Tuesday 22 October 2019

Hybrid? You ain't seen nothing yet, says Lexus as new UX gets here soon

Lexus UX
Lexus UX
Lexus UX
The quality interior of the Lexus UX
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Lexus and Toyota executives at home and abroad have been emphasising the vast improvements in their latest hybrid system.

I've sampled it now in several Corollas, as well as the most recent Lexus, the UX, their first small urban crossover (more anon). And, yes, it is highly impressive.

But according to Mitsuteru Emoto, Lexus' deputy chief engineer of product planning, we haven't seen anything yet.

As is the way of the motor business, they are already working on the next iteration, which will no doubt filter our way over the coming years.

He was responding to questions from yours truly about hybrid's ability to bridge the gap to the big-mileage capabilities of diesel.

I put it to him that most people realistically would opt for diesel if driving 30,000km. He sort of concurred, though he insisted it depended on the type and variety of the driving. Just because diesel suits one 30,000km driver doesn't mean hybrid is ruled out for all, he said.

But his core point to questions he described as "difficult" was that hybrid's ability has not been fully tapped yet and the day isn't so far off when it will more forcefully compete with the 30,000km-plus diesel driver and beyond.

As we spoke at the launch of the new UX urban compact crossover, he certainly brought the future nearer.

And so to the UX. I drove it at its world premiere in Stockholm last year. This Barcelona drive was far better; it mixed city-centre and open-road driving. The car gets here in late March and will cost from €40,200. It will only come as front-wheel drive and hybrid.

My lasting impressions from Stockholm were of the quality of the interior and the car's ability to handle and ride well.

All were reinforced in Spain. It's a car whose looks take a little getting used to. Side-on is the least flattering. I love the front and the rear is hugely colour-sensitive.

It's not tall nor brawny, but neither are its rivals (Volvo XC40, BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA, Jaguar E-PACE).

At the heart of the new hybrid system is a 184bhp 2-litre petrol battery bank (doesn't intrude on boot space) and electric motor system.

Driving it, I was immediately aware of how well cocooned you are from road and tyre noise. There was a maturity to the feel and feedback too. It would be difficult to upset its balance.

Yes, there is the silly 'finger pad' for commands and rear space isn't great (not in rivals either), but overall this UX is a serious entrant in the expanding compact premium crossover segment.

The three trim levels are S-Design (from €40,200), Luxury (€44,950) and F-SPORT (€46,350).

Standard spec includes 17in alloys, 7in media display, Lexus Safety System+, 7in info display, adaptive cruise control all speed, two-zone climate control, lane trace assist, rear camera and parking sensors.

Luxury adds 18in alloys, smooth leather, heated front seats, sat nav and front fogs. F SPORT adds F SPORT design and touches, Tahara upholstery and adaptive variable suspension.

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