2019 Lexus UX – Another Compact Crossover

AutoInformed.com on Lexus UX

Lexus, the world leader in luxury hybrid vehicles, applied its engineering expertise to the 2019 UX 250h with a new-generation Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain.

The 2019 Lexus UX, another compact crossover, enters a segment as crowded as the A Train in Manhattan during rush hours. With a 103.9-inch wheelbase , 177-inches overall length and a claimed best-in-segment 34-ft. curb-to-curb turning diameter it should  make the boxy Lexus UX easy to maneuver and park.

When it appears at dealerships during December 2018, the UX 200 will have a starting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of more than $33,000. The UX 250h hybrid will follow in January 2019 with a starting MSRP of more than $35,000, adding all-wheel drive, increased power and better fuel efficiency, for $2,000 more. There will be other optional packages as well and AutoInformed bets the first ones will be packed in the  $45,000-$50,000 range.

The forgettable UX name is derived from the design team’s guiding concept and describes the vehicle’s mission: Urban + X-over (crossover) = UX.

The UX is the first Lexus from a new common Global Architecture Compact (GA-C) platform. A lightweight yet rigid structure is claimed, along with a low center of gravity and refined suspension tuning. Without a test drive yet, Lexus claims of exemplary handling agility and ride comfort, along with a distinctive driving personality are independently unverified.

“I wanted to positively overturn the image of a crossover (whatever that is Apple sauce?there are more than 70 new crossovers due for introduction by the early 2020s?) and offer a car with nimble performance and excellent maneuverability that makes it as easy to drive as a sedan,” said Chika Kako, executive vice president of Lexus International and chief engineer of the UX.

The 2019 UX is available in two versions: the front-wheel-drive UX 200 introduces a new high-efficiency 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine coupled with a new 10-speed Direct Shift Continuously Variable Transmission (DCVT). The all-wheel-drive UX 250h pairs an even higher-efficiency version of the 2.0-liter gas engine with a new fourth-generation hybrid drive system engineered specifically for this platform. It’s a soccer moms’ special.

 Powertrain

The 2019 Lexus UX 200 delivers a combination of engaging performance and high efficiency from a new 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine. Combining revolutionary laser-clad intake valve seats with an all-new intake port profile, high compression ratio (13:1) and D-4S direct plus port fuel injection make this one of the most efficient engines on the market. VVT-iE intelligent variable valve-timing with an electric actuator on the intake side also enhances drivability while reducing emissions.

At 169 horsepower, the UX 200 engine offers output similar to some competitors’ 1.5 liter turbo engines, but with less complexity, less under-hood heat, and lower powerplant weight for better vehicle balance. The engine produces 151 lb.-f.t of peak torque to give the UX excellent responsiveness in all driving situations.  Lexus claims 8.9 sec. 0-60 mph (9.2 sec. 0-100 km/h) 118 mph (190 km/h) electronically limited top speed, and an estimated 33 MPG Combined.

A continuously variable capacity oil pump and a variable cooling system with an electric water pump contribute to ultra-low internal friction, further maximizing engine performance and fuel efficiency. The cooling system also has two flow-shutting valves to ensure quicker cabin heating on cold days and quicker cool-down when the air conditioner is used.

Exhaust heat recirculation enables quick engine warm-up to reduce emissions, while a gas particulate filter provides high-efficiency particulate material removal to EURO6d PN (particulate number) regulations.

The new Direct-Shift Continuously Variable Transmission (DCVT) combines the smooth, fuel-efficient performance of a continuously variable transmission with a more direct driving feel. The key to its distinct performance feel is a mechanical gearset that is used to start from a stand-still and accelerate before handing off to the continuously variable transmission pulley system. The result is direct, linear and quick initial acceleration, while maintaining the benefits of a continuously variable transmission at mid- and higher speeds. Also, because the fixed-ratio first gear reduces the load on the belt and pulleys mechanism for start-off and low-speed driving, the pulleys can be made smaller and lighter while providing a wider range of gear ratios. The result is quicker ratio changes during acceleration and an overall ratio spread that helps maximize fuel efficiency.

Under strong acceleration, the DCVT can freely adjust the transmission ratio to simulate gear changes like a multi-gear automatic transmission. Synchronization of the increasing engine revs and vehicle speed provides a linear acceleration feel.

UX 250h: New-Gen Lexus Hybrid Drive

Lexus, the world leader in luxury hybrid vehicles, applied its engineering expertise to the 2019 UX 250h with a new-generation Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain. With 175 total system horsepower, the UX 250h is the fuel-efficient leader with the best MPG of any CUV and SUV without a plug in the U.S. market. This hybrid provides exhilarating driving with high-speed responsiveness and a feeling of smooth, natural acceleration. The UX 250h is equipped with all-wheel drive standard.

