Lexus is not the first brand that pops up in car debates, but that may be changing. People are slow to catch on to good things, but Lexus has enjoyed a record sales year, 70% of which are hybrid SUV’s.
The new Lexus UX F Sport Hybrid is a great introduction to great value luxury SUV’s. First off, it has a 2l 4 cylinder inline petrol engine with a combined 181bhp. The petrol engine pumps out 150bhp and the electric motor over the front axle gives out 107bhp. It does 0-62 in 8.5 secs, with a combined 49mpg, though with careful driving you can probably top that.
The side doors, wings and bonnet are in aluminium and it has a CVT transmission, with normal, eco, EV, sport and sports-plus driving modes. The UX is first to be built on the new Global Architecture platform, with a lower centre of gravity, lightweight super-rigid structure and refined suspension.
The exterior of the car is eye-catching, with lines and layers confounding the eye, changing at different angles, plus a powerful front grille in an hour-glass shape. The glossy and vivid Blazing Carnelian colour makes the car stand out in all the right ways, especially when parked alongside the usual silvers and greys. My first impression was a slightly overwrought design, edges and layers reminiscent of a futuristic manga video game, but it has appeal. The more time I spent with the car the more I began to appreciate the multi-layering both inside and out, and grew to love the style, quality and complexity. Plus the body panels are extremely well fitted, no loose gaps or spaces with this level of craftsmanship.
I had the 18-inch alloy wheels too, which I would recommend, let’s face it the tyres are the only contact with the road, so get the most surface area on offer.
The interior is delightful with black leather-topped dash and red contrast stitching, reminiscent of far more expensive luxury cars. In fact, for the price, it is a very high level of decor, genuine comfort and cosseting. Except for the media control on the centre console which should be metal rather than plastic, spoiling the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar. The car is not hermetically sealed, so there is some noise from the outside. But these are minor niggles, the interior is exceptional for the price, with multiple layering, quality materials and appealing design.
The F sport seats are indispensable, absolutely top-notch for comfort and support, with lumbar adjustment, heating and attractive Tahara upholstery. The retro buttons in a line on the panel are functional and attractive. The meter ring also physically shifts to the right when more display space is required, which is very satisfying to watch.
I do not normally harp on about screen controls as luxury cars all have the usual bits and bobs. But the Lexus puts all the bits on the screen you need and keeps all the bobs as buttons when best. Heated seats are actual physical switches, so easy to find without going through a menu. Some things need to be immediately accessible, especially if your backside gets seriously overcooked.
The Lexus UX F Sport heads up display may well be the best of any car. It clearly shows your speed, the speed limit and mode setting. It alerts you to the speed limit with an orange warning light. It also shows additional info such as music volume when altered and a super retro compass, which is enormously useful and would be a boon in any rally. It also includes a proximity warning with area location, so you know which part of the car is close to something, rather than just panicking you with annoying beeps.
Last note on the controls, I promise, they are all easy to reach without shifting your position, so you’re not taking your eyes off the road, another useful safety feature.
The Lexus also encourages sensible driving, displaying your power use as a video game bar and where the power is coming from; the battery, the engine or the regenerative braking. The operating system also connects to your phone faster than any other system I’ve seen, instantaneously.
The field of vision from the cabin is worth a mention too, well designed around the driver, so even night driving in torrential rain is a relaxed, easy affair.
The car is fairly light at 1.5 tonnes but it does not exactly leap forward when accelerating in Eco or normal mode. However, in Sport-Plus mode it is very responsive and feels a lot faster than the 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds would have you believe. You should be under the 7 seconds if you’re going to claim sports status, but it is more than perky enough for normal road use. The sports suspension tuning with rear dampers and the low centre of gravity for an SUV impart excellent road holding and handling. It’s not a track car, but it is very reliable and firm on the road.
The adaptive suspension in the UX F Sport is impressive, it corners spookily well around even the tightest bends with no yaw. The system monitors your steering, body roll, acceleration and speed to maintain optimum tyre contact with the road.
The hybrid system means you get electric power without having to faff around with cables. The regenerative braking does most of the recharging along with idling recharge. The electric motor handles much of the decelerating too, so your brake pads get less wear and tear. You can have a front-wheel-drive or the E-four all-wheel drive which has another electric motor over the rear axle. I usually like the ability to recharge, but if you’re parking on the street or don’t have a garage, then this is the ideal car. Run silently on EV alone or let the engine cut in smoothly when more power is demanded.
The CVT (continuously variable transmission) and electric motor mean that there is no clutch and no starter motor either, fewer things to go wrong or repair.
I’ve owned many Toyotas (makers of Lexus) and taking them for an MOT was always a breeze. They always seemed to sail through without any extra cost. This deserves highlighting. Toyota makes Lexus to an even higher standard so you can expect excellent reliability, especially when it comes to the resale value as they cost little to maintain as they age. Lexus uses Takumi or artisans who examine every aspect of the car as it leaves the factory, checking over a thousand different quality points. No wonder their repair mechanics are idle.
Following this train of thought, perhaps way past the station, we wondered if they actually maintain any repair garages at all, or were they just sales outlets? So we checked the internet and found that for every Lexus garage there was also a Sulex Tanning and Nail salon registered at the same address. So we looked into this a bit more, spying outside the nearest Lexus centre until we spotted a couple of “mechanics” coming out with suspiciously orange faces. I parked out of sight and came back for a secret visit. Sure enough, the garage was simply a front, an intricate trompe l’oeil hiding a tanning salon. Lexus staff do not get their sun-beaten look from working outside. We cornered one of their mechanics, he had soft hands like a baby‘s bottom, manicured nails, totally free of callouses or grease. Hands more accustomed to a nail brush than a wrench. Toyota was subletting the space as no one brought in faulty cars!
Unlike some brands, they make little money in repairs, but out of fake-bronzing innocent mechanics duped into a life of tanned vanity and unnecessary grooming. This particular mechanic, who wished to remain anonymous, had 6000 beauty addicted Instagram followers. I am sure you share our disgust!
Leaving aside these questionable deceptions, the Lexus UX F Sport gives you everything you really need and leaves out the stuff you think you want, but rarely use. It prioritises Eco-friendly driving over performance and that is no bad thing, whilst it has more pep than the stats would lead you to believe. You also get a three year or 60K mile hybrid warranty and 12 years on corrosion.
In the end, what counts is how a car makes you feel and if you’re happy spending time in it, especially if you spend a long time driving to work or ferrying family around. The more I drove this car, the more I identified with it and enjoyed the comfortable interior and nimble performance. This is a brilliant everyman for family, city runs, tours, holiday jaunts, you name it. I would even be happy taking this on a rally. Excellent luxury for the price.
Price from £34,905