By on April 8, 2018

With its new UX crossover in tow, Lexus now has a utility vehicle competing in every segment. However, it wants to make sure its getting the right customers behind the wheel. If the gargantuan GL is intended for large families with a fair amount of pocket change and an abundance of parking space, the UX is certainly aimed at childless urbanites who want something upscale but haven’t yet amassed the same level of wealth.

Lexus is aiming low for the subcompact luxury crossover’s base price, hoping to tap into the youth market. That’s important because the average owner for a Lexus-badged vehicle is around 60-years old. However, a cheap and youth-oriented vehicle for Lexus doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for Toyota and the MSRP is going to reflect that — despite UX’s downmarket push.

Mercedes-Benz has the GLA starting at $33,400 and Audi has the Q3 at a somewhat leaner $32,900, so we’d expect Lexus to attempt to undercut them with the UX ever-so-slightly. But that might not be the case. The brand has previously said $30,000 would be too low for a luxury model and, in an interview with Automotive News, Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken said the target market will still have been out of high school for quite some time.

“We are trying to get at an audience that’s probably about 35 years old, men and women by the way, and I suppose you could throw in the millennial group as well,” he elaborated during the New York Auto Show. “And that would be a huge win for us because, clearly, with our current average buyer with all our vehicles at 60, we have a ways to go.”

Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis at AutoPacific, suggested a UX starting price of around $33,000 — which would keep it a comfortable distance from the larger NX’s pre-destination MSRP of $35,985. But the littler Lexus is down on power against its German rivals. Both the GLA and Q3 are equipped with engines producing at least 200 horsepower. Meanwhile, the UX’s “Dynamic Force” 2.0-liter inline-four is only expected to make 168 hp in its base trim.

While that is a significant increase in might over the C-HR, which it shares a platform with, it’s still likely to be a noticeable downgrade in power against the German offerings. Therefore, the UX will have to wow consumers with superior polish and practicality.

This is not inconceivable. The C-HR offers 27 city / 31 highway, according to the EPA, and there is no reason to think the UX’s impressive thermal efficiency won’t adhere closely to those numbers. Lexus also has the benefit of the UX 250h, which adds some extra power, all-wheel drive, and improves economy through hybridization. While the Direct Shift CVT isn’t the most enthralling of transmission types, Lexus says it will feel more natural and fun than a standard unit.

There is also the matter of the UX’s ludicrously tight 17.1-foot turning radius and the inclusion of Toyota’s safety suite. We don’t yet know everything that will be on the crossover but Lexus made mention of a pre-collision system that uses radar to detect pedestrians and bicyclists, two things that are incredibly important during city driving.

However, none of that guarantees a younger audience will take notice. “Our take on millenials is that it’s really, really difficult to tell them, ‘We’re building a car for you.’ That’s almost a turnoff,” explained Bracken. He claimed the solution to that was aggressive market research and the utilization of the brand’s first female chief engineer, Chika Kako. “The styling is polarizing but in a way that people won’t mistake it for the Lexus their grandmother drives,” he said.

Lexus is targeting the UX at the same volume benchmarks it had for the launch of the NX — 20,000 units per year. Also like the NX, it’s hoping the smaller crossover will surpass expectations. The NX moved 43,764 units in the UX during it’s first full year (2015) and sales have increased to almost 60,000 annual deliveries in the United States. Bracken is hoping the addition of a subscription service will help bolster appeal to the younger crowd. “A subscription service is what all the cool kids are doing these days,” he said.

Both the hybrid UX 250h and conventional UX 200 will go on sale in the United States late in the fall.

[Images: Toyota Motor Corp.]

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72 Comments on “Lexus Aiming Low For UX Price, Wants America’s Youth Behind the Wheel...”


  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    “World’s Best for U-Turns!” That’s an unusual slogan, but I’d be interested. Mostly just in how that’s possible. Are they measuring the radius from the inside edge of the car, rather than the outside?

