2019 Lexus UX

The 2019 Lexus UX is a brand-new sub-compact crossover that slots below the compact NX in Lexus’s crossover lineup. With a starting price of $32,000, the UX competes with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLA , Cadillac XT4, and BMW X2. The brand’s signature grill dominates the front of the UX while aggressive sculpting adds character to the bodysides, echoing the larger Lexus crossovers. Out back, a horizontal light fixture connects both taillamps and gives the UX a unique and premium appearance. Overall, Lexus’s bold and somewhat controversial styling is perhaps best suited to the proportions of the UX; it’s a handsome vehicle.

2019 Lexus UX exterior rear

Inside, the interior features a harmonious design that has more cohesion than the larger NX. Unlike its competitors, Lexus only offers imitation leather seating surfaces, called NuLuxe, in the UX, which could deter some shoppers. According to Lexus the dashboard design which “flows seamlessly into the hood” was inspired by engawa, a Japanese architectural concept of bringing together the inside with the outside. More Japanese influence can be found with the  available washi interior trim which was designed to mimic the grain of Japanese paper. Following Infiniti‘s lead, it’s nice to see Lexus embracing the rich Asian design influences with recent releases, rather than following the traditionally European design idioms. It seems that Lexus is finally coming into its own in terms of design, and its about time.

2019 Lexus UX interior Birch NuLuxe

The UX is available in front- and all-wheel-drive and is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. An available hybrid that comes standard with all-wheel-drive delivers excellent fuel efficiency, however does not offer much of a performance boost.

Pros: The UX is competitively priced and offers a quiet and comfortable driving experience that eludes most mainstream sub-compact crossovers. It sleek exterior styling is modern and premium, while its interior is thoughtfully crafted and nicely detailed.

Cons: With engines designed more for efficiency than all-out performance, the UX is adequate but slower than some competitors. A lack of available leather trim is a letdown when brands like Honda and Kia offer it on their sub-compact crossovers. As with most vehicles within this class, the UX may be too snug of a fit for some, so taking it for a test drive is essential to ensure a comfortable driving position can be attained.

Looks Best In: Lexus typically offers a conservative color palate for its crossovers, its refreshing then to see some daring shades incorporated into the  UX’s repertoire. Bold colors like Ultra Sonic Blue Mica 2.0 and Cadmium Orange are flashy and fun. Nori Green Pearl, a unique medium-dark green, is perhaps the best color on offer. By virtue of green not being a particularly popular exterior color currently, a UX finished in this captivating color will stand out from the crowd and it better matches the UX’s more leisurely demeanor than more racing color choices. The interior finished Birch, an attractive gray, looks pleasant and airy. However, Glazed Caramel looks rich and decadent and fits the UX’s interior best.

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Competition: The sub-compact luxury crossover category is rapidly expanding with new models. The Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 and Audi Q3 are priced at or near the UX, however some features that are standard on the UX are available only as options on those models. Volvo offers the XC40, which has an attractive upright design and roomy interior, although fuel mileage doesn’t come close to matching even the non-hybrid UX. Speaking of hybrids, the UX is currently the only vehicle in its class to offer one, and that could be a deciding factor to many shoppers.

Safety Score: As of publication date the 2019 Lexus UX has not yet been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, the Toyota C-HR, with which the Lexus UX shares its platform, received strong ratings from the agency.

2019 Lexus UX exterior rear Cadmium Orange

Summary: The UX is a well-rounded luxury sub-compact crossover. A quiet and compliant ride combined with sophisticated design and a competitive starting price make the Lexus UX a compelling choice within its segment, especially the hybrid model that sets it apart from all competitors. Taller shoppers and those planning on regularly using the back seat may be better served by moving one size up to the Lexus NX.

[Images: Lexus]

2019 Lexus ES

The Lexus ES is the brand’s entry-level midsize luxury sedan, which underwent a complete redesign for the 2019 model year. Changes are mostly evolutionary inside and out, but stylistically the ES has become more nuanced and sophisticated. Detailed character lines and a bolder grille leave more an impression that the rather anonymous exterior styling of the previous generation.

Inside premium materials are showcased, including unique seat embossing and a selection of interesting wood trims. Overall, it evokes the welcoming and modern atmosphere found inside the full-size Lexus LS.

