2020 Lexus UX F
Lexus needs to infuse its image with some extra sportiness because even though it does make good, credible sporty cars, it is still perceived as a brand addressed toward SUV loving soccer moms and your elderly aunt who decides to spend most of her life savings on a new luxury car to treat herself. One such vehicle could be a spiced up version of the UX crossover, the newest and smallest crossover to join the Lexus range.
If Lexus made a UX F, it would be the closest thing it could ever make to a hot hatch. The UX is already a low-to-the-ground vehicle with excellent cornering capability, so making it lower, harder, and more powerful in order to make it faster sounds like a good plan. Plus, it could also benefit from a sporty exterior makeover to go with its unusual, swooping shapes (which are not bad, just different and take a bit of getting used to).
If Lexus challenged some hot crossovers and hot hatchbacks with its spruced up UX F, then it could dramatically shift the perception of the brand and genuinely attract new types of buyers that, before this vehicle, may not ever have considered buying a Lexus.
2020 Lexus UX F
Lexus UX F Exterior
Lexus went to great lengths to make the UX a unique visual presence on the road, and it’s succeeded with that plan - the UX F would have its own look, even a radically different one compared to any other current Lexus model. I’d expect Lexus to give it a more aggressive front bumper with a more pronounced splitter-like leading edge and a reworked design around the massive grille.
The grille itself would probably be the same size and shape as the one of the F-Sport model, but it would have to have a different texture inside, just like all other F-branded Lexus models.
The automaker couldn’t make the grille any bigger even if it tried - that’s really about as much grille as it can fit on its fascia, so giving it a sportier twist through the pattern chosen I think is the way they will go.
Redesigned headlights could also be part of the package since this is something Lexus seems to have done for other models, like the current RC F coupe which has bespoke front light clusters with integrated daytime running lights. The same could be true for the rear lights as they too are different on the RC F, although since the UX has a light bar design at the back, changing that could prove trickier.
Down the sides, an UX F would have to have swollen wheel arches and more aggressive side skirts too, plus unique (and bigger) wheels as well as uprated brakes with calipers finished in a strong contrasting color. To complete the exterior makeover, Lexus would also have to change the design of the rear bumper to bring it in line with the rest of the UX F, so it could very well adopt the stacked exhaust tip setup in the back and integrate that bumper design with this project.
Finally, a big wing could adorn some part of the rear end, probably placed somewhere above the rear glass, like on some of the most aggressive hot hatches out there.
Lexus does do F-branded models with a big wing on the back, but on the RC F, for instance, it’s only fitted to the RC F Track Edition model that debuted at the 2019 Detroit auto show.
The car would also have lowered suspension which, in conjunction with the larger wheels and bulging arches, would really give it a lot of presence. If the aforementioned wing is also part of the package (and is done right), this UX F could instantly put people in a “shut up and take my money kind of mentality,” although it also needs to drive well in order for this to happen.
Lexus UX F Interior
As it’s proven with all its hot F-branded models, Lexus isn’t into extreme interior makeover, so if they made a UX F, it wouldn’t be too different inside from a UX F-Sport.
The biggest difference between the UX F and any lesser UX models would probably be the front seating arrangement as it would get sculpted bucket seats to really hold you in the corners.
Aside from this, it would also have a perforated leather-clad F-branded steering wheel, Alcantara where there was just leather or plastic, and maybe even some carbon fiber trim on the dash and door panels. There could also be contrasting blue and white stitching for the leather on the steering wheel and gearbox selector lever knob.
Lexus could also give the UX F a set of its cool moving dials - they may fully rely on screens, but the circular faux dial actually moves from side to side in some Lexus models whenever you put the car in sport, in order to have the rev counter exactly in front of the driver.
Lexus UX F Drivetrain
If Lexus makes a UX F, don’t expect to see anything larger than a four-cylinder turbo under its (probably slatted, vented) hood.
The automaker’s most powerful such unit is the engine that debuted in the NX200t (which was rebranded NX300 after 2018), but then found its way in the GS, the IS, the RX, the RC, as well as the Toyota Highlander and Harrier models. It is internally known as 8AR-FTS.
The engine is currently rated at 235 horsepower between 4,800 - 5,600 rpm and 350 Nm / 258 pound-feet from 1,650 - 4,000 rpm. In some models, the engine’s output is bumped by 5 horsepower, but even with 240 horsepower, it would still not be enough. Lexus can (and probably will) squeeze more power out of this force-fed four-banger and, if it could get a boost to 300 or more horsepower, then it would attract more attention.
Besides, if you read our initial report discussing whether or not Lexus is actually going to make this car, the company’s executive VP stated that if they were going to make it, it would have to be a high performance hybrid. So on top of whatever power the 2.0-liter turbo makes, we also need to factor in extra shove provided by an electrically-driven rear axle.