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    So the dynamic force 2.0 in the RAV4 will have 32 more hp over the Lexus UX dynamic force 2.0 ? These are basically the same vehicles
    with Toyota giving it the Pontiac treatment? Or is this the fancy version of the C-HR ?

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Boy, Toyota and Lexus are so smart for avoiding turbo engines, CVTs, and the it-will-end-any-day-now utlity vehicle “fad” (that’s been going on for 25 years or more).

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Lexus NX, standard turbo engine.
      Majority of hybrid models have CVT’s

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I don’t think I’m correctly inferring tone on either JohnTaurus’ or VW4motion’s posts, but Hybrid Synergy Drive and the CVTs in Toyota’s hybrids and the CVTs in the Corolla and C-HR have precious little in common.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Remember when Toyota/Lexus poked fun at the Germans for having turbo engines, as well as diesels? (Since then, they quietly added both, albeit doing away with diesel over in Europe only a short time after having added them.)

      They also poked fun at MB for the entry-level price-point of the CLA (which has since surpassed the $30k mark and has long had an ATP in the mid-high $30k), despite the only reason the CT was over the $30k starting price mark was due to the cost of its hybrid powertrain.

      $33k for the UX is NOT “comfortably” distant from the NX.

      An X1 starts at $33.9k while an X3 starts at $42.6k.

      The NX is often compared against the like of the X1, GLC and Q3 based on price; don’t think pricing the UX so close to them (as well as the NX) is a winning proposition unless the UX brings something special to the table that the Germans don’t (or for that matter, something different than the NX – which don’t see).

  • avatar
    thalter

    Is this FWD-only, like the C-HR? If so, that’s another demerit over the German competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      The hybrid will be AWD. No official news on the non-hybrid getting the same treatment but the TNGA platform should be game if Lexus wanted to go for it. There’s also been some buzz about the CH-R getting an AWD setup in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack7G

      I believe the C-HR (did I get the hyphen right? CH-R?) already offers AWD outside of the US, and we have know for quite some time that TNGA supports AWD readily.

      CHR (there, Toyota!) with no AWD has seemed like a risky move since the beginning. Pointless risk, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Maybe not. The Kia Soul doesn’t offer AWD, either, and it sells just fine. The new Nissan Kicks is…well…new, but we’ll see.

        I can envision a larger niche of non-AWD crossovers, honestly.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    To my surprise, 41% of the available GLAs and 45% of Q3s are under $40k.

    These are small vehicles inside, but Lexus might be on to something to hit such a price point.

    Also, I can see these entries eroding the lower end of the market, such as the Mazda CX-3. For example, if I can get a pimped CX-3 for $30k, why not step up to a GLA/Q3/UX for $35k?

    • 0 avatar
      monkeydelmagico

      Because nothing says I wasted 5 grand on brand image like picking a UX over a CX-3?

      MT recently did comparo of base model NX vs CX-5. The results were predictable. The current crop of Mazda CUVs and SUVs are class leading and punch above their weight.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    So, now we know that no one at Lexus marketing has ever heard of, let alone studied, Scion and its unintended xB audience of 60 year old women.

  • avatar
    Prado

    It is sad to watch the downward spiral of Lexus, as they whore out the brand chasing market share on cheap ugly garbage like this. I’d take the new RAV4 over this everyday of the week. Lexus really needs a new styling direction ASAP.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree. I suspect their historically strong resale is headed lower as well.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Don’t see why that would be – Acura has consistently led the luxury brands in resale value and they are pretty much a FWD-based brand.

        The lower cost/price of having FWD models can actually help resale value on the lower end of the luxury market.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Like I had stated, Lexus is becoming more and more dependent on its FWD-based models to drive sales.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        “Like I had stated, Lexus is becoming more and more dependent on its FWD-based models to drive sales.”

        Look at it more like Lexus is building more of the vehicles the market wants, which happen to be FWD. The RX and ES have been the brand’s bestsellers…pretty much since they came out, anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          A big section of the luxury market are VALUE buyers and hence are attracted to the pricing/packing that FWD delivers.

