The Lexus UX fits a gap in the luxury range, blending car and SUV.
Review and interview by Sam Clark
While test driving the Lexus UX, it was a pleasure to meet its designer Hideaki Iida get an exclusive incite into the car.
Could the Lexus UX be a vision of the future of motoring? Roads are becoming more congested and, as clearly shown by the brilliant speed-limit warning system in the UX, speed cameras are watching nearly every move we make. So will we be looking to spend our money on smaller, more luxurious cars that are nice spaces to be in, rather than buying the largest vehicle with the fastest engines we can?
We started by talking about the initial concept for the UX and what the new car brings to the Lexus range?
I: Lexus, with the introduction of the first RX, is the pioneer in the luxury cross-over segment. As such, our focus is not just to increase our line-up by creating an S, M, L size of the same concept, but rather to create unique models with distinct characters. The role of the UX as an entry-level model is to attract first-time Lexus customers to the brand, therefore we needed to exceed the expectations of those who were challenging enough a try a Lexus.
It was important to convey “a feeling of security and peace of mind” but in combination with the sporty driving feel of a hatchback. Thus, the keywords for the design development were “Secure and Agile”, aiming to convey a design that’s robust yet athletic.
Since their first car, the LS400 launched in 1983, Lexus strove to defy convention with their vehicles and the UX seems to be the embodiment of this balancing act, blurring the boundaries between car and SUV. This concept lies at the core of their design and Iida explained the Lexus ‘Yet’ philosophy
I: The ‘Yet’ philosophy is one of the fundamental pillars of the Lexus brand and is a positive philosophy that lead a breakthrough on our creative thinking. It is the harmonious combination of opposing elements that creates unique, new values; meaning that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Simply put, 1+1=3. This “Yet Philosophy” is an essential factor that differentiates us from our competitors. Based on this, our original inspiration for the UX design came from combining the image of an armored vehicle with a GT racing car.
The UX is full of opposing Yet’s, beautifully balanced in a refined harmony of driving experience, power, technology and luxury – compact yet generous; economical yet powerful; refined yet sporty; secure yet agile.
We drove the F Sport, which has a Sport S+ mode that tunes up the throttle, steering and suspension. And the dashboard rather pleasingly changes to a cool sports display. To be honest, it doesn’t deliver seat-of-your-pants-excitement but that’s not what the UX is really designed for. The self-charging, hybrid engine is defiantly quick enough to be fun and the low center of gravity makes it well-balanced and nimble.
The UX is packed with technology. At first, the dash, media and head-up displays are all a little bewildering but you quickly settle into it. Most of the information is repeated in the different positions so you can just focus on the most comfortable. The lane assist option initially feels slightly awkward but I found the trick is to stop resisting the automated movements and to hold the steering wheel gently and let the car guide you. It all becomes a very relaxed way to drive.
Inside the UX is simply a really nice place to be. The interior flows around you with everything at your fingertips. The attention to detail and carefully considered design is evident everywhere. From the beautifully sculptured, brushed metal door handles to contours above the dashboard that flow out along the bonnet.
I: The interior is inspired by traditional Japanese architecture, where the boundary between the interior and exterior remains blurred. The impression that the instrument panel flows towards the bonnet and the bumpers along with the interior structure that reflects the strength of the exterior, contribute in creating a sense of oneness with the vehicle.
From the very beginning, our aim was to create a visual connection between the exterior and interior. Together, interior and exterior designers studied its design potential on real cars.
The lead interior designer of the production UX, Mr. Masaki MOTOZAKI and I shared the same concept; therefore communication was smooth amongst all designers, which enabled us to achieve a consistent whole.
The UX’s stylish angles and scoops direct airflow around the car. Nowhere more so than the distinctive upward flick at each side of the rear lights.
I: The L-shape is a signature Lexus design cue used within the rear lamps as an iconic feature and is even more recognizable when lit. For the UX however, we took it further and made the design of the lamp itself L-shaped. In the beginning it was far more pronounced, boldly protruding out of the body, but through the development phase, we discovered its aerodynamic potential and refined the design. As a result of a great collaboration with engineers, we achieved to create rear combination lamps that bear our enhanced L-shaped design cue with sophisticated aerodynamic functions.
Living with the UX for a few days we found it a thoroughly enjoyable big-little car. The distinctive looks and active technology gave it a warm and engaging personality and it quickly became part of the family. It’s like a four-wheeled Jack Russell. Eager to please, fiercely protective of its owners and thinks it’s a lot bigger than it is!
For more information about the UX and the full Lexus range visit their website here
Read about the Lexus design process when we were give a rare invitation to visit their secretive design studio, ED2, here