The hybrid system combines the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine found in the UX 200 with two electric motor/generators in a new-generation hybrid transaxle that is more compact, lighter and has less internal friction than previous Lexus hybrid systems. Compared to similarly-sized Lexus hybrids, the power control unit of the UX is more powerful yet 20% smaller and 10% lighter. This means 110 mph (177 km/h) electronically limited top speed; an estimated 38 MPG Combined and 8.9 sec. 0-60 mph (9.2 sec. 0-100 km/h)

Optimizing the level of electric motor assistance and engine RPM produces a linear acceleration feel without the engine having to run at high revs. Engine speed is synchronized with vehicle speed to create an immediate and continuous acceleration feel.

The new transaxle mounts the electric motor-generators (MG1 and MG2) coaxially rather than in-line. The resulting smaller and lighter package reduces frictional losses by 25% compared to the previous Lexus hybrids. In addition, MG2 is now a higher-speed motor, yielding better performance and efficiency.

The Sequential Shift feature delivers responsive engine braking force in 10 steps with a shift feel similar to a manual transmission, using steering wheel paddle shift switches or the S position on the shift lever.

The speed at which the hybrid system can shut off the gasoline engine, such as when driving on long downward slopes, has been raised from the 43 mph of previous Lexus hybrids to 71 mph for the UX 250h.

Locating the new compact and lightweight nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery and compact cooling system below the rear seat helps maximize cabin and cargo area space, and their location supports the vehicle’s low center of gravity.

All-Wheel-Drive

The UX 250h model offers all-wheel drive (AWD) using a separate, dedicated electric motor-generator with 7-horsepower output integrated into the rear differential. Power distribution between the front and rear axles is automatically optimized by the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system when accelerating, cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces. AWD provides stable driving on uphill slopes or snow-covered roads with lower fuel consumption than a conventional all-wheel drive system that employs a power split device and driveshaft. AWD does more than assist traction in slippery conditions; the system can actively improve stability by adjusting rear-wheel power to help correct an over- or understeer condition.

Drive Mode Select

Both the UX 200 and UX 250h Hybrid are equipped with Lexus Drive Mode Select, which allows the driver to tailor the driving experience by selecting from three different drive modes.

Normal mode provides an optimal balance between driving performance and fuel efficiency; ECO mode maximizes fuel savings across all driving conditions by smoothing the throttle response, and by moderating air conditioning operation; Sport Mode delivers quicker throttle response and increased power steering feel.

ECO Drive Control

The UX 250h debuts Predictive Eco Drive Control, (groan) a world-first system that, coupling with the navigation system, learns driving habits, predicts the expected roadway ahead and analyzes real-time traffic reports to optimize charging and discharging of the hybrid battery. The more miles the UX 250h is driven, the more data is gathered to help optimize fuel consumption. (The system can be turned off if desired.)

Also operational with navigation, Predictive Deceleration Support technology uses accumulated knowledge about a driver’s behavior to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. For example, when the UX approaches a location where the driver has slowed or stopped in the past, and the driver releases the accelerator pedal, Predictive Deceleration Support increases regenerative braking, allowing more efficient energy to be recovered and recharged into the hybrid battery. The system can provide deceleration support up to about 1,000 feet ahead of the vehicle.

Predictive State of Charge (SOC) control for the hybrid battery is a world-first technology that functions on both downhill roads and in congested traffic. Operating when the UX is following guidance from the navigation system, it will predict the route for a distance of up to 6 miles ahead to optimize the conditions under which it can regenerate energy, earning power for future driving.

 An example of benefits: On a long, downhill stretch of road, with the hybrid battery storing a large amount of energy, a full charge could be reached partway down the hill. Beyond that point, any additional regenerated energy cannot be recovered, effectively wasting it. Instead, Downhill SOC control uses gradient information from map data to calculate when a long downhill stretch of road lies ahead and then actively relies on battery-only driving to reduce the level of battery charge prior to that regeneration opportunity. Fuel efficiency improves since the level of battery charging gained on that downhill section is increased.

In stop-and-go traffic or low-speed driving, the electric motor is used more, reducing the hybrid battery’s charge. In this scenario, Congestion SOC control uses traffic information from the navigation system to determine if there is any congestion on the planned route. If so, it actively charges the hybrid battery before reaching the congested area, reducing the need of forced engine start to charge the battery in those conditions.

