UX crossover new Lexus entry point

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Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

APPARENTLY, Japan-headquartered luxury car maker Lexus doesn’t shirk from making bold predictions about the newest vehicle in its portfolio. There’s clear confidence in the UX, which the company debuted at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show.

During the entry-level subcompact premium crossover’s so-called Global Dynamic Press Launch held in Sweden in September, Lexus Asia Pacific vice-president David Nordstrom said that the UX is expected to make up “23% of Lexus sales” in the region. Along with the all-new Lexus ES, sales are projected to grow by a hefty 60%. “We’re confident that the UX will provide a highly attractive alternative to existing products in the market,” the executive had underscored.

The UX is a direct and clear product of the brand’s transformative journey over the last few years. “You have seen our design language change to become bolder and more distinctive, and hopefully you have experienced a significant change in our driving dynamics that pairs our world-renowned comfort with Lexus’ unique sense of dynamic handling,” explained Mr. Nordstrom. “The all-new UX showcases the Lexus design language and highlights our ability to craft luxury interiors.”

Lexus Philippines understandably wasted no time bringing the UX into the local market. Now here in two grades — the UX 200 and UX 200 F Sport priced at P2.478 million and P3.048 million, respectively — the vehicle is ready to commence with the real-world testing of the company’s avowed confidence. The market should be composed of “loyal Lexus owners looking for a crossover alternative to their sedan,” those who want to “downsize their SUV, upgrade from a mass-market brand, or [simply] change their luxury brand.”

Expressed more distinctly, the marque is looking at an “even mix of male and female customers in their 30s, with an average household income of $110,000.” These “urban explorers” (which the appellation stands for) are “styling, tech savvy, and seeking experiences [as] they make the most of their time and opportunities.”

During the press launch in Stockholm, BusinessWorld was able to speak with the design team head responsible for the UX. Chika Kako is an affable, brilliant executive — the first woman at Lexus to be accorded such an honor, and is its first female managing officer. Ms. Kako had posited that the UX is a “car developed for the customer who’s entering the luxury market for the first time — and for people joining the Lexus brand for the first time.” She had asserted, “That was my first mission. This may be the youngest of all the siblings, but for us, we don’t look at it as just small, medium and large sizes… We understand completely that there is a large base of customers who enjoys sedans. But here was a chance to create something new and exciting that we’ve never seen before. So think about something having the driving performance of a sporty coupe, but with crossover looks… That was something I really wanted to achieve. That’s why I went for this body type.”

Along with its entry-level pricing, the UX is should attract buyers with a showcase of new toys and tech — while staying true to the look that Lexus has proudly claimed for itself. The iconic spindle grille gives the vehicle an aggressive fascia and augments its muscular, taut presence that is consistently applied in and out.

In a statement, Lexus said that the “UX brings to the table the widest field of vision and best turning radius of any luxury compact SUV.” The design team also took inspiration from the traditional Japanese concept of Engawa that “blurs the boundary between a home’s exterior and interior” to create “a feeling of seamless continuity inside.” For instance, the upper instrument panel extends out beyond the windshield and provides the driver a sweeping view of the car and its surroundings.

The F Sport variant will reward drivers with more keenly tuned suspension through springs and stabilizer bars, along with a rear performance damper — resulting in a more refined ride. It boasts 18-inch, five twin-spoke aluminum alloys promising increased rigidity and, ultimately, heightened responsiveness and handling.

Aside from a sundry of distinctions largely out of view, the UX F Sport gets visible differentiators such as an alternative grille design with a mesh pattern comprised of individual L-shaped pieces, large fog lamp bezels with L-shaped chrome moldings, a revised rear bumper, and jet-black trim on the front and rear moldings. Inside, it receives front sport seats, a leather-covered F Sport steering wheel, leather-trimmed shift knob, and aluminum pedals and footrest. Even the TFT LCD display is larger, at eight inches.

Supplying power to the front wheels of the two UX variants is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 168hp and 205Nm — mated to a new Direct-Shift CVT “[combining] the smooth, fuel-efficient performance of a continuously variable transmission with a more direct driving feel.” The Direct-Shift CVT provides grunt without the deadened feel of some conventional CVT systems. Everything is within reach of the driver, and one will not be overwhelmed with an assortment of controls. Rather, the UX rewards your enthusiasm and sense of discovery with intuitive controls — such as the new scroll wheels just at the tip of the central driver armrest. Thirteen exterior colors are available on the UX, including three new unique colors dubbed Blazing Carnelian, Tarrane Khaki and Celestial Blue.

Industry observers predict a trend to hold — that of one in three vehicles sold globally will be a crossover. If this comes to fruition (and there are no signs to indicate otherwise), then the UX should be successful here and abroad.