Unveiled at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show, the 2019 Lexus UX was hailed as the first compact luxury crossover from Lexus and seen as a gateway vehicle for the brand.
Naturally, it contained all the same qualities that define every Lexus model: brave design, superior craftsmanship, exhilarating performance and imaginative technology. Yet the development team also aimed to embody a free-spirited style that would appeal to modern urban explorers – people who seek fresh, dynamic takes on luxury lifestyles.
This approach is explained further by chief engineer Chika Kako (above): “Right from the start, I focused on the target customer – mid-30s, millennials, men and women – and tried to understand how they would expect a premium compact vehicle to change their lives and enable new experiences. That’s what led us to the basic vehicle concept for the UX of Creative Urban Explorer – a new genre of crossover.
“Design is still the main purchase reason for every car. It is the design that promises to the customer what the car can deliver. With the UX the design team created a style which delivers the strong safe feeling that sets crossovers apart from hatchbacks but combined it with a very dynamic dimension.
“We also focused on giving the UX a distinctive driving feel that would resonate with the customer. I wanted to overturn the image of a crossover with a high body that requires careful manoeuvring and offers a car with nimble performance and excellent manoeuvrability that makes it as easy to drive as a hatchback.”
The engineering and design teams worked closely together to produce a car in which the exterior and interior appear almost seamlessly linked. Impressively flared bodywork clothes a cabin that provides a driver-focused cockpit and an open, relaxing space for passengers. While still offering a commanding view from the steering wheel, the UX offers a driving experience that makes the crossover feel more like a responsive hatchback to drive.
The UX further marks a series of technical innovations, including the first use of our new GA-C global architecture platform, which delivers high structural rigidity and a low centre of gravity. A new mid-power, fourth-generation self-charging hybrid system is also deployed for the first time.
2019 Lexus UX: exterior design
With the 2019 Lexus UX, Lexus produced a model with a unique identity within the compact crossover class. Its exterior design immediately expresses the sense of security and solidity customers expect of a crossover. But equally, the UX communicates agility and a fun-to-drive quality through its sleek, attractively condensed appearance.
At the front, the arrangement of the headlights and spindle grille are incorporated into a deep, strong shape created by the bonnet and bumper to generate a sense of security. Shapes emanating from the grille envelop the cabin before condensing to form a dynamically angular rear treatment. Meanwhile, the wheel arches flare outwards from meticulously formed flanks to express strength and dynamism.
Details include daytime running lights located at the top of the headlight units in Lexus’s distinctive L-shape illumination signature. The spindle grille has a complex new mesh pattern with individual block-like elements that change shape as they radiate from the central Lexus emblem, creating an appearance that morphs according to the angle of view.
The rear combination lamps are particularly eye-catching in that they protrude from the body to become functional aerodynamic devices. These curved fins help prevent airflow from wrapping around the rear of the vehicle and keep the whole car stable when driving in crosswinds and cornering.
What’s more, the right and left units are connected by a continuous line of light across the back door – a design that is set to become a new Lexus signature feature. In this case, it is formed by a sequence of 120 LEDs that taper gently toward the centre, measuring just three millimetres thick at its narrowest point.
Four new alloy wheel designs have been produced for the UX, with 17- and 18-inch diameters. The five-spoke 17-inch wheels (above) feature a world-first aerodynamic profile that simultaneously increases airflow to cool the disc brakes while reducing wind resistance – two qualities that have been mutually exclusive until now. Even the wheel arch mouldings are precisely stepped in order to harness airflow and generate a stabilising effect when driving.
Exterior design: F Sport
F Sport versions of the 2019 Lexus UX are clearly differentiated by styling treatments that emphasise the car’s low and wide form. At the front, an exclusive mesh grille references the Lexus F Sport bloodline, while the extra impact is generated by larger fog light bezels. These latter features are detailed with L-shape chrome mouldings and the F-mesh grille pattern.
At the rear, there is an exclusive bumper design with chrome highlights that echo those at the front of the vehicle. Jet black ornamentation on the front and rear mouldings create a sporty appearance, which is further reflected in exclusive 18-inch alloy wheel designs.
2019 Lexus UX: interior design
In creating the 2019 Lexus UX, its designers sought to create a seamless continuity between the exterior and interior. The purpose was to offer the driver an excellent field of vision with a clear sense of the vehicle’s body dimensions.
Looking from the driver’s seat, the upper section of the dashboard appears to extend beyond the windscreen; and from the outside, the bonnet appears to connect directly to the dashboard. It is an effect inspired by a traditional Japanese design concept which blurs the boundary between the inside and outside of a house.
In focusing the operation of all principal vehicle functions towards the driver’s side of the cabin, a relaxing atmosphere is created around the front passenger space. The dashboard has a low, unobtrusive design and the slim A-pillars improve visibility to offer the kind of commanding outward view expected of a crossover.
Chief engineer Chika Kako drew on her past experience in materials development and time spent working in Europe to help define the quality and appearance of the interior. She was particular in demanding an uncluttered, less-is-more approach to achieve the desired effect.
