Lexus has stopped the teasing and – finally – fully unveiled its compact UX crossover, set to challenge the likes of the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Volvo XC40.
With a new platform (GA-C, part of the TNGA family) and two new powertrains, this is a big car for Lexus. It’s also the fourth addition to the local line-up in 18 months, as part of a product onslaught designed to revitalise the range. Lexus Australia’s chief executive, Scott Thompson, is acutely aware of its significance.
“The UX with its all-inclusive luxury will further broaden our range and enable Lexus sales to cross over the 10,000 sales barrier for the first time in our history,” Thompson said.
“Lexus can [now] compete in the luxury small-SUV segment, growing that category by attracting new, younger customers while offering an aspirational alternative to our long-standing customers.”
There’s no question it’s distinctive, with a rising belt line and sharply-creased flanks – not to mention the gaping Spindle Grille at the front. Those fancy tail-lights, angular wheel arches and aero-style wheels might contribute to the look, but they aren’t just for show.
Lexus says the car has been designed to slice more efficiently through the air than the average crossover, though it hasn’t quoted a drag coefficient figure to back that up. Looks aside, the body is said to deliver “exceptional” rigidity. Coupled with a low centre of gravity, Lexus is promising a hatchback-like driving experience from its smallest SUV model.
Measuring 4495mm long, 1520mm tall and 1840 wide, with a 2640mm wheelbase underneath, the UX is perfectly sized to tackle the X2 and XC40. It’s going to look suitably sporty in F Sport guise, too, with 18-inch wheels, black accents and a mesh front grille.
Power will come from a choice of two engines: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol in the UX200, and a petrol-electric hybrid in the UX250h. The hybrid will offer a combined 131kW of power, put to the road through a continuously-variable transmission. Front-wheel drive or an ‘e-four’ all-wheel drive system will be offered, too.
Although there are no power figures available for the petrol-only UX200, Lexus says it promises a 40 per cent thermal efficiency rating. Given that’s the same figure quoted for Toyota’s latest Dynamic Force engine, we’d suggest the petrol UX will make around 133kW and 205Nm.
On the technology front, the UX will be offered with the latest suite of semi-autonomous systems. Autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, intelligent high-beam, radar cruise control and sway warning are all included.
Local pricing and specs are yet to be announced, however – we’ll have to wait and see whether the safety suite will be standard on Australian cars.
As for the interior, there are more than a few hints of Toyota C-HR in the dashboard design. An 8.0-inch TFT instrument binnacle, complete with an LFA-style sliding ring, is offered in F-Sport models, while the entire range gets a widescreen infotainment system semi-integrated into the dash, eschewing the freestanding tablet-style look favoured by German manufacturers at the moment.
The usual gamut of high-end Japanese interior design techniques – including ‘sashiko quilting’ and trim inspired by paper grain – are scattered throughout, in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. It appears the regular Lexus mouse-cum-touchpad infotainment controller also features, offering another, if less desirable, point-of-difference.
The UX will arrive in Australia at the start of 2019. Stay tuned for detailed pricing and specs closer to the new model’s local launch.