Exterior Design

The Lexus UX is rolling demonstration of design clichés now in widespread use. In styling babble, it is “a leap forward in the compact luxury crossover segment. The signature grille, though sharing its basic form with other Lexus models, is unique to the UX. It features a new block-shape mesh pattern with individual elements that gradually change in shape as they radiate out from the central Lexus emblem. The grille creates an intriguing three-dimensional appearance that changes with the viewing angle.” In the simpler days this was known as a bold new grille.

“The headlamp design completes the UX’s face, giving it a determined, confident gaze. LED daytime running lights arranged in an arrowhead motif above the headlights complement the Lexus L-shaped lighting signature. These appear like brows above the standard single-projector dual-beam LED headlights or the optional ultra-small 3-projector LED units.” This is the current LED trend where using lighted lines to call attention to a drab exterior instead of chrome, which once attempted to make a car distinctive, would be used in the past.

“The full-width rear lights project a distinctive nighttime signature formed by a sequence of 120 LEDs tapering toward the center, measuring just 1/8” thin at its narrowest point.” Now LED jewelry make the car, not chrome. “The vehicle’s basic form flows out from the lines of the signature grille to envelop the cabin. Crisp, prominent sculpted surfaces and dramatically flared front and rear fenders reflect the robust inspiration, while an aerodynamic profile, large wheels pushed to the corners, and an impressive front fascia create the agile, sporty stance.” Takumi (Japanese for artisan) clay modelers worked with design and engineering to refine all exterior surfaces of the UX. In keeping with Japanese body building standards that a long time ago caught the Germans and American makers asleep, surfaces are shaped down to the 0.01 mm level, which appears close to a record for what could be produced in body-stamping presses. The “Aero Stabilizing Blade Lights” begin at the top of the rear fenders and span the rear of the vehicle. By guiding airflow around the rear of the UX, this design also reduces turbulence and lift, in theory helping vehicle stability when cornering or driving in crosswinds. A wing-type spoiler at the rear edge of the roof, along with a flat underbody, contribute to vehicle quietness, fuel efficiency and aerodynamics. No actual test numbers or comparative data or fuel economy benefits were specified.

Colors

The 2019 Lexus UX is offered in 12 exterior colors to accentuate its lines. Two of those colors, Ultra White and Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0, are exclusive to the F SPORT as Lexus along with every other luxury vehicle purveyor struggles with the dichotomy – Grand Canyon sized – between luxury buyers who are the auto equivalent of the me generation hopeless wrapped up in themselves, and reluctant buyers who really want a sports car, but crave the space of a two-box utility, but not its numbness.

Two new colors were developed for the UX: Cadmium Orange creates of depth using a multi-layer painting process that combines a red color base layer with a yellow interference mica layer. Nori Green offers a contrast between bright highlights and dark shades. The mica particles have been enlarged as much as possible it’s said without creating color unevenness, achieving high brilliance while expressing toughness, according to Lexus.

F Sport Performance

The F SPORT package is available for both the UX 200 and UX 250h. This is likely the pick of the litter – just bring money.  Exclusive F SPORT suspension tuning includes revised springs and stabilizer bars for a tauter ride. The 18-inch, twin-spoke aluminum alloy wheels unique to the F SPORT are said to be more rigid than standard UX wheels, contributing to responsiveness and handling agility. The implication is that Lexus might be using a standard wheel that is inferior on other models to save money.

The F SPORT “Lexus snout” transformation includes an exclusive grille design with a mesh-pattern created by individual L-shaped pieces. The exclusive F SPORT front bumper features large LED fog lamp bezels with L-shaped chrome moldings (chrome makes the bumper, but they are not Dagmars of, say, a 1955 Cadillac?), cornering lamps and the same mesh pattern as the grille. A revised rear bumper and black trim on the front and rear moldings complete the “F SPORT look.”  

The F SPORT-exclusive interior has front sports seats made with an integrated-foaming technique first developed for Lexus F models. A perforated leather-trimmed F SPORT steering wheel with – what else – paddle shifters, leather-trimmed perforated shift knob, 8-inch TFT color display, aluminum pedals, aluminum door scuff plates and footrest are also part of the package. The UX F SPORT has Active Sound Control (ASC), which generates the aural effect of up- and down-shifts like those of a geared automatic transmission – A faux manual sound for the no doubt soul-less CVT.

