Competes with: Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA 250, Infiniti QX30
Looks like: It can’t decide which fellow Lexus model it wants to emulate
Drivetrain: 168-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder; continuously variable automatic transmission; front-wheel drive (200) and all-wheel drive (250h)
Hits dealerships: December 2018
The seemingly unstoppable march of the utes continues as Lexus becomes the next automaker to round out its lineup of SUVs and crossovers, in this case with the 2019 UX. The Toyota luxury brand calls the UX, debuting at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show, the “first-ever” Lexus compact luxury crossover — which confuses me a bit, because I’ve found the NX to also be in that category.
Related: More 2018 Geneva Motor Show News
The NX is actually a bit larger than the UX; its wheelbase is slightly longer, but overall it is longer by about 5 inches, and that vehicle is already pretty small inside (especially in the backseat). I’m not sure how much smaller inside the UX can be than the NX while still finding a way to fit adult-sized humans in the back, but we’ll have to wait to hop into the UX when it makes its way stateside to find out.
The UX will be offered in two varieties: the gas UX 200 and a hybrid, the UX 250h.
Lexus’ most recent car designs have invoked conflict, with sharp angles and creases running up and down the surfaces of its vehicles. The UX continues this aesthetic: It’s all angles and ridges from the prominent front grille to the dramatic lines that run from the front fender rearward.
The UX also appears to be a mishmash of different styling elements from other Lexus vehicles. It has the grille of an RX, the three-element headlights from the LC coupe, and the NX’s overall shape and aesthetic, with the black-plastic cladding that runs along the bottom of the vehicle.
Lexus will offer an F Sport version of the UX, which will be available on both the gas and hybrid versions of the vehicle. It adds a mesh version of the front spindle grille, an exclusive rear bumper, 18-inch alloy wheels, and jet-black trim on the front and rear moldings. F Sport models also receive interior and performance updates, which we’ll cover later.
Styling is more distinct on the interior of the UX, which features a dash that is slightly canted in the direction of the driver and a widescreen display perched atop it. Lexus appears to have adopted an “if it’s broke, don’t fix it” approach to its multimedia system, so the touchpad-centric design remains, with the touchpad affixed to the right of the gear shifter. No word yet on interior dimensions or cargo room, so it’s hard to say how different the UX will be than the NX.
There are a few different types of leather available, including one upholstery that’s inspired by sashiko, a customary Japanese quilting technique. You can even get the leather grain finish from Lexus LC and LS vehicles in the UX, which is a surprise — those cars are a significant cost increase over where the UX will likely reside.
F Sport models add sport seats, a sport steering wheel, an 8-inch TFT display in the instrument panel and aluminum pedals.
Under the Hood
Though there will be two available UX models, the UX 200 and the UX 250h, both will share the same engine: a 168-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. The hybrid model features a “new-generation” hybrid system that adds a nickel-metal-hydride battery park and an electric motor that bumps up output slightly to 176 hp. Fuel-economy ratings are not yet available for either powertrain.
The UX 200 will be available as front-wheel drive only. Standard all-wheel drive for the hybrid models, meanwhile, adds an additional electric motor to the rear axle, which helps to shift power distribution to the rear wheels in certain situations.
The UX is also notable for being the first Lexus to use the new GA-C (Global Architecture — Compact) platform. Lexus says this platform offers a super-rigid structure and gives the UX the lowest center of gravity in its class, which should help to augment the UX’s performance and dynamics.
F Sport models also offer their own set of performance enhancements, including different springs and stabilizer bars, as well as rear performance dampers. An adaptive variable suspension, which can change the damping force of the suspension on the fly, will be optional.
The Lexus Safety System Plus will be available on the UX. This suite of safety technologies includes automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, road sign assist and automatic high beams.
Lexus says exact pricing information for the 2019 UX will be released closer to this conflicted crossover’s on-sale date in December 2018.
Editor’s note: This story was updated March 7, 2018, with added information from Lexus regarding the drivetrains.
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