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Lexus Debuts “Urban Explorer” In Geneva

Lexus has just shown its first-ever compact luxury crossover, the UX, at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show. The UX, according to Lexus, aims to introduce a bold new design, efficient powertrains, and innovative luxury features all in a smaller, more compact package. And it seems like Lexus is on a roll, as the unveiling of the UX comes after the recent launch of the new LC flagship coupe, LS flagship sedan, and the re-done RX “luxury utility vehicle.”

New Architecture

The UX is the first ride in the Lexus lineup to use the brand’s new “GA-C (Global Architecture – Compact) platform.” Lexus calls it a “super-rigid structure” with a low center of gravity to enhance handling, agility, and ride comfort, along with giving the vehicle a “distinctive driving personality.” No, I’m not sure what they mean exactly, but marketing speak, y’know.

Lexus also says the wheels feature a world-first aerodynamic design. Computer simulations and wind tunnel testing yielded a profile shape for the spokes that increases the airflow to cool the disc brakes, without compromising the vehicle’s coefficient of drag.

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The new Lexus UX will feature 17 and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Engine & Transmission

The 2019 Lexus UX will come in two versions. The first, the UX 200, introduces a new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a new Direct-Shift CVT (continuously variable transmission), an interesting move. The UX 250h pairs that same 2.0-liter gas mill with the brand’s fourth-generation hybrid drive system. Lexus has gone so far as to link the hybrid drive system with a new tech network and the in-car navigation to allow the UX 250h to proactively optimize hybrid operation by learning and adapting to the owner’s routes and driving habits. Is it just me, or does that sound kind of creepy?

But all that, and all the other connectivity features this and USB interface that, are rather beside the point. Look, you and I both know that stem to stern, top to bottom, this thing is going to be kitted out with tech and communication features just this side of the Starship Enterprise. What this is really about is size and packaging.

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The 2019 Lexus UX on display at the 88th Geneva International Motor Show.

Design Language

The design, which is notable for its crisp, prominent sculpting and dramatically flared front and rear fenders, still looks like an SUV, but more compact. The whole design seeks to envelope the cabin and provide a driver-focused cockpit and a roomy, relaxing space for passengers. The vehicle’s smaller proportions (103.9-inch wheelbase) allow for easy maneuverability, with a tiny, best-in-segment, according to Lexus, 34-foot turning circle. The 177-inch length lets the Lexus UX easily slip into “compact only” parking spaces.

Oh, and by the by, UX stands for Urban Explorer, which is cheesy.

Styling Cues

Sadly, the Urban Explorer has that same hideous Lexus spindle grille up front, but this time around it has a new, block-shape mesh pattern with individual elements that gradually change in shape as they radiate out from the central Lexus emblem. Yawn. Daytime running lights are arranged in an arrowhead pattern above the headlights and out back, the rear goes for an elegant yet simple treatment, contrasting with the flared fenders. The UX also sports the company’s latest design feature: full-width taillights formed by 120 LEDs tapering toward the center.

Pricing & Availability

So yeah, the bottom line is this: It’s the new Lexus SUV/crossover that will (most likely) work exceedingly well in mall parking lots as well as in your nearest downtown. The UX 200 and UX 250h will go into production this fall and go on sale in December. No word on pricing yet, but it will be announced closer to that time.

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

2019 Lexus UX Gallery

Photos & Source: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.