2019 Lexus UX First Look Review: Redefined Entry-Level Luxury

First Look

Your Lexus CT replacement has arrived.

As with most automakers looking to capture the attention of consumers with an increasingly voracious appetite for SUVs and crossovers, Lexus is bulking up its high-roof offerings as it attempts to gain back sales lost to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. Its latest entrant is the all-new 2019 Lexus UX compact SUV, which you might mistake for the brand's NX model. But don't be fooled. This brand-new SUV replaces the recently defunct CT in North America, and it plans to offer much more than the hatchback ever could—a non-hybrid model and AWD.

Slightly smaller than its NX sibling, the 2019 Lexus UX is the first model from the brand to ride upon the same TNGA-derived GA-C platform as the Toyota C-HR. Both the UX and C-HR sit on 103.9-inch wheelbases, but the Lexus wears a body that's nearly 8-inch longer due to its larger overhangs. That should give you the first hint of Lexus' intention with the new UX: it's no off-roader, approach angles are of no consequence here. Still, the real comparison is between the UX and the vehicle it replaces: the already forgotten, hybrid-only CT hatchback. In that battle, the UX is larger in nearly every measure, and it will be much more powerful, too.

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The 2019 Lexus UX will be sold in two different flavors, UX 200 and UX 250h, which denote the gasoline and hybrid powertrains that'll motivate Lexus' new entry-level model. The base UX 200 is powered by a new 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that develops 168 horsepower. (Lexus did not detail torque figures at the UX's reveal.) It will be the first model to use Toyota's new Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission, which adopts launch gears for better off-the-line performance and to also increase the CVT's effective gear ratios by 15 percent. Toyota claims this results in a 6-percent increase in fuel economy while also improving shift speed to bring it on par with dual-clutched competitors.

Like the UX 200, the 250h model also relies on a 2.0-liter engine, but here it's teamed with a hybrid powertrain that draws electrical drive energy from a nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery, much like the CT. However, the UX's battery is located under the rear seat, which addresses the primary complaint regarding the outgoing CT: trunk space. In the CT, the battery was located under the cargo floor, severely cutting into its cargo hold. Lexus did not give figures on the UX's cargo capacity, though it'll easily best the CT's 14.3 cu. ft. capacity. With 176 net horsepower on tap, the UX 250h is more powerful than the old CT, too, outclassing it by whopping 42 hp.

Further pushing the UX 250h's boundaries of efficiency are three new systems called Predictive Efficient Drive, Predictive Deceleration Support, and Predictive State of Charge. As you may expect, the systems attempt to bring some foresight into how they operate. Predictive Efficient Drive tracks driving habits at certain geographic locations to best predict when to charge or discharge the hybrid battery. Predictive Deceleration Support uses that same data to predict when and where you're most likely to come to a complete stop and increases regenerative braking support to compensate. Meanwhile, Predictive State of Charge is only active when using navigation. It maps out how best to use its battery over the next 6 miles of your route.

Aside from the electrification difference between the UX 200 and 250h, the latter choice will be the only way to get all-wheel drive. Instead of creating a tunnel for a mechanical driveshaft to the rear, the UX 250h relies on Toyota's new E-Four AWD system that places an electric motor on the UX's rear axle. The system is only meant to operate at lower speeds and will cut out at 43 mph. Below that, the electric motor will cut in on slippery surfaces and also to aid in acceleration and cornering. Regardless of the UX model chosen, Lexus will make available an F Sport package that's much more than just some fancy digital dials and aggressive body panels.

F Sport models are fitted with specific springs, stabilizer bars, and rear performance dampers to aid handling. If you want to push your UX even further, buyers can option it with Lexus' Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), a system that first debuted on the LX sport coupe. Unfortunately, Lexus has succumbed to probably one of the most egregious trends in modern automotive history as the UX F Sport will fake the sound of a traditional stepped automatic by way of Active Sound Control (ASC) and digitally increase the engine note in Sport+ mode with Sonic Interaction Design (SID). A more aggressive exterior look, unique 18-inch wheels (17 inchers are standard), and F Sport specific interior trim pieces complete the upgrade package.

Inside, Lexus has saw fit to give the UX some youthful color. White, red, blue, and brown abound in the cabin depending on trim choice. An optional leather upholstery inspired by the traditional Japanese sashiko quilting technique gives the UX's front chairs a unique texture unlike any other. Washi, a traditional Japanese paper, also influences the grains used for the UX's dash-trim pieces. Lexus didn't provide any detail regarding the UX's infotainment, though the screen looks similar in format and size to the 12.3-inch infotainment screen used in the 2018 Lexus LS. Lexus Enform will also likely provide a variety of services, but again, Lexus was quiet on that, too.

The all-new 2019 Lexus UX will begin arriving at dealers in December to take on the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Volvo XC40, and others on the small end of the burgeoning subcompact luxury SUV segment. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.

Gallery

2019 Lexus UX 200
2019 Lexus UX 200
2019 Lexus UX 200
2019 Lexus UX 200
2019 Lexus UX 200
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