Lexus New Zealand has launched a totally new model, the UX. While Lexus still has the smaller CT200 (which will continue production for the time being) the UX is an all-new model, based on the GA-C platform, with a low centre of gravity, alloy doors, bonnet and front fenders. The rear hatch is made of a mix of polymer resin and aluminium.

DriveLife went to the launch of the UX in Auckland on Valentine’s Day.

Paul Carroll, Senior General Manager of Lexus New Zealand, was first up to give us the rundown on sales of luxury SUVs, both globally and nationally.

As far as Lexus goes, global sales are up to almost 700,000 units. This is up 20% up on their 2014 numbers.

The US accounts for almost 50% of all Lexus sales, and the brand is number 4 in Australasia. Last year, Lexus sold 160,000 cars in China, which is 23% of all sales.

Globally, the RX and NX are their top sellers. The sales of sedans are slowly dropping (the IS and the GS), however the ES model still remains high, and is popular in Asia and the USA.

Still looking globally, a quarter of Lexus production is hybrids, while in New Zealand that number is much higher at 45%. “Kiwis really like a hybrid drivetrain,” says Paul.

The luxury car segment accounts for around 10,000 sales per year New Zealand, with Lexus taking an 8.3% slice of that. They expect to sell 200 UXs in 2019.

Still in that luxury car segment, but looking at SUVs only, there were 650 sold here last year, with 64% of all luxury car sales now SUV. This is up from 35% just 5 years ago. Lexus as a brand takes 74% of this segment.

The UX figures high on future plans, with Paul adding that “the UX will add another string to our bow in the luxury SUV market.” He expects half of UX sales to come from previously non Lexus or Toyota buyers. Where are they coming from? Think Q2, X2, XC40, EPACE, and GLA.

Since the UX has already actually been launched, they’ve sold 60 of them in 6 weeks, with 70% of those hybrids.

F Sport model

UX DETAILS

Dion Woison, Team Leader of Product Planning Lexus New Zealand, gave us the more technical run-down of the all-new model. Apparently, the UX represents the future of Lexus, so money is on the table here and now.

In case you were wondering, UX stands for Urban Crossover.

There’s a total of seven models for sale – two petrol-only versions and a full five models that are hybrids. You can see where Lexus believes the future lies, for the time being at least.

The UX200 is the base model, fitted with a 2-litre petrol engine, pumping out 126kW of power and a good 205Nm of torque. Those are respectable numbers. Combined fuel economy on the non-hybrids is rated at 5.8l/100km, and the hybrid 4.5 to 4.8l/100km (dependent on FWD or AWD).

When you have the hybrid powertrain, you get 135kW of combined power.

The engine is fitted with the ‘Direct Shift CVT’ that we first saw on the new Corolla, and includes a ‘real’ first gear for starting off.

There’s a signature grille that is unique to the UX, as well as “flared front and rear fenders to give it an agile and sporty stance” according to Dion.

Across the back, there are 132 LED lights that make up the taillights, and they look very cool indeed.

There’s 3 new colours for the Lexus brand with the UX; Blazing Carmelian, Terrane Khaki, and Celestial Blue. There are also 2 unique (optional) colours just for F Sport buyers.

A plug-in EV model will be coming at some point, but no dates could be confirmed, other than “maybe early 2020s”.

One claim to fame (and rightly so) for the UX is Lexus’ Safety System Plus package. This includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision autonomous emergency braking (AEB), Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Road Sign Assist, automatic and adaptive high beams, adaptive headlights, and lastly vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Lexus claims that Lane Tracing Assist does not need any white lines, and will recognise the sides of the road regardless of any lines.

The big selling point, is that all the safety features in Safety System Plus are standard across the range.

MODELS

The two petrol models available are the base UX200, and then the UX200 F Sport.

In the hybrid range, there’s the FWD range of the UX250h, UX250h F Sport, and UX250h Limited. At the top end is the AWD models of UX250h and UX250h Limited.

One thing Lexus always does well is a range of colours and interior textures – and the UX is no stranger to either. There’s a good range of 12 colours available; yes, some terribly boring silvers and greys, but some amazing ones like the new Terrane Khaki – and shade of green that stands out from the crowd, in a good way.

Interiors come in a range too, with one of the launch cars with a bright-red interior that looked stunning. Definitely my pick if you want to move away from the all-too-common black leather.

There’s seven different interior trims to choose from.

All standard models include the following features: triple drive modes; 18-inch alloy wheels; front and rear parking sensors; smart key entry and push button start; eight speaker sound system; 10.3 inch EMV display; satellite navigation; 7-inch multi information display; front seat heaters; ten-way driver and eight-way front passenger seat electric adjustment; dual zone climate air conditioning; and rain sensing wipers.

The F Sport models add a customisable drive mode in addition to new Sport S/Sport S+ drive modes: adaptive variable suspension; F Sport alloy wheels; adaptive high beam; sports front seats with ventilation; leather accented interior; F Sport pedals, steering wheel paddles, bumpers and grille design; head-up display; and triple LED headlights with dynamic levelling and cleaners.

The Limited models get a 13-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system; sunroof and Japanese paper textured instrument panel finish.

PRICING

UX200 FWD $59,900

UX200 FWD F Sport $69,900

UX250h FWD $62,900

UX250h FWD F Sport $72,900

UX250h FWD Limited $72,900

UX250h AWD $65,900

UX250h AWD Limited $75,900

 

The verdict? As always, we’ll wait until we do a full test (we’ll have a hybrid UX on test shortly) however at first look at the specs and pricing, Lexus has set a cat among the pigeons when it comes to its competitors.

 

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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