While it mostly appeals to shoppers looking for a full-on luxury sedan as opposed to a performance vehicle, Lexus does offer the flashy F Sport trim with bolder styling details, bright color options inside and out, and a stiffer suspension. However, the regular ES or ES hybrid are most true to form for the car and serve up the familiar isolated and luxurious experience that has become expected of the nameplate. Prices for the 2019 Lexus ES start from $39,500, with well-equipped models coming in around $45,000.

Best Color Combination: Sunlit Green exterior/Flaxen interior

Competition: Acura TLX, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60

Safety Score: As of publication date the 2019 Lexus ES has not yet been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, it is expected to receive a Top Safety Pick rating based on the performance of the Toyota Avalon, with which its shares structural and safety components.

Summary: More opulent than ever, the 2019 Lexus ES delivers on the luxury front for drivers who value a smooth and supple driving experience over all-out exhilaration.

[Images: Lexus]

Discovering Automaker’s Awesome Original Websites: Japanese Luxury Roundup

In the mid-1990’s most automotive brands that existed at the time began launching websites as digital was rapidly becoming the next frontier and offered an opportunity to showcase products and influence consumers as they perform research. Early examples of auto manufacturer websites provide a unique window into brand identity as there were wild variations in style and tone compared to the much more uniform websites of today, where virtually all have a nearly identical layout and user experience.


Lexus:

Lexus then

Lexus.com, 1996

The first snapshot of Lexus’ website was recorded on December 22, 1996. Creatively titled “Lexus Centre of Performance Art”, the website navigation is overlaid atop an sketch that resembles an interpretation of an ancient Roman villa. Resembling a guide for tourist in a faraway land, perhaps Lexus employed this model to help guide brand-new internet users by leveraging a familiar map-based layout from traditional printed media. There is also a “concierge” named Alex prominently featured, who was doubtlessly utilized by befuddled website visitors back in the day. According to the description Alex is there to “help you at any time, on any page”. Perhaps the most striking element of Lexus’ homepage in 1996 was that there was no imagery of their vehicles. At this time the brand’s lineup consisted of the ES, GS, LS, SC and LX.

Lexus now

Lexus.com, 2018

Fast forward 22 years and we encounter Lexus’ website in 2018. Taking on a far more sophisticated look, the design has been cleaned up and organized. Alex the concierge has retired, however there is a “Shopping Tools” menu with visuals for top functions at the bottom of the page. As web users as a whole became more acclimated to navigating websites and assimilated to the digital word, we notice less copy and far more visuals. While less cluttered, the website has certainly lost some personality over time. Here’s a little message for Lexus: Bring back Alex! Perhaps he could be reborn as a virtual chat assistant. In 2018 the brand’s lineup has doubled in size compared to 1996. The current vehicles are the IS, ES, GS, LS, RC, LC, NX, RX, GX, LX.

RELATED: Lux SUV Olympics: Going For Gold!

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2018 Lexus GX

The 2018 Lexus GX is a mid-size truck-based three-row luxury crossover. With its rugged underpinnings the GX is a capable off-roader and an excellent vehicle for towing as well. The standard V-8 provides smooth power delivery, but also gulps fuel pulling the heavy GX, managing only 16 MPG combined. The GX slots above the car-based Lexus RX and below the full-size truck-based Lexus LX in the brand’s lineup and is loosely based on the Toyota 4Runner. Prices start at an MSRP of $53,150.

Pros: Rugged Truck-Based Platform, Comfortable, Commanding View of Road, Off-Road Capable, Towing Capacity

Cons: Cramped Interior (Especially Third Row), Less Efficient Than Car-Based SUVs, Outdated Interior

Looks Best In: Claret Mica exterior/Ecru interior

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Competition: Audi Q7, Range Rover Sport, BMW X5, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz GLE

Summary: The 2018 Lexus GX is capable and comfortable. As one of only a select few luxury truck-based SUVs available, it has the off-roading chops to handle traverses and mountain roads with ease. The GX is a stylish indulgence, but if off-roading doesn’t matter and you’ll need to regularly use the third-row then more practical options abound, like the Acura MDX or Lexus’s own RXL.

