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Geneva show: Lexus Oz confirms UX for early 2019

Sales grabber: The new Lexus UX compact SUV might well be the Japanese luxury brand’s top seller once it arrives in early 2019.

All-new Lexus UX compact SUV ‘most important new model since NX’


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7 Mar 2018

LEXUS Australia has confirmed that its all-new UX compact SUV will roll into Australian showrooms in early 2019, giving Toyota’s luxury arm a much-needed competitor for the likes of BMW’s X2, Audi’s Q3 and Mercedes-Benz’s GLA.

The brand has also revealed at the Geneva motor show that the UX will benefit from the latest Toyota engine research that has delivered what the Japanese company describes as the world’s most thermally efficient 2.0-litre petrol engine with 40 per cent efficiency.

That engine will be employed in both a conventional petrol-powered UX200 and petrol-electric hybrid UX200h. The latter is said to generate 131kW of power, thanks to a fourth-generation hybrid system.

Confirming the Australian launch of the UX, Lexus Australia chief executive Scott Thompson said the UX would be the most important new model for Lexus sales since the NX line arrived in 2014.

“The UX with its all-inclusive luxury will further broaden our range and enable Lexus sales to cross over the 10,000 sales barrier for the first time in our history,” he said.

“For the first time, Lexus can compete in the luxury small-SUV segment, growing that category by attracting new, younger customers while offering an aspirational alternative to our long-standing customers.”

Sitting on a version of Toyota’s global architecture that has already spawned models such as the Toyota Prius and C-HR, the UX is 4495mm long, meaning it will slot between BMW’s X2 and X3, and Audi Q3 and Q5, as well as below the Lexus NX (4630mm).

A healthy 1840mm wide, the UX sits on a 2640mm wheelbase – the same as the Toyota C-HR – which is shorter than the wheelbase of its German rivals.

Lexus promises that UX will deliver the lowest centre of gravity in its class, along with “exceptional body rigidity and an agile, hatchback-like driving experience”.

The exterior design, which was foreshadowed in the UX Concept revealed at the 2016 Paris motor show, has been typically toned down from the concept to fall into lock step with other Lexus models.

In an unusual move for a Japanese company, the development of the UX was led by a female engineer, Chika Kako, who said the target customers were mid-30s millennial men and women.

“Design is still the main purchase reason for every car,” she said. “It is the design that promises to the customer what the car can deliver.” The UX design aims to project a “strong safe feeling that sets crossovers apart from hatchbacks”. “We also focused on giving the UX a distinctive driving feel that would resonate with the customer,” Ms Kako said.

“I wanted to overturn the image of a crossover with a high body that requires careful manoeuvring and offer a car with nimble performance and excellent manoeuvrability that make it as easy to drive as a hatchback.”

Apart from a new platform and fresh engine the UX200 will also get a new direct-shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) that employs a gear-driven first gear for “a direct acceleration feel”.

“It also reduces the need for the pulleys and belt mechanism to be used in the low gear range,” Lexus said, which “allows more room to be dedicated to the higher gear range”.

Safety features will include autonomous braking that can detect pedestrians at night, as well as a full suite of the latest devices such as adaptive cruise, lane keeping and automatic headlights.

Flat-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels are said to have been designed for aerodynamic efficiency. Bigger 18-inch wheels also will be available, presumably on F-Sport variants that have been confirmed for Australia.

Apart from sports suspension tune, F-Sport variants get sports seats, an 8.0-inch TFT colour display, instruments with a “moving outer ring”, sports steering wheel and shift knob with dimpled leather, and aluminium pedals and footrest.

The UX will be the fourth addition to the local Lexus range in just 18 months, joining the LC luxury coupe, the RX L seven-seat SUV and the upcoming LS flagship sedan.

The UX becomes the fourth SUV in the Lexus range sitting below the mid-sized NX, large RX and RX L, and LandCruiser-based LX.

The NX is by far Lexus’ biggest seller in Australia. This year, it has achieved 638 sales, almost a match for the combined sales of all other Lexus models.

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