A new genre of crossover, an “Urban Explorer”, the Lexus UX hosts held its world debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. It is being bruited about as a free-spirited crossover crafted for the modern urban explorer who seeks a fresh, contemporary and dynamic take on a luxury lifestyle.
Chika Kako, Chief Engineer of the UX said: “Right from the start, I focused on the target customer – mid-30s, millennials, men and women – and tried to understand how they would expect a luxury compact vehicle to change their lives and enable new experiences. That’s what led us to the basic vehicle concept for the UX of Creative Urban Explorer – a new genre of crossover.
“Design is still the main purchase reason for every car, it is the design that promises to the customer what the car can deliver. With the UX the design team have created a style which delivers the strong safe feeling that sets crossovers apart from hatchbacks, but combined it with a very dynamic dimension.
“We also focused on giving the UX a distinctive driving feel that would resonate with the customer. I wanted to overturn the image of a crossover with a high body that requires careful manoeuvring and offer a car with nimble performance and excellent manoeuvrability that make it as easy to drive as a hatchback.”
The UX is a new gateway vehicle for Lexus, it is rich in the qualities that define the brand: brave design, exhilarating performance and imaginative technology.
Led by Chief Engineer Kako and Chief Designer Tetsuo Miki, the development teams have worked closely to produce a car in which the exterior and interior appear almost seamlessly linked. Powerful bodywork, notable for its impressively flared front and rear wings, clothes a cabin that provides a driver-focused cockpit and an open, relaxing space for passengers. While still offering a commanding view from the steering wheel, the UX offers a driving position that makes the crossover feel more like a responsive hatchback to drive, rather than an SUV.
The UX further marks a series of technical innovations, including the first use of the new global architecture platform named GA-C, which delivers fundamental high structural rigidity and a low centre of gravity, thus securing excellent ride quality and stability. New powertrains are also deployed for the first time: a new 2.0-litre petrol engine that reaps the performance and fuel economy benefits of high thermal efficiency; and a new mid- power, fourth generation self-charging hybrid system.
Lexus has produced a design for the UX that expresses the sense of security that is expected of a crossover, but which equally communicates agility and a fun-to-drive quality with sleek, attractively condensed appearance. The result is a model with a unique identity in its segment that makes a strong and appealing design statement. There was close collaboration among all team members, resulting in a harmonious shape that almost seamlessly links the inside and outside of the car.
At the front, the arrangement of the headlights and the spindle grille are incorporated into a deep, strong shape created by the hood and bumper to generate a sense of security. At the rear, a condensed styling treatment contrasts sharply with the flared wings to emphasise the UX’s dynamic and strong crossover qualities.
Details include daytime running lights, arranged in an arrowhead motif above the headlights to emphasise the Lexus L-shaped illumination signature. The spindle grille has a new block-shape mesh pattern with individual elements that gradually change in shape as they radiate out from the central Lexus emblem, giving a three- dimensional look that changes according to the angle of view.
The rear combination lamps have an original and advanced design that is not only eye-catching but also aerodynamically efficient while improving vehicle handling.
Four new aluminium wheel designs have been produced for the UX, with 17 and 18-inch diameters. The five- spoke 17-inch wheels have a world-first aerodynamic design.
The UX measures 4,495mm long, 1,520mm high and 1,840mm wide and has a 2,640mm wheelbase. An 870mm couple distance ensures ample space for rear seat passengers, while the load area is a generous 791mm long.
The car’s proportions allow for excellent manoeuvrability, with a best-in segment 5.2m turning radius. For the driver, a reduced distance between the hip and heel points gives the feel of driving a hatchback rather than an SUV-type vehicle.
The smooth leather upholstery available for the UX is inspired by sashiko, a traditional Japanese quilting technique that is also used in the making of judo and kendo martial arts uniforms. The quilted leather is decorated with new perforation patterns that form mathematical curves and gradations in perfect alignment, enhancing the appearance of the seats.
The UX’s sweeping instrument panel covers a large area, connecting the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle. This provides an opportunity to accentuate the atmosphere of the cabin using fine-quality ornamentation, with a choice of two grain patterns and four colours.
The UX is the first Lexus model to offer a new trim grain finish that’s inspired by the grain of Japanese paper,known as washi, familiar in traditional Japanese homes. Created using slush-moulding and a carefully chosen surface finish, it evokes a calm and warm feeling.
A leather grain finish is also available, shared with the LC coupe and LS flagship sedan and building a consistency of quality across the Lexus brand.