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[Images: Lexus]

Lux SUV Olympics: Going For Gold!

When shopping for a family-friendly three-row SUV that has luxury features and lots of utility, the choices are plentiful. In this evaluation we’ve narrowed down the choices to luxury brands only, as they generally offer upgraded dealer service, longer warranties, and more creature comforts than mainstream brands. However, shoppers on a budget or uninterested in all the gizmos can check out some top mainstream picks like the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, and Kia Sorento.

Next, we looked at price. Especially with luxury SUVs it’s quite easy for the price to skyrocket. The contenders here are all within the $45,000-$55,000 price range, making them far more fiscally responsible than offerings from BMW and Mercedes-Benz which carry a $10,000+ price premium for a similarly sized, or smaller, vehicle. Also a consideration is the price of ownership, so we looked at fuel efficiency is a ranking factor as well.

When carrying around precious cargo safety is a top concern. We evaluated ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to determine the winner in this test. It’s important to note that the brand-new 2018 Buick Enclave is a strong contender in the three-row luxury SUV segment, however since it has not been evaluated by the Institute it was not utilized in the comparison.

Finally, interior accommodations and cargo room were evaluated. When carrying around strollers, strapping in car seats, and tackling trips to Costco, having a capacious interior is very important. Often a key indicator of interior packaging efficiency is how much cargo space is available behind the third row, so that’s the criteria we’re ranking on.

The contenders are: Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX350 L

So, which of luxury three-row SUV took home gold? See our the Lux SUV medal ranking below. But first, if you haven’t already, click here to join us on Facebook to receive the latest updates from Third Auto. We appreciate it!

Medal Rankings:

Bronze: 2018 Lexus RX350 L

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The new three-row version of Lexus’ best-selling RX line. With a bit more brand recognition and prestige than the other contenders, the RX earns points because that can translate into higher value retention over time. However, with an MSRP of $49,070, it’s nearly $4,000 higher than the larger and more fuel-efficient QX60. The RX350 L ties the MDX with a “Top Safety Pick” status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Read Third Auto’s full review of the 2018 Lexus RXL here.

Silver: 2018 Acura MDX

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The 2018 Acura MDX earns points for its “Top Safety Pick” status by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and offers cargo space behind the third-row only about one cubic foot shy of the first place Infiniti. Likewise, its base price when equipped with all-wheel-drive came out to $46,200, a $1,100 premium over the Infiniti. The non-hybrid model we evaluated was let down my a 21 combined MPG rating, which tied with the Lexus for second. A very competitive package, the MDX’s virtues makes it a strong contender, but aren’t enough to earn gold.Read Third Auto’s full review of the 2018 Acura MDX here.

Gold: Infiniti QX60

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With the lowest base price when quipped with all-wheel-drive, the most cargo room behind the third row seats and the best combined mileage, albiet only by 1 MPG, the Infiniti QX60 takes home the gold. It’s demerits include a poor rating for its headlights by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a bit less brand prestige than the Lexus, however overall the Infiniti QX60 makes a great choice for shoppers in the market for a three-row luxury SUV under $55,000.Read Third Auto’s full review of the 2018 Infiniti QX60 here.

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[Images: Acura, Infiniti, Lexus]

2018 Lexus RXL

For 2018 Lexus has added an optional third-row seat to its popular RX luxury midsize SUV. Known as the RXL, the up to seven-passenger version will be sold alongside the five-passenger RX on Lexus lots. The 2018 RX lineup is positioned above the Lexus NX compact luxury SUV and below the Lexus GX, their full-size and truck-based SUV. Pricing for the RX starts at an MSRP of $43,270, with the RX-L starting at $50,620.

Pros: Available Hybrid, Interior Craftsmanship, Smooth Ride On Non-F-Sport Models

Cons: Complex Infotainment System, Fussy Exterior Styling, Smaller Than Competitors

Looks Best In: Matador Red exterior/Parchment interior

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Competition: Acura MDX, Buick EnclaveVolvo XC90, Infiniti QX60, Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot

Summary: The Lexus RX lineup is a strong contender in the midsize luxury SUV field. If the interior is too small, exterior styling too wild, or  if you find the infotainment difficult to use, check out some of the competition.

