With the UX, Lexus Now Has a Finger In Every Utility Vehicle Pie

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
with the ux lexus now has a finger in every utility vehicle pie

The only thing missing is a cabriolet. With the unveiling of its new UX subcompact (“urban compact crossover” in Lexus parlance), Toyota’s premium division now spans the utility segment gamut, with models ranging from ultra-small unibodies to full-size, body-on-frame luxo-barges.

Lexus’ European arm pulled the wraps off the UX on Tuesday, ahead of the global model’s world premiere in Geneva next week. In the model’s sights are a trio of pint-sized Germans and a singular Japanese foe, all competing for a slice of a segment with unclear growth prospects.

Bearing edgy sheetmetal not dissimilar to the compact NX and midsize RX crossovers, the UX adopts Lexus’ trademark spindle grille and grafts a pair of itty bitty tail fins onto its rear flanks. It’s expected to ride atop Toyota’s TNGA modular platform — the same one underpinning the Toyota C-HR. Thanks to this architecture, Lexus saw fit to boast about the UX’s “exceptional body rigidity” and “low centre of gravity,” which promises agile, car-like handling.

As small, car-based crossovers are absolutely nothing new, it’s hard to imagine there’s still people concerned about body-on-frame/live axle driving dynamics, but maybe urban, European customers really do lie awake at night worrying about this.

While we’ll see the UX on this side of the Atlantic, there’s a question mark hovering over the model’s powertrain. The European setup is expected to be a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder and electric motor combination, delivering greater gusto and economy than an existing small Toyota four-banger. Certainly, the lone naturally aspirated 2.0-liter in the C-HR doesn’t scream “premium.” For a vehicle of this price point (whatever it may be), buyers demand a reasonable measure of power and prestige.

We’ll learn more about this model on March 6th. In the meantime, there’s good reason to wonder whether Lexus’ entry into this segment will grow the market or just steal sales away from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, and Infiniti.

Sales of the Mercedes-Benz GLA in the U.S. peaked in 2015, its first full year on the market. Volume slid slightly the following year, and 2017 saw a further 1.8 percent drop. The Audi Q3, on sale since 2014, rose to a new U.S. sales high last year, but only topped 2016 by 2.9 percent. Infiniti’s QX30, which debuted in 2016, raked in 14,093 sales in its first full year on the market. That tally is significantly below its competition.

The BMW X1 remains top dog in the premium subcompact utility market, with sales rising 10.8 percent in 2017 to 30,826 units. These volumes, while far below those of compact or midsize crossovers, aren’t insignificant. In a mildly contracting new car market, having a higher-margin new vehicle to dangle in front of utility buyers is never a bad thing.

[Image: Lexus Europe]

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  • MelanieRichardson GOOD
  • El scotto @jwee; Sir, a great many of us believe that Musk is somewhere (pretty high) on the spectrum and move on.I work on the fringes of IT. Most of my presentations get picked over extensively and intensely at meetings. I'm smart enough to know I'm not that smart and willingly take advice from the IT crew. I bring them Duck Doughnuts too. We also keep a box of Crayolas in the meeting room.At one meeting an IT guy got way into the details of my presentation, the meeting went long as we discussed my target audience. Same IT guy insisted it was a disaster and would fail miserable and that I was stupid. Yeah, F-boms get dropped at our meetings. I finally had enough and asked if he was such an expert, did he want to stand up in front of 30 senior executives and give the presentation? His response was a flat "NO". He got the box of Crayolas. For you non-military types that means shut up and color. Musk is the same as that IT guy, lots of gyrations but not much on follow-through. Someone just needs to hand him a box of Crayolas.
  • FreedMike The FJ Cruiser would be a better comeback candidate. The gang back at Toyota HQ must be looking at all those Broncos flying off Ford lots and kicking themselves.
  • Tassos 2015 was only 7 years ago. $58k is still a whole lot of $ to pay for a vehicle. FOrtunately one can buy a flagship vehicle with great active and passive safety for half this amount, if one does the SMART thing and buys a pre-owned luxury flagship vehicle. they have historically been SCREAMING BARGAINS. A breadvan on stilts SUV, wether the more compact Macan or the more bloated Cayenne will never pass as a Flagship Vehicle. No matter how well it drives or how reliable it suprisingly is. It still is a breadvan on stilts.
  • Sean Ohsee Bring back the 100 series and its I6 diesel.