          Otoh, the pricing of the RX (based on a midsize FWD platform) and the ES (based on a full-size FWD platform) also shows that the market is not willing to pay RWD prices for a FWD vehicle (the ES is priced alongside the compact 3 Series and not even the midsize 5 Series).

          Compare the price of the RX to the X5 – not even close and the X5 surpasses the $110k mark for the M variant, something that Toyota can only dream of doing with the RX.

          Lexus is becoming more and more like Acura.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            As Kyree states, the FWD-ness of the Lexus lineup is decidedly not new. From day one, they’ve had a business model of mixing FWD platforms (the ES, to start with) and RWD platforms (the LS, to start with). The Acura-style (in layout if not tone) front-drivers always have been the volume models as opposed to the BMW/Mercedes-style rear-drivers: the IS (3-Series & C-class), GS (5-Series and E-Class), and LS (7-Series and S-Class).

            Frankly, it’s a pretty interesting strategy.

            Where Lexus has changed is in styling and suspension tuning.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Of course it’s not new, but Lexus is now much more dependent on its FWD models for sales than any time before.

            There were days when Lexus was able to sell the GS (25-33k) and the LS (25-35k) in far greater volume than they do now, as well as the IS (45-55k).

            And one simply can’t blame the move to CUVs as the E Class and 5 Series both had their best sales years in 2013.

            If the rumors are accurate – the GS is either canceled for real this time or is being turned into a low volume “4-door coupe” or liftback, and Lexus turned the LS 500 into a more niche model w/ its sloping roofline and less interior room in the rear rather than continuing to face the S Class head to head.

            For the past few years, Lexus wouldn’t have missed GS and LS sales.

  • avatar

    Lexus clearly does not understand this market if it believes millenials, fresh out of college with massive tuition debt and beginning at the lowest income rung in the ladder of their new careers, can afford – or even want to buy – a luxury vehicle. Not happening.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      They do acknowledge that at a target age of 35, they’re aiming for the old side of Millennial (and at that point, not fresh out of college). Although, bordering on that age, they’ve utterly failed to appeal to me (which I’m sure just devastates them).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Lexus Cimmaron.

    They’ve gone to plaid!

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      How is this any different from the NX, RX, ES, LX and GX (as well as the recently departed CT)?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The Lexi are underpinned by decent proletarian platforms rather than a wretched J-body?

        The RX and ES have been genuinely nice entry-level luxury vehicles for much of their runs, though let us never speak of the 2007-2011 ES ever again. The LX and GX are seriously well-built long-lived solid goods with luxury car interiors that don’t meet market preferences but are far from cheaply rebadged crap like the Cimarron. Don’t let your bias lead you into ridiculous comparisons.

        The NX and CT are a bit embarrassing, but other luxury marques are embarrassing themselves similarly with the X1, Q3, GLA250, CLA, A3 1.8T. Apparently there’s money to be made there.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          The RX and NX are no different from what Acura has been doing w/ the MDX and RDX, and now Infiniti w/ its CUVs (as they have also increasingly abandoned RWD).

          If Lexus had balls, they would have priced the ES in the midsize segment (w/ the other FWD-based sedans on full-size platforms – the XTS, MKX/Conti and RLX), but knew that would mean losing a good chunk of their sales.

          As it turns out, they may be doing that w/ the new ES (at the very least pricing it closer to the midsize segment) if the rumors of the demise of the GS or it being turned into a low volume “4-door coupe” or liftback model are true.

          The LX and GX are basically rebadged Land Cruisers and Prados w/ some nicer interior materials (but hardly nice enough considering their price-point).

          Right now, the Escalade is more differentiated from its more pedestrian siblings w/ its distinct interior and the Navigator is even more so.

          The X1, Q3, GLA, CLA, A3, etc. are all SUB-entry level models.

          The NX is not, being Lexus’ compact CUV offering; and really don’t see how the NX is any more embarrassing than the RX (same formula, just different sausage lengths).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            So now entry-level is sub-entry, and entry-level is mid level?

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Yeah, I meant UX rather than NX. Alphabet nonsense.