So, add another 40 - 50 horsepower to the gasoline engine’s output and, even if Lexus puts it in the UX F unchanged from its other production models (which it probably won’t if this car becomes a reality,) the car should still be pushing out a combined output of around 300 horsepower.
Now that would put it in line with some hot hatches, but also sporty SUVs like the Mercedes-AMG GLA45, although compared to that car it would be a bit down on power if Lexus chose the above powertrain solution.
What slightly worries me about this entire hypothetical UX F is that Lexus would probably give it a continuously variable transmission which, for me at least, almost completely ruins the fun of driving (even if it’s a good CVT like they are nowadays, in my mind they still detract from the fun of driving). Lexus doesn’t currently sell any hybrid vehicles with actual geared automatic transmissions - all their electrified offerings have CVTs, and I think that in order for a UX F to be successful, it needs to have proper gears.
Lexus UX F Pricing
Lexus currently sells the most expensive version of the UX, the UX 250h F Sport from $36,000, and even one with every single option box ticked will still not cost much more than $50,000. The UX F would probably sell for well above $50,000 if it’s as special compared to the rest of the UX range as other F-branded models are compared to lesser models in the range.
Lexus UX F Competition
Mercedes makes a peerless car in the form of the GLA45 AMG 4Matic (In the US starts at $53,350), a car that is essentially the previous hot A-Class (the A45) on stilts and with marginally better off-road capability than the hatch. But that still doesn’t mean it can actually go off-road because it has rock hard suspension, sticky, grippy low profile tires, and low-hanging body bits that would probably sheer off after the first big jump in it.
Out on the road, there is no crossover like it, though. The driving experience is nearly identical to that of the A-Class (a feeling made even stronger by the identical interior), although there is a bit more lean in the corners due to its higher center of gravity. Few will be able to tell, though, and for most it will feel blisteringly fast thanks to its nearly-400 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder that, with the help of all-wheel drive, catapults the GLA45 to 100 km/h or 62 mph in 4.4 seconds - that’s unheard of in the segment and the UX F would have to be really powerful to have any kind of hope to match it.
Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 4Matic
If you want a less extreme crossover that isn’t that tall and therefore drives great, just like a well sorted, slightly tall hatchback, then the BMW X2 M35i should definitely make your list, especially if the GLA45 AMG is too extreme and expensive for you. The X2 M35i starts at $46,450, and for that, you get an all-wheel-drive crossover with a 300-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbo four. Its sprint time to 100 km/h or 62 mph is 4.9 seconds, so it’s not far off the GLA45, but since it is a bit cheaper and less extreme feeling, it may have a broader audience.
Plus I think it looks miles better than the GLA, especially on the outside, so Lexus will have to figure out some way to make its UX look sportier in order for it to stand out against the crowd. BMW doesn’t really differentiate the M35i model from others in the range too much, relying on sportier bumpers larger rims to get the message across with no additional mods. But then again, the Lexus UX already looks quite distinctive, so drawing attention won’t be an issue.
Read our full review on the 2019 BMW X2 M35i
For the third rival to a hypothetical Lexus UX F, we need to turn to Europe and the VW-owned SEAT brand which has fairly recently launched its own sport sub-brand dubbed Cupra. The first vehicle to ditch the SEAT badge and just use Cupra instead is the Cupra Ateca, a vehicle that’s not available in the US.
And that’s a shame because it looks really good with its unique bumpers, lowered ride height, as well as unique Cupra touches like the copper tinted wheels and other details. It’s also the largest and most practical car in this company (it’s the size of a Lexus NX), but it too has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 296 horsepower that’s sent to all four wheels. It can sprint to 100 km/h or 62 mph in 5.2 seconds, so it’s no slouch, and because it doesn’t bear a premium badge, it is similarly priced to the aforementioned models (despite being bigger, more comfortable, and more practical than any of them).
Read our full review on the 2019 Cupra Ateca
Lexus should definitely make a UX F because if there’s anything to help push model demand, it’s a serious sporty model that sits at the top of a model lineup. Making an UX F will help boost the UX model’s image and help Lexus sell more of them - I don’t think it would be a cash cow for the Toyota’s luxury arm, but there is certainly potential in its formula, especially if they pay attention to what rivals are doing and go down a separate path to set their vehicle apart.
Besides, the UX F would be much more efficient than any comparable rival and the fact that it’s both sporty and a hybrid (as well as a crossover) at the same time should help get them out of the showroom. Right now it’s too early to tell if the vehicle will see the light of day, but we’re certainly more than intrigued by the prospect.
Read our full review on the 2019 Lexus UX.