The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2022 Lexus UX 250h in Scottsdale - Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The auctions, the desert, and a nice little UTE

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor

We’ve become accustomed to visiting Scottsdale for a mid-winter break about this time of year: a time when cold wind and snow grip the upper Midwest; a time the desert is at its most livable; a time of classic and collector car auctions led by the world-famous Barrett-Jackson; and a time of pervasive sunshine and serenity.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Multiple collector car auctions present themselves here at the end of January every year creating a frenzy of automotive lust for car people from around the world. That would be enough to provide fodder for a pretty good travel story, but we’ll also want to explore the desert, artists’ galleries, and colonies through which we’ve strolled before. And, this trip we’ll even visit a newly discovered olive farm. Hope we don’t run out of time.

As an erstwhile reviewer of new cars, I typically enhance our travels by doing just that - a car review. Our last visit to Scottsdale was spent in philosophical and spiritual time with old friend, Mojave Moses, our desert guide. The car that time was the surprisingly competent and good-looking Toyota Avalon TRD, and the venue a cruise along scenic Highway 89A from Prescott to Cloverdale, where we rediscovered and photographed an old truck graveyard near Jerome. See that story here: 2020 Toyota Avalon Road Trip - Scottsdale to Jerome by Steve Purdy

This time our friends at Toyota/Lexus offered up a Lexus UX 250h Luxury compact hybrid crossover - their smallest UTE, in its most efficient iteration. The sticker shows a base price of about 40-grand and a bottom line, with an added light package and a couple of other options, of just over 44-grand. The UX also comes in regular or F-Sport guise as well (both of those non-hybrid) starting about 33-grand and 36-grand respectively. For a few thousand extra you can have all-wheel drive on any of these.

First impressions on meeting up with the car were: its strikingly brash styling complimented by a vivid blue color; mighty tight ingress for me (a big guy, put kindly), but roomy enough inside; an overwhelmingly busy dash design and intimidating complexity of controls. It took more than a few minutes to be sure I was acclimated enough to the basic controls before we ventured out onto the busy streets of Phoenix and Scottsdale. The UX comported itself admirably with civilized dynamics and ambiance during that first hour of driving.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

We counted six classic and collector car auctions in the Scottsdale area this year. Biggest, loudest, and of longest standing is the now-50-year-old Barrett-Jackson presented throughout a sprawling complex of tents, hard buildings, and public spaces. The most subdued is the Gooding & Company Auction that goes on without a live audience but with cars displayed at an airport hangar. RM-Sotheby’s purveys really high-end cars in an elegant hotel-and-spa setting in Phoenix. The former Silver Auction, now called MAG (Motorsport Auction Group), at Fort McDowell is the place to buy the more modest, and often most quirky, of collector cars. Across town, Bonhams and Worldwide compete for attention with mostly high-end cars. We had time to visit three to get the flavor and soak up the ambiance of each, so we can give you, our readers, a sense of the action.

More than 2,100 collector cars and trucks changed hands this week from the $5,000, old-and-tired-but-cool Camaro to the multi-million-dollar European and American classics and exotics. Pundits predicted a bit over $200 million in total sales and when the last gavel fell ledgers added up to $266.7 million - sales records for particular makes and models falling like mana from heaven. We saw wonderful vehicles we didn’t know existed along with large doses of our more familiar muscle cars, trucks and super cars. Most fun to witness, as attendees and viewers will attest, is when two or three deep-pockets collectors with big egos get into a bidding competition over some special automobile or truck. Sellers, of course, love it when that happens.

