feedback and users tap the touchpad twice to activate the functions on the various screens. We like this version of Remote Touch much better than the second generation, which used a joystick-style controller that required lots of manual dexterity. This version also requires some nimble fingers, but we found ourselves getting used to it in just a few hours behind the wheel.