Interior

Lexus designed the UX cabin to :evoke the feel of a luxury sedan, but with the higher seating position and versatility experienced in a crossover.” The materials and workmanship are pure Lexus, combining Japanese craftsmanship with innovative production techniques. Designers claim to have created a feeling of seamless continuity inside the UX. Japanese concept engawa, creates an effect where the upper section of the instrument panel appears to extend out beyond the windshield into the fenders, providing an excellent field of vision and a sense of the vehicle’s dimensions and tire placement. The engawa effect allegedly makes parking in small spaces an easier task. When viewed from outside the vehicle, the hood appears to connect directly to the instrument panel through the windshield, blurring the boundary between interior and exterior. Typical of Lexus, the UX most certainly will have a quiet driving experience with aerodynamic features to reduce common noises for drivers and passengers. Noise reduction is accomplished with a high-strength structure and optimal placement of specially designed sound-absorbing and insulating materials throughout the body.

Intuitive Controls

 The UX instrument panel design, in what likely is a cost cutting move, combines a rather smallish 7-inch TFT LCD faux display meter that digitally creates analog gauges in a three-dimensional space.  The F SPORT has a larger 8-inch TFT LCD display that varies depending on the powertrain (gas or hybrid) and the selected drive mode. For the F SPORT only, the movable meter ring, which originated in the Lexus LFA supercar and is also in the LC premium coupe, allows displayed content to be easily changed.

Pushing a switch on the steering wheel moves the ring to the right and enlarges the multi-information display. An optional head-up display projects vehicle information in the driver’s line of sight. The large color display creates a virtual “screen” 8 ft. in front of the driver, making it easier to focus on the display as well as objects in front of the vehicle. The bright, high-contrast display is said to be easy to see in daylight and in snowy conditions.

The Lexus Remote Touch Interface (RTI) with haptic feedback (perception and manipulation of objects using the sense of touch) in the 2019 UX is designed to feel as familiar to use as a smartphone. The RTI uses double-tapping and flicking, to mimic common phone gestures. Frameless construction eliminates edges, and a special coating on the touch pad surface lets fingers easily slide over it while minimizing the appearance of fingerprints. The touchpad can recognize numbers and block letters when typing a search name.

Touchpad surface haptic vibrations indicate to the user when the cursor is moved, making it easier to align the cursor with the desired function button. A switch at the base of the touch pad can call up an operation screen with related functions, such as air conditioning and navigation, enabling easier access without going through menus. The UX has newly-developed 2nd–generation run flat tires that allegedly are quieter and more comfortable than previous designs, while now allowing driving with a flat tire at speeds up to 50 mph for up to 100 miles. (These claims are made every time a run flat is introduced at any maker.)

Connected Crossover

The 2019 Lexus UX models offer the latest in the brand’s multimedia and navigation technology. A 7-inch Lexus Multimedia System (LMS) display is standard, and a 10.25-inch screen is used with the “bring more money” Lexus Navigation system. The standard Lexus Premium Sound System can play back the highest-resolution digital audio formats (WAV, FLAC, ALAC, and OGG Orbis) from a USB device while dual rear-seat USB ports enable passengers to use and recharge their smartphones or tablets. The standard 6-speaker system and optional 8-speaker upgrade system use bamboo charcoal speaker diaphragms to reduce mass and deliver natural-sounding voices and improved mid-range sound. Both systems allegedly create a more lifelike soundstage by using tweeters mounted at the sides of the instrument panel reflecting sound off the windshield. The 8-speaker system adds a center-dash tweeter, a sub-woofer mounted in the luggage area and a more powerful amplifier.

All UX drivers will be able to lock/unlock their doors, start their engine, or check their fuel level, all from the convenience of their smartwatch, Amazon Alexa-enabled, or Google Assistant enabled device. It’s voice controllable, and compatible with some Android or Apple devices. All UX models will also come standard with Apple CarPlay phone link. Once a compatible iPhone is connected through a USB cable, drivers can access Apple Music, Google maps, Waze, plus make phone calls and send and receive messages all through the multimedia display or with voice control through Siri. Apple CarPlay also enables access to the music streaming app Spotify. The music streaming service has compiled its over one million driving-themed playlists into a CarPlay hub. Monday morning commuters receive recommendations for upbeat songs to help energize them for the week ahead. On a Friday, travelers gearing up for the weekend receive brand new music from Spotify’s popular Release Radar playlist.

Structure

Extensive use of high-tensile steel, high-strength adhesives and Laser Screw Welding results in a highly rigid structure, an essential foundation for handling and ride comfort. By using aluminum for the side doors, fenders and hood and composite materials for the tailgate, the UX has among the lowest center of gravity of any vehicle in its class at 23.4 inches. As a result, it’s claimed the UX delivers a secure feeling associated with lower sport hatches. A unique ring structure around the rear opening and behind the rear seats increases torsional rigidity to enhance crash performance, improve handling and reduce noise and vibration.

