This year, Lexus will add a new SUV to its product lineup, the 2019 Lexus UX, a model that will not only become its smallest of its portfolio, but also the most affordable. It will be positioned where the CT hatchback used to be. For several years now, car sales are slowing down while SUVs are growing in popularity, especially in regards to compact luxury utility vehicles. It’s exactly where the Lexus UX 2019 will be dropped, rivalling the BMW X1/X2, the Audi Q3, the Infiniti QX30, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the all-new Cadillac XT4.
Even if the UX is close to the NX in the lineup, Lexus believes the former will attract a younger clientele who’s looking for a stylish and sportier SUV. The company seeked to make it as agile and fun to drive as a wagon, notably by adopting a driving position that’s lower than in the brand’s other SUVs.
As for styling, the public will quickly associate the UX with other Lexus models thanks to its trademark spindle grille. From the front, it looks a lot like an NX, but the rear end is more distinct with its sloping roofline, which is more typical of station wagons. We can also notice the squarer, grey wheel arches.
Two powertrains, one hybrid and a first CVT
Built on Toyota’s brand-new global architecture (called GA-C), the little Lexus will offer two powertrains at launch. The Lexus UX 200 will benefit from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, equipped with continuously variable technology, a variable cooling system and VVT-iE variable valve timing on the intake side to maximise fuel economy.
As for the transmission, the brand opted for a continuously variable automatic (CVT), which is cheaper to produce and saves fuel, and that also typically reduces driving pleasure. We hope Lexus did its homework while they developed their first CVT. It promises that its Direct Shift-CVT technology, which gets additional cogs, will emulate the feel of a conventional automatic and reduce the elastic-band feel usually found in CVTs. Like the Toyota C-HR which shares its platform, there will be no all-wheel drivetrain for the UX 200 version. Even if it’s technically possible, the brand has decided to offer it in front-drive guise only. A strange decision.
As for the UX 250h, it will benefit from Toyota’s fourth-generation hybrid technology, and will employ an electric powertrain around the same 2.0-litre engine. A combined output of 178 horsepower was announced, while a nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) mounted beneath the rear seat will help preserve cargo space. Unfortunately, it isn’t a plug-in hybrid, which could be much more interesting for many consumers. On the other hand, the UX 250h will rely on an excellent AWD system that includes an electric motor on the rear axle, which can send 60% to 80% of the vehicle’s torque to the rear wheels as needed.
Built in Japan, the 2019 Lexus UX will arrive in dealerships in the fall of 2018.