Lexus UX Concept: Preview to the Smallest Lexus SUV
With countless software companies proclaiming they know how to build better cars, we were relieved to find Lexus has built an actual car rather than a user experience, which is what UX stands for in the tech community. Instead, the Lexus UX concept is our first good look at the luxury brand s subcompact crossover that will join the growing fray of shrunken, premium SUVs that includes the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Infiniti QX30.
Compared with the smallest Lexus crossover today, the NX. the UX is 9.1 inches stubbier, 5.0 inches lower, 1.2 inches wider, and sports a 0.8 inch tighter wheelbase. Crafted by the company s French design center, the exterior appears conventional only because Lexus has pre-conditioned us with ever-crazier slits, zigzags, spindles, and other exaggerated surface textures across its entire lineup. Just as how the Oxford English Dictionary adds trendy words each year, the UX applies subtle changes to the L-finesse design language that are as much YOLO as they are practical.
The twisted grille is toothier and more three-dimensional, with the L badge serving as a kind of magnet for dozens of skewed V-marks converging toward it. The L-shaped daytime running lamps seamlessly connect to thin headlights, while vertical air vents glow imposingly beneath. Intricate, sprocket-like 21-inch wheels poke from oversize U-shaped fender extensions that break up the otherwise tall body; each of the wheels 18 spokes appears to fade into the tire sidewalls, a clever visual trick that recalls airless tires. Arching fenders rise far above the creased hood and direct the eye toward the slim tail, where jagged LED taillamps poke out almost past the bumper. Lexus notes that the roof rails, A-pillars, and side-view camera housings form one continuous line, although we re more impressed with the A-pillar transparency and their unequal-length fins that trace up to the roof like mini staircases. (For the record, Volvo introduced transparent A-pillars on the SCC concept in 2001, and the idea has since gone nowhere.)
Yet with all this fanfare, the UX is proportioned more like a modern Isuzu VehiCROSS than the silly, space-inefficient four-door coupe look affixed to every German designer s desk. From the side, there s some hint of the Range Rover Evoque with its minimized greenhouse, and what glass peeks through the purple body is electrochromic, an expensive (and Magic, in Mercedes nomenclature) method of tinting windows. The impossibly small rear doors also suggest Lexus could be whipping up both two- and four-door versions of the UX, perhaps to battle similar Evoque models. Another two-door, especially one that affords some rear headroom, would be welcome in this segment.
Inside, the UX introduces a new kind of user experience. While it wouldn t seem comfortable to sit on stretched rubber bands, Lexus claims this flexible, open arrangement (called the Kinetic Seat ) better contours to the pelvis and torso and helps reduce head motions while driving. For what it s worth, the rear seat in a light cream color to offset the dark violet seats up front is a conventional bench.
Aside from the see-through A-pillars and side-view camera displays sitting flush with the door panels, the real excitement comes from holograms, or at least displays designed to resemble holograms. The instrument panel is made to look deeper and farther away than it really is. The same effect applies to the central infotainment display, which has been reconfigured using carousel-style menus. More screens sit under a covered center console with touch-capacitive buttons, along with what we can only hope is a more intuitive touchpad than Lexus uses today to operate the main screen functions. A second touchpad sits on the front passenger s door armrest. And if the UX interior s bisecting lines and holograms become too overwhelming, the passenger can detach a wireless speaker from the dash and run off into the real world for a break from it all.
As for what motivates the UX, Lexus offers no clues. Earlier this year, the company trademarked several alphanumeric model designations UX200, UX250, and UX250h so we can only assume the production car will carry over the NX s 2.0-liter four-cylinder and hybrid-electric powertrains. If you re imagining a chopped-down NX without this concept s excessive fripperies, you re probably not far off. And neither is Lexus, which would like to dominate the sales charts in yet another luxury-SUV segment as soon as possible.
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