After a gestation period of 18 months, the 2019 Lexus UX small crossover utility vehicle is emerging in its U.S. form at this week’s New York auto show.
One full size smaller than the Lexus RX that launched the luxury crossover segment 20 years ago, the UX gives Toyota’s luxury brand an entry in the smaller-than-mid-size crossover segment that’s hot, hot, hot these days.
And like all mainstream Toyota and Lexus models, there’s a hybrid version available.
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That differentiates the 2019 UX from the Toyota C-HR (nee Scion) whose underpinnings it shares.
European buyers can get a C-HR with a fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive, while U.S. buyers paying less for low-end models get neither.
The higher price of the new Lexus, however, leaves room for the extra costs of the hybrid powertrain to be wrapped into the model lineup.
The goal of the Lexus UX is to lure first-time buyers into the luxury brand, much as the now-departed CT 200h compact hatchback did.
The UX clearly has utility-vehicle cues in its styling, which Lexus describes as “daring design meets urban versatility,” complete with “crisp, prominent sculpting and dramatically flared front and rear fenders.”
Buyers will make their own judgment on the current Lexus design idiom, likened by one puzzled journalist a few years ago to “an angry vacuum cleaner.”
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Two powertrains are offered: the 2019 Lexus UX 200 uses a 2.0-liter direct-injected inline-4, rated at 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, to power the front wheels only through a continuously variable transmission.
The hybrid UX 250h uses the same engine, considerably retuned to operate on the fuel-efficient Atkinson Cycle and produce 141 hp, to power the front wheels through Toyota’s latest generation of two-motor parallel hybrid system, with an 88-kilowatt (118-hp) electric motor.
Total output of the hybrid 2019 Lexus UX 250h is 176 hp, Lexus says, and it projected fuel-economy ratings for the hybrid at 38 mpg combined. The conventional gasoline model, the company said, should be rated at 33 mpg combined.
All hybrid UX versions will include “eAWD,” an electric motor on the rear axle that provides power to the two rear wheels when required to maintain traction.
It’s nowhere near a Jeep-like system for rocky terrains, but it will boost peace of mind among anxious drivers in bad weather and offer additional grip in muddy fields, snowy driveways, and the like.
The company plans to offer the UX not only for sale and lease, but also make it available through a subscription service. It released no details, however, saying they would come closer to launch time.
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That information won’t come until much later this year, along with final specifications for trim levels and standard and optional features. Lexus says the UX range won’t arrive at dealerships until December.
Lexus hasn’t announced pricing, but it’s a safe bet that the UX will come in well under the roughly $44,000 Lexus charges for its base RX 350.
For all the latest about the green-car concepts and production models on display in Manhattan, see our New York auto-show news page.