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[Images: Lexus]

2018 Lexus IS

The 2018 Lexus IS is a compact sport sedan that competes squarely with the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It offers sharp handling, crisp styling and a sporty driving experience without sacrificing comfort. Accommodations are fairly small, so be sure to try the IS on for size. Prices start at an MSRP of $38,210.

Pros: Stylish, Dynamic, Lots of Tech Features

Cons: Small Cabin & Trunk, Available All-Wheel-Drive

Looks Best In: Obsidian exterior/Rioja Red interior

2018 Lexus IS exterior2018 Lexus IS interior

Competitors: Kia Stinger, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A3

Summary: Although not quite as composed as the BMW 3, the Lexus IS is a compelling alternative, especially if you find its knife-cut body sculpting appealing.

Did You Know? The 2018 Lexus IS is available with a four-cylinder (IS 300) and six-cylinder (IS 350). The IS 300 is plenty quick, however enthusiasts will enjoy the effortlessly powerful IS 350.

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[Images: Lexus]

2018 Lexus NX

The 2018 Lexus NX is the brand’s compact luxury SUV, slotting below the  ubiquitous midsize Lexus RX. Available in base, hybrid and flashy F Sport trim, the starting MSRP is $38,335 and quickly surpasses $40,000 when popular options are added. For shoppers looking for something a bit more dashing than the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, what the NX lacks in cargo space it makes up for in style and comfort.

Pros:  Quiet, Comfortable, Great Reliability Record, Fuel Economy, Futuristic Design

Cons: Small Interior, Less Utility Than Mainstream Compact SUVs

Looks Best In: Molten Pearl exterior/ Circuit Red interior

2018 Lexus NX exterior

2018 Lexus NX interior

What You Should Know: Although the F Sport trim features cool styling details, its larger wheels and sportier suspension tuning make the ride less comfortable. Stick with the base NX or NX Hybrid if you’re looking for Lexus’s famed magic carpet smooth ride.

Coolest Feature: The post-modern interior design creates a delightful ambiance that makes competitor’s interiors look very 2000 and late.

Competition: Acura RDX, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA

Summary: Thoughtfully designed to catch the eye of younger shoppers, the Lexus NX still doesn’t abandon the brand’s core competencies of offering a comfortable and relaxed driving experience and efficiency.

Did You Know?  Leave it to Lexus to name one of the NX’s exterior colors “Caviar”. They would!

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[Images: Lexus]

Luxury Brand Sales in October 2017

Wow, Lexus and BMW were neck and neck in October sales! Even closer were Audi and Buick, just a few hundred units difference. Mercedes-Benz numbers includes 2,446 van sales, when we remove those the monthly tall comes out to 29,623, still well ahead of second place BMW.

So, what is Mercedes-Benz doing so right to be this far ahead? A combination of a robust SUV lineup and its push downmarket with the CLA and GLA have postured the brand to acquire more sales than BMW, which currently has no sedan below the $34,900 3 Series, while Mercedes-Benz has the CLA starting at $32,400. On the SUV side, BMW has no GLS competitor, which Mercedes-Benz sold 2,920 of in October. We hear an X7 is on this way, however until then we expect Mercedes-Benz to continue to eat BMW’s lunch.

gls.jpg

Looking at the mid-level of sales, Cadillac and Acura are very close. Will the new XT5 allow Cadillac to power ahead of Acura’s aging SUV lineup? About one thousand units separate Lincoln and Volvo. With both brands experiencing a renaissance of sorts, who will move ahead and who will fall back, like whoa?

xt5

Moving on to the low-volume brands, Land Rover and Porsche  were within a few hundred units. Meanwhile, Jaguar is being encroached on by two newcomers to the U.S. market. Genesis and Alfa Romeo both accumulated decent sales numbers given their lack of presence in the marketplace. Behind Alfa Romero and rounding out the group is Maserati with just over one thousand units sold.

As the year-end push gets aggressive within throughout the final months of the year as automakers and dealers look to move as much metal as possible, it will be very interesting to see how the current state evolve. Be sure to check in with Third Auto as we track every step of the way.

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[Images: Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac]