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The Top Gear car review:Lexus UX
What is it like on the road?
If you’re expecting a petrol-electric hybrid from Lexus to beat any BMW X1 around corners, forget it. However, the UX is firmly part of the newer generation of Lexus cars – from the LC to the forthcoming new ES – that really do drive better than their predecessors.
With a seating position lower than other SUVs, the UX feels more car-like to manoeuvre. Combine that with lightweight aluminium and composite panels and Lexus claims the UX has the lowest centre of gravity in its class. Either way, there is a surprising agility to the car when twisty roads appear, improved further by Active Cornering Assist, which monitors the vehicle’s trajectory through curves and applies the appropriate braking on the inside wheels to suppress understeer.
Every UX gets Drive Mode Select – a twistable knob unusually situated on the side of the driver display cowl but easy to access – with three settings. Beyond Normal, throttle responses are tempered in Eco, or quickened in Sport and steering feel is increased in the latter mode as well. On F Sport models there are five modes - Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom - which up the ante again plus there’s the option of adaptive variable suspension, which irons out road lumps and bumps well, and is worth ticking.
For those who’ve experienced the sonic schizophrenia of the NX’s sometimes odd acceleration noises and the CT’s early whining, Lexus now offers Active Sound Control, generating better aural effects akin to the up and downshifts of a geared automatic, while Sonic Interaction Design boosts the sound again for Sport S+ mode.
But let’s not swerve the main point of the UX. In eco-conscious family vehicle mode on a brief city-plus-suburban test, 65.7mpg was our real-world result, exactly the same as Lexus’s official combined estimate. Driving vigorously in Sport+ we almost halved that good work, though, recording 34.4mpg. Reality is, Normal or Eco are sufficient for most UX driving scenarios and you can now coast in EV mode up to 71mph for short stretches.
The UX is not about off-road skills either. Yes, there is an all-wheel-drive version with a separate dedicated electric motor generator integrated into the rear differential, which when on-road, feels a little more solid and offers more traction on slippery surfaces. But it’s the front-wheel-drive hybrid which is set to take almost all UK sales, offering better economy, emissions and price for the “creative urban explorers” Lexus is pitching to, regardless of where they actually live.