Kako explained: “In the course of [my earlier] work, I learned that even if the elements that make up the interior – such as the seats, instrument panel and ornamentation – are all made to a high specification, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall look will give an elegant impression.
“When it comes to determining whether an interior is good or bad, controlling the overall balance between the continuity, unity and contrast is more important than the relative specifications of individual components.”
Particular attention was paid to the appearance and ease of use of the centre console, including the integration of audio controls into the end of the armrest. In that regard, the shape of the seat backs was defined to make the operation of these controls possible while maintaining a comfortable, natural posture.
Getting in and out of the vehicle has also been made easier and more comfortable through optimal placing of the hip-point, careful shaping of the seat bolsters and specially profiled sills below the doors.
A small but particularly attractive element of the interior concerns the central air vents, which feature a new single-knob control for airflow direction and volume. Each control uses electromagnetic resonance to wirelessly power an integrated LED light source, which is then reflected using mirror optics to create the illusion of greater depth. It is the same design principle used to dramatic effect in the rear lenses of the Lexus LC.
Interior design: superior craftsmanship
The superior craftsmanship that defines Lexus vehicles is evident in the overall build quality of the Lexus UX and in its fine detailing, such as the application of different, unique finishes in the cabin.
The smooth leather upholstery available in the UX is made using sashiko, a traditional Japanese quilting technique that is also applied in the making of judo and kendo martial arts uniforms. The quilted leather is decorated with new perforation patterns that form mathematical curves and gradations, to enhance the appearance of the seats.
The large, sweeping area of the dashboard presented an opportunity to accentuate the cabin’s atmosphere with fine-quality ornamentation. This is available in a choice of two grain patterns and four colours.
The first is a new trim finish inspired by the grain of Japanese washi paper, familiar from the screens used in traditional Japanese homes. Created using a slush-moulding technique and a carefully chosen surface finish, it evokes a calm and warm feeling.
A leather grain finish is also available. Shared with the LC coupe and LS flagship saloon, its inclusion creates a consistent quality across the Lexus brand.
Interior design: F Sport
The Lexus UX F Sport model benefits from a number of exclusive features. These include sports seats made with a highly supportive integrated foaming technique, an eight-inch TFT colour display, and an instrument meter with a moving outer ring. The F Sport steering wheel and shift knob is covered in dimpled leather, while the pedals and footrest are made from aluminium.
2019 Lexus UX: Performance Features
The new UX has been engineered to deliver “elegant performance with peace of mind” consistent in all Lexus models. The foundation for this is the new GA-C global architecture platform, used for the first time in a Lexus.
In addition to two new powertrain debuts and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive in hybrid models, the suspension, steering and wheels have all been developed to support Lexus’s dynamic and performance ambitions for the UX.
Performance features: GA-C platform
The UX is the first Lexus constructed using the new GA-C global architecture platform. Its development focused on endowing the UX with nimble responsiveness while communicating a sense of stability and safety. Extensive use of high-tensile steel around the door apertures, and application of highly rigid adhesive and laser screw welding in key locations have greatly enhanced overall rigidity.
The UX has the lowest centre of gravity of any vehicle in its class, a characteristic that is central to the car’s fine ride and handling quality. It is supported by weight-saving measures in the body construction, including the use of lightweight aluminium for the doors, front wings and bonnet, as well as resin material for the rear hatch.
Performance features: UX 250h
At the heart of the Lexus UX 250h is our new fourth-generation self-charging hybrid electric system, featuring a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission. The new engine is notable for its high thermal efficiency and output, and when combined with the electric motor should generate a total system output of 176bhp.
The powertrain development programme focused not just on outstanding fuel economy but also on a high level of driving appeal. Particular effort was invested in reducing any ‘rubber band’ effect in the operation of the hybrid system and transmission. This was achieved by optimising the level of electric motor assistance to increase the sense of linearity between engine revolutions and acceleration.
The system also features a new compact and lightweight transaxle and power control unit, designed to minimise power losses through heat and friction. A new, smaller nickel-metal-hydride battery with a revised construction and a more compact cooling system is located below the rear seat, minimising load-space intrusion and supporting the UX’s low centre of gravity.
The Lexus UX 250h is also available with E-Four all-wheel drive capability, delivered through an additional electric motor on the rear axle. The torque distribution between the front and rear axles is automatically optimised when accelerating, cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces, contributing to excellent handling stability. When a loss of grip is detected, up to 80% of the system’s torque can be directed to the rear wheels at speeds up to 44mph.
Performance features: F Sport
Lexus UX F Sport models feature exclusive suspension tuning that includes an adjustment to both springs and anti-roll bars. Also available is a specially adapted version of the high-response Adaptive Variable Suspension featured on the flagship LC coupe. When in Sport S+ mode, the system reduces damping force in straight-line driving and increases it when cornering or changing lanes to provide stability with minimal roll.
The driving experience can be further enhanced with Active Sound Control, which gives an aural effect similar to that experienced with geared automatic transmission.
All information was correct at the time of publishing.