            I don’t see much difference in strategy between Escalade and GX/LX–neither Lexus resembles its cheaper platform mate any more than the Escalade does. The Escalade is more aligned with consumer preferences but that’s another matter. The Navigator, however, appears to have raised the bar for throwing everything possible at interior differentiation. Looking at the two, I would think the Lincoln is bound to hurt Escalade sales.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Models like the 3 Series, C Class, X3 and GLK/GLC were and continue to be “entry-level.”

            There now are models which slot underneath them (CLA, GLA, X1, etc.) which are “sub-entry.”

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            As for the current gen Escalade, was launched with a totally different interior that had the Cadillac interior design scheme.

            The GX and LX were launched with interior designs which were much more similar to their Toyota counterparts, but it seems like for the LX, Lexus significantly changed and upgraded the interior for its refresh.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    ““A subscription service is what all the cool kids are doing these days,” he said.”

    Work hard, own nothing, save nothing, pay every business and gov’t entity with its hand out, die penniless. Yup, cool kids indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack7G

      To be fair, it was said more to explain how many manufacturers are offering subscriptions services. And they have yet to be proven wildly popular.

      Also, it isn’t like a subscriber owns materially less than a lessee, and they have considerably smaller future possible risk to their credit for a fairly similar monthly outlay.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Therein lies the problem, a generation of people under the spell of endless media who lack critical thinking skills to see how they are being financially impacted. I was reading a Lifehacker artificial earlier on “phones” and apparently older updated Apple products suffer from performance problems. Curious how they can sabotage my product and get away with it.

        A subscription is typically provided for a ongoing commodity or intellectual property. Subscribing to physical products will create an enormous amount of waste, and leads right into conspicuous consumption. I thought the cool kids were “Green”? Oh wait, green is bullsh!t.

        “possible risk to their credit”

        I might add, when I moved last year every utility company including ADT either did or threatened to do soft credit checks (ADT lies, its a hard pull). Verizon (cell) also does a credit check for service, I can’t recall if the cable company does as well.

        “similar monthly outlay.”

        Rent, rent, rent.

        • 0 avatar
          KalapanaBlack7G

          If you have Comcast, which I believe you might, then yes, there is a soft credit score pull.

          Point taken WRT renting. And I will never buy an Apple product again because of the update-caused near-bricking of my iPhone4. Yes, I have a monthly contract-free plan that necessitated I buy the phone outright, two generations old, for around $400. Less than a year later, an update rendered it operationally obsolete, despite the fact that the hardware wasn’t much less up-to-date than when I purchased it.

          This is the way of the world now. Rent and trade in to stay on the ever-changing bleeding edge. Very few people could afford to BUY the cutting edge so often, and credit is far easier to come by than actual liquid cash. Eventually it will run dry, just like the housing bubble did. But when monthly spreadsheets, segment growth, and sales numbers pay bonuses rather than long-term growth realities, society has to find quick ways of increasing these numbers over the short term.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    If you’re a no bun in the oven, urban 30-35 y.o. on a budget, you’re not spending $35,000 on the el cheapo Lexus just so that you have to spend $250+ month on parking.

    You’re going to order a Uber.

    You know who’s going to like the UX? The 30 y.o.’s empty-nester, retired mom who wants a suburban runabout with the Lexus logo instead of the family’s 3rd CR-V.

    but only if she doesn’t have back issues.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Right on the nose. I pay about that for going to work, and I would be quite irritated if I had a car payment on top of it.

      “no bun in the oven, urban 30-35 y.o. on a budget”

      Old used up skanks?

  • avatar
    gasser

    This car/ CUV will sell on the basis of the lease payment. How far down the road is TMCC willing to chase the 25-35 y.o. customer?? Will all the lease forms be printed with a line for Dad to co-sign the deal?
    But then again, Lexus must know a bit about marketing. I felt sure the NX would canabalize RX sales numbers, but they’re both doing well. I’ve had 3 RXs in the past, but now they are too big and too expensive for this empty nester.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      gasser

      The Lexus RX is winning some new customers with the 3 row version. Other than that sales have been flat since the NX came out.
      The real hit is being fwlt on Lexus Car sales.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack7G

        It is unreal that the hideous new RX is keeping sales numbers aloft.

