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Attractive, Comfortable, Composed: First Drive of the 2019 Lexus UX

An SUV is not a one-size-fits-all vehicle. Lexus offers a variety of luxury SUVs and crossovers in a multitude of dimensions to serve different purposes. For avid off-readers, there’s the incredibly capable full-size LX. Those seeking a robust body-on-frame rig in a smaller package can opt for the GX. The RX offers dramatic styling and up to three rows of seats.

The 2019 UX is for those buyers who Lexus calls “urban explorers,” people who want a crossover that they can easily maneuver through large cities. In fact, they inspired the name: UX stands for Urban X-(Cross)over.

At six feet wide, five feet tall, and roughly 15 feet long, the UX is approximately one inch narrower, five inches shorter vertically, and six inches shorter horizontally than the NX, and rides on a wheelbase that’s almost an inch smaller. Turning diameter is a metropolis-friendly 34 feet.

The UX rides on Lexus’s new GAC (Global Architecture – Compact) platform, a rigid backbone comprised of high-tensile steel, high-strength adhesives, and Laser Screw Welding. It also introduces a new family of naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines and a new hybrid power system. Those are connected to new transmissions. The UX will be available in two basic models: the gas-only UX 200 and the gas-electric hybrid UX 250h. Both of those can be upgraded with the F Sport appearance and performance package. The UX will be available in 12 colors; Nori Green and Cadmium Orange are exclusive to the UX F Sport.

To experience its all-new UX and do some urban exploring of our own, Lexus invited us to the UX’s North American media launch in Seattle, a city full of busy streets, construction detours, and pedestrians on every corner and in every crosswalk. Thanks to its compact dimensions, the UX was able to weave and dart deftly through all of those diversions and around those people.

After taking a ferry through the morning fog hovering over the Puget Sound, we also got a chance to drive the UX through the picturesque, winding roads of Bainbridge Island, which were lined with towering trees in various shades of rich orange and soft yellow. There may not be a one-size-fits-all crossover out there, but the UX was the perfect fit for our testing environment.

2019 Lexus UX

2019 Lexus UX Exterior

The engineers behind the UX knew that weight is the enemy of agility so they used aluminum for its hood, fenders, and side doors. The rear hatch is made out of a lightweight composite material. Those choices resulted in a curb weight of 3,307 pounds for the front-wheel-drive UX 200 and 3,605 pounds for the all-wheel-drive UX 250h.

Like its siblings, the UX sports a dramatic spindle grille. On the UX, it features inserts that change shape the further they get from the Lexus badge, making the grille look different depending on which angle it’s viewed from.

That’s flanked by standard dual-beam LED headlights. Triple-beam LED headlights are available.

2019 Lexus UX

In profile, the UX looks poised and ready for action, thanks to its chiseled lines and dynamic contours. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard.

Twelve colors are available. Cadmium Orange and Nori Green make their debuts with the UX; Ultra White and Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0 are only available on F Sport models.

The UX’s sculpture-like taillights (aka Aero Stabilizing Blade Lights) don’t just look cool. They also help the UX be more aerodynamic and stable by channeling air that flows down the sides of the UX’s body smoothly behind the rear hatch. Those blades form the beginning and end points of a strip of 120 LEDs that give the UX its signature nighttime lighting.

UX 200 and UX 250h F Sport models come dressed in a mesh grille filled with L-shaped elements, special front and rear bumpers, unique 18-inch wheels, and jet-black trim.

2019 Lexus UX

2019 Lexus UX Interior

The team behind the UX’s cabin wanted to give it the higher seating position of a crossover and the feel of a luxury sedan. They succeeded. Outward visibility was not an issue, even when we were making our way through the parking lots and shopping centers on Bainbridge Island. Ride quality was supple, even in the second row. Legroom back there came up a little short for this 5’10” writer, but headroom was abundant. Interior noise levels were just as low as we expected them to be in a Lexus.

2019 Lexus UX

Drawing on its national heritage, Lexus instilled the UX’s interior with elements of Japanese design. To increase the driver’s field of vision and better their awareness of the UX’s extremities, they used the architectural concept of engawa to make the upper part of the instrument panel appear as if it goes past the windshield and into the front fenders. Available washi trim simulates the grain of Japanese paper. According to Lexus, “It’s common in traditional Japanese homes and evokes a calm and warm feeling.”

Four seat colors are available for the UX 200 and UX 250h: Black, Glazed Caramel, Birch, and Birch with Lapis. Circuit Red is exclusive to UXs with the F Sport package. F Sport models also get front sport seats, LFA-inspired instrumentation, a perforated leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with paddle shifters, an eight-inch TFT center display, and aluminum door sill plates and sport pedals.

2019 Lexus UX

A seven-inch Lexus Multimedia System display is standard equipment in the UX. Opting for the Lexus Navigation System means you get a 10.25-inch screen. Lexus coupled both of those screens with its Remote Touch Interface. It was designed to operate like a smartphone and responds to gestures such as double taps and flicks.

We have good news and bad news about the UX’s available infotainment systems. Here’s the good news: Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility is standard. A six-speaker audio system is the base setup; an eight-speaker system is available. Here’s the bad news: The UX is not available with Android Auto or a Mark Levinson audio package.

2019 Lexus UX

There’s 21.7 cubic feet of luggage space in the back of the UX 200. The UX 250h has a higher rear deck due to the packaging design of its hybrid hardware, so it can hold only 17.1 cubic feet of gear behind its second row.

2019 Lexus UX

2019 Lexus UX Performance

The UX 200 uses a new naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct and port fuel injection to get down the road, whether that goes through the city or the countryside. Output is 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Engineers paired that with an equally new Direct-Shift Continuously Variable Transmission which uses a mechanical gear set to launch the UX from a stop and accelerate, then switches over to CVT operation that can adjust the transmission ratios to simulate the gear changes of a traditional 10-speed automatic gearbox. Fuel economy ratings for the UX 200 are 29 city, 37 highway, and 33 combined mpg.**

2019 Lexus UX

That same 2.0 is under the hood of the UX 250h, but aided by a new 24-kW nickel metal-hydride battery and two electric motor/generators that act as the UX 250h’s transmission. A separate unit is part of the rear differential, giving the UX 250h all-wheel drive at speeds up to 43 mph. Total system horsepower is 181.

The hybrid’s new Predictive Eco Drive Control uses the UX’s navigation system and learns driving habits, predicts the layout of the road ahead, and analyzes traffic reports to strategically charge and discharge the UX 250h’s battery pack.

Predictably, the UX 250h has the fuel economy edge over its gas-only sibling. The EPA gave it ratings of 41 city, 38 highway, and 39 combined mpg.**

2019 Lexus UX

2019 Lexus UX Safety

All UXs are equipped with eight airbags and the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0. That includes automatic high beams, Road Sign Assist for reading important warnings, Lane Tracing Assist for avoiding unintended lane departures, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control for maintaining a set speed and following distance, and Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection – perfect for traveling through city streets full of walking and cycling locals.

The optional Parking Support Alert and Parking Support Brake systems are meant to help UX drivers avoid bumping into objects in front of, behind, and beside them.

2019 Lexus UX

2019 Lexus UX Overall

Lexus took a risk with the 2019 UX. It’s a new model which is smaller than any other crossover it currently offers and debuts several new features. That gamble paid off. The UX is the right size for its intended market and keeps its identity as a Lexus by being attractive, comfortable, quiet, and composed.

The UX 200 will be in showrooms this December; prices start at $32,000.* The base price for the UX 250h is $34,000.* That will arrive in January 2019. To find out which UX is the right fit for you, go to an AutoNation Lexus dealership.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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