The 2019 Lexus UX, the SUV/crossover for well-heeled Urban eXplorers (get it?) just hit the stage at this year’s New York International Auto Show. The UX rides on two powertrains that show it’s for the city, not the country, and definitely not for going off-road in any serious way. Basically, there are two kinds: the front-wheel drive UX 200 with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a Direct-Shift CVT, and the UX 250h, which has an Atikinson Cycle version of the same 2.0-liter gas engine, coupled to a fourth-generation hybrid drive system and eAWD.
The UX resides on a 103.9-inch wheelbase for a smooth, stable ride and lots of interior space. This, combined with the overall length of 177 inches and a tight turning radius, lets the UX easily fit into convenient, compact-only parking spots. The chassis is Lexus’ first use of the Global Architecture – Compact platform, which the company says is a rigid structure, with a low center of gravity for precise handling and ride comfort.
There are MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone-type rear suspension, and both are specially tuned for a combination of “urban agility and comfort over well-worn streets.” Electric power steering is also along for the ride with a compact and rigid column assist for crisp, immediate response.
Power & Performance
That new 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine delivers 169 horsepower to the front wheels, using multi-hole direct fuel injectors, a continuously variable capacity oil pump, and variable valve-timing on the intake side. The Direct Shift-CVT also debuts in the UX 200, adding a traditional gear set (beginning from a stop) to give the UX quicker, more linear acceleration off the line. The UX 250h hybrid, on the other hand, goes with an Atkinson Cycle version of the 2.0-liter that puts out 181 total system horsepower. It gets 39 combined mpg – not bad all around.
Sadly, if somewhat predictably, the UX 250h model is the only one with all-wheel drive. But hey, these things aren’t for surviving the zombie apocalypse, so you most likely won’t miss it. The UX 250h adds an electric motor to the rear axle; power is distributed between the front and rear axles and automatically optimized when accelerating, cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces. The eAWD control system is clever enough to improve stability by introducing drag (i.e. hitting the brakes on one corner) or adding power to help correct an over or understeer situation.
The Lexus UX 250h also comes with Predictive Efficient Drive, a system that analyzes driving habits along with road and traffic conditions to optimize charging and discharging of the battery. It’s a pretty trick, if somewhat creepy system, that uses accumulated knowledge about a driver’s behavior to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. Tied in with the Predictive Efficient Drive system is the Predictive State of Charge control for the battery, a thingy that uses data from the navigation system to predict the optimal times for recharging it.
And yes, since this is the year 2019 and the UX is aimed right at you urbane urban types, it is drowning in connected tech and safety features. There’s Amazon Alexa integration to see to all your music and media needs, read you a Kindle book, and control your swank smart home devices. On board safety features include the Lexus Safety System+, Lane Tracing Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, and Road Sign Assist. The vehicle can even recognize pedestrians at night and detect cyclists.
Availability & In Person
The UX will be offered through a subscription service, which should appeal to a certain younger segment of potential buyers. If you prefer the old fashioned way of buying your vehicles, the 2019 Lexus UX 250h with all-wheel drive starts at $34,000. The non-hybrid version starts at $32,000.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.