Lexus has launched a compact luxury electrified crossovers. This car is nothing if not unique, with a length of less than 4.5 meters, a radical design, and the likelihood of future availability driven by an electric powertrain, a powerful hybrid drive, or both.
Those familiar with flora and fauna of the Indian subcontinent may ask what these compact beasts are doing in a world where size and perceived value walk hand in hand. The answer is simple: Lexus wants to test our market's response to the UX, and it wants to see whether Indian luxury car buyers have evolved enough to let the UX succeed.
Compact, despite being longer (4,495mm) than the Creta (4,300mm). It is due to the profile. The nose is large and long, yet the cabin is compact and sporty. It's not tall like an SUV, but it looks muscular.
Not everyone will like the sharp styling, but it draws attention. The UX is full of razor-like cuts and creases in bold, confident strokes like Japanese calligraphy. Notable features include a large spindle-shaped grille, dagger-shaped headlights, and stylized chrome fangs. The kink in the wheel arches, an homage to the Countach, and the connected taillights protrude in an interesting manner is appreciable. So the UX won't have a high center of gravity, which should make driving it more fun and exciting.
Based on the TNGA platform, the car will be easier to assemble in India later. Lexus engineers strengthened the structure to improve ride and handling. Not only that, but like the XUV700, the UX has aluminum doors, an alloy bonnet, and a plastic composite hatch in the rear.
Classy and cozy
Open the door, and the luxurious vibe is there. The layered dash looks good, and the surfaces have a deep touch and feel expensive. The soft top of the dash finished in a techy matt black cloth with contrast stitching, is appealing. The hooded instrument panel and thick-rimmed steering remind you of the Lexus LFA supercar.
Some of the lower plastics appear more Toyota than Lexus, and the lack of a touchscreen, simply a fiddly trackpad is strange. But there are some interesting bits. The classic clock looks fantastic, and the Mark Levinson audio system sounds great.
It's not big inside, and that's mostly due to the glasshouse's tight fit. The front seats are wide enough for comfort, and the stylish bucket seats are supportive and sporty.
The rear is tight. The EV's massive battery 'protrudes' into the cabin. It implies you to sit with your legs slightly raised and your hands on the roof—low visibility is due to tall seats and small windows. In reverse, the 360-degree camera is excellent, however, the slot-like rear windscreen is small. Also, the boot isn't really practical. This one isn't much better than a hatchback since it has around 300 liters and is shallow.
UX hybrid is powered by a 152hp engine, a 109hp permanent magnet synchronous electric motor, and 184hp system power and all of this together is kept by a CVT transmission, which causes the engine to sound strained when you go flat on the throttle.
However, the hybrid system is fast. It makes the car reach 100kph in around 8.5 seconds. The Toyota CVT works well in steps if you don't push it hard. This powertrain combo is smooth and fun to drive at medium speeds. This Hybrid's EV mode for short distances is the ultimate one-size-fits-all solution.
But it's the 204hp blue EV that's more fun on the road. The driving modes are now all usable. It reacts effectively to the first tap on the throttle, even in ECO, and it doesn't taper off artificially after flattening the throttle.
The 'Normal' mode is even smoother and more responsive, but 'Sport' is the real fun mode, and that first EV kick makes you smile. Indeed, when pressed flat on the throttle in Sport mode, the UX heavily relies on its traction control system. It is a wonderful car to drive from 0 to 100kph in 7.5 seconds. The paddles behind the wheel may also boost regen, although not enough for one-pedal driving.
The UX EV has a long-range. The 54.3kWh battery offers a WLTP range of 300-315km and charges in six hours on an 11kW charger, and a 50kW charger can charge it to 80% in an hour.
The suspension of the UX is smooth and comfortable. It is particularly true on the Hybrid, which has soft suspension, sufficient travel for larger undulations, and a smooth ride. On large bumps, the increased weight of the battery in the electric version produces some body movement. Also, be careful of the large, low-slung battery while driving over large speed breakers; if you are not careful, it will make contact with massive speed breakers.
Will the Lexus UX arrive in India?
Much depends on how the luxury car purchasing public responds to it. On one side, the UX ICE departs from the typical entry-luxury SUV template. It is less practical, but the sharp looks set it apart, and there is currently no hybrid or electric car in this class.