The new UX is built on the same Toyota New Global Architecture as the new Toyota Auris (also unveiled today), Toyota Prius and the Toyota C-HR compact crossover. It shares its wheelbase with the C-HR, although the baby Lexus SUV has longer overhangs at both ends and sits 4cm lower, to give the UX a longer, lower look.
Chika Kako, chief engineer of the UX, is quite clear who Lexus is targeting with the new model: “Right from the start, I focused on the target customer – mid-30s, millennials, men and women – and tried to understand how they would expect a premium compact vehicle to change their lives and enable new experiences.”
As with every new Lexus, the front end is dominated by an enormous ‘spindle’ grille, which is full of careful details to give a three-dimensional appearance. Unlike other cars with equally-gaping grille openings (ie – any given Audi), the UX has a mesh pattern with individual elements that gradually change in shape as they radiate out from the central Lexus badge, to give a three-dimensional look that changes according to the angle of view (and absolutely does not show up well in photos – sorry).
The flanks are heavily sculpted and lead to a rear end dominated by a full-width LED light bar. This new design feature is set to become a Lexus signature across the range in coming years.
Inside, the dashboard is angled around the driver with all the major controls easily within reach. Lexus has worked to keep the dashboard height low and A-pillar width slim to maximise the view forwards for both driver and passenger. Like any Lexus interior, the quality and craftsmanship are likely to be as good as anything in the car industry, and the company is also showcasing some new and different finishes in the cabin.
The smooth leather upholstery is made using sashiko, a traditional Japanese quilting technique that is also applied in the making of judo and kendo martial arts uniforms. The quilted leather is decorated with new perforation patterns that form mathematical curves and gradations. The UX’s instrument panel is accentuated with a choice of two grain patterns and four colours.
The UX also debuts a new trim grain finish inspired by the grain of Japanese paper known as washi, familiar from the screens used in traditional Japanese homes. Created using slush-moulding and a carefully chosen surface finish, it evokes a calm and warm feeling. A leather grain finish is also available, shared with the high-end LC coupé and flagship LS saloon.
As with other Lexus models, an F Sport specification will be available on the new UX. Externally, it features different grille mesh, bumper designs, gloss black plastic mouldings and larger 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside there are sports seats, sports steering wheel and aluminium pedals. Adaptive suspension is optional for F Sport models.
New engines and smarter drivetrains
Two new powertrains make their debut in the UX. Firstly, a new 2.0-litre hybrid system with 180hp as also found in the new Toyota Auris, which comes with a choice of front-wheel drive or electric all-wheel drive in the UX 250h. Secondly, a new 2.0-litre petrol engine connected to the latest version of Lexus’ continuously variable transmission called Direct Shift-CVT in the UX 200.
The electric all-wheel drive system works by placing an additional electric motor on the rear axle. When a loss of rear-wheel grip is detected, up to 80% of total power can be directed to the rear of the car at speeds up to 44mph.
The Direct Shift-CVT uses a combination of gears and pulleys to provide a more direct and manual feel from low revs, and eliminate the traditional ‘rubber band’ feeling of CVTs. From start-up, the transmission uses gears to provide acceleration, and then switches to the CVT belt and pulley system as speed rises. It sounds good in theory, and we look forward to seeing how it works in practice.