Thursday, 20 Jun 2019

The 2019 Lexus UX 200 and UX 250h First Drive Review: A Small, Smart, Nimble City Specialist



  • From the Press release: “Apple CarPlay also enables access to the music streaming app Spotify®. As a special feature for UX drivers, the music streaming service has compiled its over one million driving-themed playlists into a CarPlay hub. Monday morning commuters receive recommendations for upbeat songs to help energize them for the week ahead. On a Friday, travelers gearing up for the weekend receive brand new music from Spotify’s popular Release Radar playlist.” Leaving aside the shivering horror that is the idea of “recommendations for upbeat songs to help energize [you] for the week ahead,” the reason the UX gets CarPlay but not Android Auto is because around 80 percent of Lexus buyers use Apple products. I have to imagine the pressure behind the scenes from Apple and Google is enormous, otherwise why not offer both on what’s meant to be a tech-forward car? (The answer could be cost, with Lexus positioning this car very aggressively at $32,000/$34,000.)
  • If you don’t think the move to self-driving cars is coming piecemeal and sometimes in the fine print, check out this bit of creepiness: “Also operational with navigation, Predictive Deceleration Support technology uses accumulated knowledge about a driver’s behavior to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. For example, when the UX approaches a location where the driver has slowed or stopped in the past, and the driver releases the accelerator pedal, Predictive Deceleration Support increases regenerative braking, allowing more efficient energy to be recovered and recharged into the hybrid battery. The system can provide deceleration support up to about 1,000 feet ahead of the vehicle.” It will also add brakes to long downhill descents.
    • Related: It should go without saying, but if you fail to remind a driver how much his car weighs by doing the braking for him, it won’t take long for him to forget. This is how one creates the demand for autonomous cars: by encouraging drivers—slowly, steadily—to forget how to drive.
  • With Lexus + Alexa, Amazon’s home-assistant has been integrated into all UX models, standard. The service can be used to seamlessly order Amazon products from your car. This was mentioned casually, as if it were not an utterly insane statement—as if, in fact, we’ve all been clamoring for connectivity and integration so thorough we don’t pause our shopping even on the way back from the store.

The Takeaway:

Lexus’s long game seems clear through the lens of the UX: appeal to a new buyer unburdened by hard notions of what makes a luxury car. 

We’ve seen hints of this thinking before, notably with the Lexus LC500, a moonshot-on-acid, with comic-book styling (a version of the car appeared in Black Panther) and a hooligan’s V-8/RWD configuration. That car raised a deliberate flag, even if it doesn’t quite make sense: the LC500’s sci-fi styling begs for electrification—but instead, some of the high-tech thinking inside the car is applied to restrictive safety systems that hamper the driver’s ability to fully wring out that big and otherwise wonderful eight-cylinder.

The UX has no such confusion. It’s a focused vehicle purpose-built for a specific customer. And the U.S. isn’t the main market for the UX (that market would be comprised of European cities like Stockholm, where small-displacement four-cylinders power everything from Volvo crossovers to Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz executive sedans) but if the styling is to your taste, you’ll find the quiet and comfort the brand is known for, surprisingly packaged—a practical, quirky, energetic, occasionally convoluted hint of what the brand is pushing towards. 

Which is to say, in order to get to the Millennials, they first have to go through Xennials like me.


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