        The three row version is almost useless, according to C/D. But marketing apparently has spoken.

  • avatar

    It is a Toyota based vehicle and it will be a hit. Toyota is not the world’s most successful car company for nothing. For the next century this is the world’s top car company.

    • 0 avatar

      Wrong. VW is poised to kill Toyota. VW is a Toyota killer like Samsung was Apple killer. Toyota killed GM, VW killed Toyota. Who is going to kill VW? Some unknown Chinese company. China will be the new 3rd Reich and will rule the world not some lowly Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        IBx1

        VW won’t be killing anyone when all they can shoot is their own foot. You cannot suggest the least reliable automaker out there can go toe-to-toe with the most reliable one.

        • 0 avatar
          vehic1

          VW sales are up, boo hoo. And “least reliable”? – according to what? I’ve seen many ratings that show it generally in the middle, not “least”. Perhaps moderately better reliability alone, in mostly minor areas – isn’t enough to keep Toyota a worldwide sales leader.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I do wonder how de-contented it will be to hit that low price point.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      That’s the way I feel about most entry level luxury cars. Give up all that makes their truly upmarket models desirable but keep the hood ornament and pay double what you would for the C-HR. Brilliant exercises in marketing and gullibility.

  • avatar
    Turbo Is Black Magic

    LexusUX … did literally anyone look at this name ?

  • avatar
    W210Driver

    One word: hideous.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    ‘The styling is polarizing ..’

    Translation: We know it’s butt-ugly, but we’re hoping the youngins don’t notice.

    In the SF Bay Area, it appears to me ‘millennials’ prefer Subaru Something-or-Others.

  • avatar
    whisperquiet

    Wow, is that yuck/UX ugly……..I guess it won’t matter to the targeted buyer who is always looking at their phone and not the UX.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    How big of a badge snob do you have to be to buy some undersized, underpowered, mediocre-MPG joke of a vehicle like this over, say, a CR-V Touring for roughly the same starting MSRP?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Heck, a loaded Grand Touring Mazda CX-3 runs less than what the UX may end up starting at – and the CX-3 is a size segment larger, looks way better/classier (looks more like what a luxury CUV should look like) and probably has an interior on par with the UX.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    The advertising tagline should be: “Available AWD for the discerning social climber but standard FWD cuz you won’t be climbing far in a hatchback”.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Is every manufacturer going to offer incrementally different-sized CUV/SUVs now? Oh, wait…just answered my own question. This is getting to the point of being silly.

  • avatar
    RSF

    No sunroof? Good luck with that.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Why do all cars have to look aggressive and angry? What is the driving philosophy behind this design trend? We need more humble and confident designs that don’t SHOUT constantly at other drivers. One can be assertive and confident without driving an angry-looking car. I go back to the LS430 and E38 7 Series for assertive designs that aren’t overly aggressive. That’s how it should be done.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I’ll zig while the B&B zags. Imagine these loaded; leather, NAV, heated/cooled seaats,electronic nannies and other option packages that are “Lexus Only” all included in the low lease payment. Or it could all be marketing cynicism at its finest.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      With a beefier engine it doesn’t sound so bad, maybe it will get a more powerful option down the road. This though, loaded to the gills, while Im sure would be nice, seems like $50k or so better spent elsewhere.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Introducing the Lexu sUX

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Two undignified segments that I am surprised luxury automakers don’t just stay away from:

    -Lightly contented low-$30K “value” models

    -Subcompact CUVs

    This one is both. Icky.

    Actually, I’m not surprised. What are you to do when the more interesting and traditional RWD sedan formats are not popular in the market at large, and in your lineup in particular? The IS350 and GS350 were comparison winners at one point but everyone either wants blobs with ride height or a German badge for Reasons Unknown on their lease-and-dispose entry-level luxury sports sedans.


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