This is the all new second generation Lexus NX, a compact SUV from the Japanese luxury carmaker that goes head on with strong and compelling peers such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
While the NX's predecessor was a capable car in its own right, it never could pose a threat big enough that could potentially give its German peers a run for their money.
Goodbye conservative, hello stylish
This has largely to do with the way the new Lexus SUV looks. It ticks all the boxes on first glance — sharpened styling, modern good looks and imposing size for its class.
Comparing it to before, the NX is now 20mm longer and 20mm wider, which also allows for a longer wheelbase of 30mm (a bit on that later). In fact, with its new dimensions, the Lexus NX now exudes a lot more presence than before.
That's no bad thing, really. From all angles, the car now looks really good, at least to this pint-sized storyteller's eyes.
From the larger-than-life grille and sharp creases to the full-width taillight and the Lexus branding tattooed just underneath it, there's no denying just how appealing and eye-catching the NX now looks.
But the icing on the cake has to be the new electronic door opening system.
Traditional door handles have been replaced with electronic latches that allow the doors to pop open when you squeeze the handle from the outside. Getting out of the car is just as easy — just use your thumb to press the latch and the door pops open.
Out with old, in with new
Expectedly, just as appealing is the car's interior. As you'd come to know from a brand like Lexus, everything in here is prim and proper, with ample premium touches that are fit for royalty.
More importantly, Lexus has finally replaced its unfriendly and dated trackpad-controlled display with a huge 14-inch touchscreen-only display.
It's largely a success, this system. Clear, sharp and responsive, the interface on the new infotainment system is clean and modern, with the usual wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that has plagued most cars of today.
It does take a while to get used to, but it's never to the point of being confusing and frustrating.
What you can also expect is the ample amount of space for you and your family in here.
Thanks to the extra 30mm of wheelbase, as well as the car's rise of 40mm in height over its predecessor, occupants up to 1.8m tall will be able to enjoy a good amount of head and legroom without any fuss.
Elsewhere in the NX350h, you get 520 litres worth of boot space — which is more than enough for your golf and grocery bags — as well as premium features such as panoramic sunroof, ventilated seats, auto hold function and wireless charger.
There's also a suite of safety systems that include the usual blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and lane tracing assist, just to name a few.
Farewell conventional, welcome emotional
These safety systems do activate when you're on the road. They're there and they do make themselves known, but it's never to the point of being intrusive.
There are no constant beeping or harsh vibrations or sudden alarms like how some other carmakers do them, which makes the NX a stress-free affair when piloting.
Not like the Lexus NX was any stressful to pilot to begin with, really. Inclined towards comfort, the new SUV does a solid job of what it's set out to achieve. It's a luxury car, not a sporty one, and Lexus makes no fake nuances about that.
As a result, what you get is a car that's setup to be comfortable enough to oppress the worst sorts of uneven roads without sending any of the vibrations and harshness to the cabin.
Still, you can still try and push the NX through a series of bends, as we've tried, despite the softer setup and it'll reliably tackle them, but the laws of physics will nevertheless intervene. Steering feel remains vague, too, even if it's direct and relatively well-weighted. But I'm certainly not complaining about that.
Instead, my only gripe with the car is the coarse moaning from the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) at full throttle.
Apply hard pressure on the right pedal and the CVT gearbox will keep revs high and noticeably spool the engine forward, with the electric motors working seamlessly to get the NX going at a rather quick pace.
Driven thus, the 2.5-litre powerplant will churn out a combined output of 240bhp and 239Nm of torque to all wheels, allowing the NX to reach the 100km/h finishing line from nought in just 7.7 seconds before hitting a limited top speed of 200km/h.
Welcome back, NX
While most of the competition lean towards a sportier drive, Lexus — with its remarkable Japanese essence — aims for universal appeal such as comfort and quality with the new NX.
At $306,800 (as of Dec 9, 2021), the Lexus NX may come with a rather hefty price tag, but it does feel like you're getting every cent worth the more you spend time with it.
This is, after all, a completely revamped model that has been exquisitely engineered without losing its unmistakeable character as a luxury compact SUV from Lexus.
This article was first published in sgCarMart.