Two new powertrains make their debut: a new, fourth generation self-charging hybrid system with 178 DIN hp/131kW1 and the choice of front wheel drive or E-Four in the UX 250h; and a new 2.0-litre petrol engine with high thermal efficiency, available with a new Direct Shift continuously variable transmission in the UX 200.
Suspension, steering and tyres have also all been developed to support Lexus’ dynamic and performance ambitions for the UX.
First use of new global architecture platform named GA-C
The UX is the first Lexus to be constructed using the new global architecture platform named GA-C, the foundation for the car’s dynamic performance. Its development focused on giving the UX nimble and instant response to the driver’s inputs, while communicating a sense of stability and safety.
The platform allowed for an increase in rigidity, including a high-tensile and ring structure around the rear and back door openings. Highly rigid adhesive and Laser Screw Welding have been used in key locations, greatly enhancing overall rigidity.
Low centre of gravity
The UX has the lowest centre of gravity of any vehicle in its class, thanks to the design of the global architecture- C platform. This characteristic, central to the car’s fine ride and handling quality, is also supported by weight- saving measures in the body construction, including the use of lightweight aluminium for the side doors, fenders and hood, as well as a resin material for the back door.
Suspension and steering
MacPherson strut front suspension and a double wishbone arrangement at the rear have been designed and tuned to promote ride comfort and sharp response. Special attention has been paid to shock absorber performance and the quality of the damper oil, oil seals and friction control.
An Electric Power Steering system with a new compact and highly rigid column assist has been adopted for the UX, with a larger diameter column shaft. This supports handling with crisp, immediate response to driver inputs, with good steering feel.
The Lexus UX 250h will also use a new fourth generation hybrid electric system that features a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT). It will be available both with front- wheel drive and with Lexus’ E-Four.
The new engine is notable for its high thermal efficiency and output, with provisional performance figures for the full hybrid self-charging system (engine and electric motor combined anticipating a maximum 178 DIN hp/131kW).
The powertrain development programme focused not just on outstanding fuel economy, but also on a high level of driving appeal. Particular efforts were made to reduce any “rubber band” effect in the operation of the hybrid system and transmission, by optimising the level of electric motor assistance and engine rpm to generate a linear acceleration feel without the engine running at high revs. Engine rpm are synchronised with the increase in vehicle speed to create an immediate and continuous acceleration feel, responding to the driver’s intentions and creating a pleasant driving feel.
New hybrid transaxle, power control unit and battery
The system has a compact and lightweight new transaxle and Power Control Unit, designed to minimise power losses through heat and friction.
A new nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery is used with a revised construction and more compact cooling system that allows for smaller dimensions overall. This allows the battery to be located below the rear seat, minimising intrusion in the load space and supporting the UX’s low centre of gravity.
The E-Four system gives the UX 250h all-wheel drive capability by placing an additional electric motor on the rear axle. Power distribution between the front and rear axles is automatically optimised when accelerating, cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces. When a loss of rear-wheel grip is detected, the amount of power that can be directed to the rear of the car has been increased from 60 to around 80 per cent, at speeds up to 70km/h, contributing to excellent handling stability.
UX 200 with new 2.0-litre petrol engine
The UX 200 is powered by a new 2.0-litre petrol engine, engineered to provide a high level of dynamic and environmental performance with excellent fuel economy. The in-line four-cylinder unit uses high-speed combustion to achieve enhanced thermal efficiency.
Features which enable this across a wide range of driving scenarios include multi-hole direct fuel injectors, a continuously variable capacity oil pump, a variable cooling system and VVT-iE intelligent variable valve-timing on the intake side. The result is a maximum thermal efficiency of around 40% - a best-in-class level for a passenger vehicle engine.
The new 2.0-litre engine featured in the UX 200 is matched to Lexus’ first Direct Shift-CVT, engineered to provide the smooth, fuel-efficient performance of a conventional continuously variable transmission, but with a direct driving feel.
A conventional system uses two pulleys, connected by a belt, that can change their radius seamlessly, and thus change the effective gear ratio, without any “step” effect.
The new Direct Shift-CVT has additional gears to achieve acceleration at start-up like a manual transmission. This gives the smooth acceleration of a CVT, but with a direct acceleration feel.
In addition, this use of gears for acceleration from start-up reduces the need for the CVT’s pulleys and belt mechanism to be used in the low gear range. This allows more room to be dedicated to the higher gear range.
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