Lexus Is All About Breaking The Mould
Stockholm, Sweden. Home to the Nobel peace prize, birthplace of IKEA, Abba, Spotify, Skype, Minecraft, the coca cola bottle, the propeller, the zipper, the pacemaker and hundreds if not thousands of incredibly handy things you use everyday or simply admire from afar, like the first space camera, the bicycle airbag and dynamite. It is a progressive and dynamic country that seems to be operating in a different time zone to the rest of the world––and I don’t mean GMT, either. It really does feel like they are decades ahead of everyone else; not only in technology, but as a society as well. From almost cashless cities to unisex public bathrooms, Sweden is always pushing an envelope somewhere. It may have only 9 million people, but pound for pound, it has produced more inventions, number 1 hits and just general wowery than any other place on the planet, and its absolutely no coincidence that Lexus chose this exact spot to launch their latest addition their family — the all-new Lexus UX.
Because as far as Lexus is concerned, the future is all about breaking moulds and being everything you thought they weren’t. “The reason we selected Stockholm is because the energy and creativity that this city has is world-class,” said Lexus Asia Pacific vice president David Nordstrom. “It’s often referred to as the world’s biggest small town. It’s lot smaller in size when compared to other European cities like London, Paris, Berlin and Rome. So it gives you a small-town feel with world-class amenities.” And that, in a nutshell, is Lexus.
Old world values, first world technology; a quiet achiever that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself during its relentless pursuit of perfection. Take the UX. There may be nothing new about a luxury automaker developing a crossover to fill a gap in their line up, but their approach to it is. Because while it would have been quite easy to stick with the tried and proven Russian doll formula, instead, they shattered the template and went with a female Japanese designer to ensure they bring something new and fresh to the table.
Not because there was anything wrong with the previous approach, but how will you you know that there’s not something better out there until you take that risk. And from the moment you lay eyes on the UX, with its striking signature spindle grille, triple LED headlights and sharp creases, you know you’re looking at something different––which is good––but my job here was to answer a more pressing question: is it better? Visually, I think so. Because in a segment filled with safe spaces, it is refreshing to see an entry-level model that isn’t scared to stand out of the crowd. But what had me more intrigued was not the design, but the lack of compromises in materials and workmanship.
This is where you normally feel the cost-cutting, yet Lexus have managed to maintain the same premium feel and even introduced some new textures like Japanese paper, that cranks the premium knob up a notch. Attention to detail is still as OC as ever, and if you opt in for the premium Mark Levinson sound system, you will be transported into another level of luxury that is not normally associated with this price bracket. But as impressive as all that is, I half expected most of it. My biggest concern was performance. Because on paper, the UX is about as exciting as a dial tone––168hp, hybrid motor, CVT. Yawn. But what you don’t see or feel is the new mechanical first gear in the CVT that allows more torque to be fired through the transmission on take off and mimics a regular (dare I say, sporty) automatic transmission, that dispenses with the annoying ‘droning’ feeling that’s the curse of most CVTs.
This gives you a real mechanical (or natural) feel on take off before switching to full CVT mode when you don’t need it. It is the first time I’ve tried something like this and I have a feeling we will be seeing many other manufacturers following suit. Knowing that the vast majority (if not all) UX owners will be doing the driving themselves, steering has also been dramatically improved to provide more feel, while the ride, although still built up from Toyota's GA-C (Global Architecture Compact) modular platform and closely related to the affordable C-HR, offers a far more plush feel due to extra laser welding in the chassis and structural adhesives to increase rigidity. The doors, hood and front fenders are also made from aluminum and the liftgate from polymers, which saves weight and improves handling, not to mention the gains in fuel efficiency.
The argument is, and always will be, but do we really need another crossover? And the simple answer to that is, if the auto industry built cars around people’s needs, they would be all one shape and one color. This is an industry driven by wants. And thank heavens for that, because I couldn’t ever convince my wife that I need one, but at least I can build up the courage to say I want one.