The MacPherson strut front suspension (Cheap, bad) and multilink rear suspension with trailing arms, both mounted to sub-frames, are “specially tuned to deliver a combination of agility and comfort over well-worn urban street surfaces. Refinement via the quality of the damper oil, oil seals and friction control in the shock absorbers allegedly make a significant positive impact on ride quality. An upper strut brace increases torsional rigidity of the engine bay, and the steering rack bolts directly to the sub-frame without rubber bushings for more direct steering feel. Active Cornering Assist (ACA), a function integrated with Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), helps the vehicle trace the driver’s desired line through a turn by applying some brake control on the inside wheels, suppressing the tendency to understeer. As a result, the UX drives through corners with greater precision while maintaining stability.

Safety and Driver Assist

UX models are equipped with eight airbags: driver and front passenger airbags; driver and front passenger knee airbags; driver and front passenger seat-mounted side impact airbags and front to rear side curtain airbags. The standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 includes:

  • ·        Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Pedestrian Detectio
  • ·        All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Contro
  • ·        Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assis
  • ·        Lane Tracing Assis
  • ·        Road Sign Assist (RSA
  • ·        Intelligent High-Beam headlamps

The Pre-Collision System uses a forward-facing camera and grille-mounted radar system designed to help mitigate or avoid a frontal collision. LSS+ 2.0 enhances this system with the addition of low-light detection for pedestrians, plus daytime detection of bicycles. Under certain conditions, if the Pre-Collision System determines that the possibility of a frontal collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist is high, it prompts the driver to take evasive action and brake by using an audio and visual alert. If the driver notices the hazard and brakes, the system may use Brake Assist to provide additional braking force.

If the driver does not brake in a set time and the system determines that the risk of collision with a pedestrian or bicycle is extremely high, the system may automatically apply the brakes, reducing speed to help mitigate the impact or avoid the collision entirely if possible.

Dynamic Radar Cruise Control uses a front grille-mounted radar and a forward-facing camera to detect vehicles ahead and automatically adjust the vehicle’s speed to help maintain a pre-set distance. DRCC operates between 0-110 mph but must be initiated at speeds above 19 mph.

Lane Departure Alert is designed to use the vehicle’s forward-facing camera to detect lane departure when traveling on relatively straight roads with clear lane markings, road edges or curbs when DRCC is operating and when two visible lane lines are detected. The system’s current operating status is indicated through colored lane marking illustrations on the vehicle’s Multi-Information Display. If Lane Departure notes that the vehicle is starting to unintentionally deviate from its visibly marked lane, the system alerts the driver with an audio and visual alert. In addition to the alert function, all UX vehicles are equipped with Electronic Power Steering (EPS) also include Steering Assist. When this functionality is enabled and Lane Departure Alert senses that the vehicle is unintentionally drifting from its lane, big brother may automatically make small corrective steering inputs to help the driver keep the vehicle in its lane.

Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) is designed to work with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control to keep the vehicle centered in its visibly marked lane and pre-emptively avoid unintended lane departures. LTA uses a forward-facing camera to monitor lane markings – as well as the path of the vehicle ahead, if needed (oh dear) – and is designed to automatically make constant steering inputs to help keep the vehicle centered in its lane. LTA does require the driver’s hands to remain on the steering wheel.

Road Sign Assist is designed to read certain traffic signs and display them on the vehicle’s Multi-Information Display (MID). The system can read Speed Limit, Stop, Yield, and Do Not Enter signs. Intelligent High Beam is a safety system designed to help the driver see more clearly at night – while reducing glare for other drivers. By using high beams more frequently, the system may allow earlier detection of pedestrians and obstacles.

When activated, Intelligent High Beam is designed to rely on an in-vehicle camera to help detect the headlights of oncoming vehicles and taillights of preceding vehicles, then automatically toggle between high and low beams.

Other optional safety systems include Parking Support Alert (PSA) and Parking Support Brake (PSB). PSA can detect crossing vehicles from the sides and static vehicles in front of or behind the UX when parking over a broader range of conditions than previous clearance sonar or rear cross traffic systems, and uses digital camera images on the center display along with sounds to alert the driver to potential risks.

The PSB system adds throttle and braking control to audible and visual warnings to reduce the possibility of contact with moving objects ahead or behind the UX when parking.

 

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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