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Test Driving the 2015 Lexus NX, a Sporty Connected Car

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After making its debut in April at the 2014 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, the 2015 Lexus NX has arrived stateside. You’ll have to wait until December for the new luxury compact SUV to hit dealerships, but until then, we can let you in on what to expect.

The Lexus NX will come in hybrid and turbocharged models, with the latter powered by an enormous 2.0-liter gasoline engine. The hybrid will be powered by a more familiar 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine. That’s all fine and good, but we’re more interested in the dash tech.

The interaction between car and smartphone is becoming simpler and simpler. With a tablet-sized interface perched on the dash, you can use an app on your phone to connect to the car’s infotainment system, allowing you to use navigation programs and the like. Of course, the knock on dash-mounted interfaces is that they’re touchscreen devices, meaning you still need to lean over to use them, causing a huge distraction. Voice control is getting there, but it’s still not quite comprehensive. Until we get there, Lexus is putting a touchpad near the stick, which is more accessible than the tablet itself. It’s still a distraction, but undeniably less so.

Fortunately, there are some bona-fide safety features, too. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control automatically senses when you’re getting too close to the car in front of you and slows down your vehicle to avoid a collision. There’s also a blind spot monitor and an alert that goes off if you drift out of your lane.

For parents, there’s a remarkable amount of control you have over the car, just from a smartphone. You can set a geofence or a curfew for the car—obviously, the car won’t get shut down in the middle of the road or anything, but you will get notified if anything is amiss. In other words, secret teen escapades with the family car aren’t going to happen with the Lexus NX.

And, yeah, there’s even wireless charging for your smartphone. The wireless charging compartment uses the Qi wireless charging standard, which comes baked into some Android and Windows-based smartphones. For other devices, like the iPhone, you’ll need a Qi-based case or accessory to use the wireless charging compartment. Either way, keeping your smartphone alive on the go will be a lot less of a hassle with the Lexus NX.

We took the Lexus NX for a test drive and were also impressed with its smooth handling on the road. But those looking for extra umph should opt for the F Sport  models with its refined turbo engine – you can really feel the difference on the road with the F Sport, as it makes the driving experience feel less heavy and even peppier.

The 2015 Lexus NX will be available this December, and is definitely in keeping with the trend of connected cars. This is a next gen car that will impress techies as much as it will impress those looking for luxury comforts complimented by aggressive styling. That said, while it’s still no self-driving car, it’ll do for the time being.