My favorites cars tend to be the mid-60s sports cars but most of the 50s and 60s cars and trucks ring my chimes as well. But, let’s be honest: I love ‘em all. I’ve often said, if I went to one of these auctions with a couple hundred grand in my pocket, I’d be entirely befuddled trying to decide what to buy, they’re all so cool in their own distinctive ways.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Our trusty steed gets us from one venue to the next and out and about in the desert in style. The Lexus UX is a design-intensive, compact, luxury crossover, an eyecatcher to be sure. Other automakers emulate that angular styling language but most don’t do it as well as Lexus, I contend. The creatively anomalous design is attractive to many but others find it off-putting – the gaping grill and gill vents, sharply angular external details including a bobbed taillight that resembles the small fin on a ’50 Cadillac, upswept sidelines, and lots of crisp details that have their genesis in aerodynamic trickery. Lexus was long ago criticized for homogenous styling, but bold and brash design influences the language now.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The huge WestWorld equestrian complex on the northeast corner of Scottsdale is home to the Barrett-Jackson, where over 1,800 consignments overwhelm the senses. They disallow reserves, so all of the vehicles sold – average price just over 100-grand. The consignments were overwhelmingly American with a surprising number of trucks, and an expected, though still impressive, number of muscle cars. Strolling through them is an all-day job, but a gratifying one to be sure.

My pretty field producer and I went over early in the week to get the lay of the land just as the auctions began. We found way more than just an auction. It was like a motor show and carnival with bright lights, flash and pizzazz of OEM displays along with displays of every conceivable good and service an impulsive car guy might like: art, aftermarket parts and services, airplanes, exotic travel, models, clothing, accessories, etc. At the center of the action, though, is the huge auction arena bristling with an electric atmosphere all week long.

Toyota made a splash at Barrett-Jackson with the introduction of the newest Sequoia huge SUV (big enough to come with its own zip code) and the consignment of two new i-FORCE MAX Tundra pickups, auctioned to raise $1.2 million for the company’s Paralympic charity. And, among the old and cool trucks in the auctions, a bunch of old Toyota trucks brought big bids.

The desert southwest, at least to this Midwest flatlander, is endlessly entertaining. The flora, fauna, geology, and culture beg to be understood. The Desert Botanical Gardens just off McDowell Road barely west of Scottdale Road, is a great place to begin understanding the Sonoran Desert and related flora. Who knew there were so many kinds of cactus? Paths wander throughout 140 acres of well annotated natural and tended spaces. Figure on a long half day at least if you’re really interested in the nature and aesthetics of it all.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Lexus UX has a comfortable, if busy, interior, with unremarkable materials, and a brash, angular dash – a lot of visual lines going a lot of different directions. A visual scan while driving at night reveals more little lights and icons than you can count. We expect a learning curve when introduced to a new car but this one is a bit more onerous than most. We can think of this as the entry-level Lexus - high level of content and functionality, but more modest luxury touches.

The rear seat is small but comfortable for two rear seat passengers, so said my small ones. Certainly, a third person back there would be too much, and bigger ones like me might not fit at all. And – danger, danger – the front seats, when all the way back, come within an inch of the rear seat, and the power driver’s seat retracts when the car is turned off and the door opened. My accomplice was still seated in the back when I did that, and her legs were about to be crushed. I expect that movement is properly damped but we didn’t test it.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Scottsdale encompasses the northeast side of the Phoenix urban sprawl. Further to the north and east are a couple little artsy communities, then wilderness. We met up there with one of our old compatriots and took her Hummer H3 out past where the pavement ends northeast of Carefree, then up a rocky road to a 360-degree lookout where we could soak up the afternoon light and enjoy the color of the unspoiled desert, a reservoir in the next valley, and a crisp desert wind. We’re in the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert where saguaro cactus, unique to the region, help define the flora.

Best known among the fauna of this region of the Sonoran are the cute little smelly, sometimes-aggressive, javelina. They look like scrawny, razor-back pigs but are from a different subspecies related to hippos.

Our next auction, Gooding & Company, is the polar opposite of Barrett-Jackson. We arrived a few hours before bidding began. The cars were lined up on display in the parking lot and courtyard of a hanger and business building on the edge of the Scottsdale Airport. The runway is just across the fence and less than a hundred yards away. It got a bit noisy, but with drinks and espresso provided, a few sales people engaging potential buyers and a few media, it had the feel of a yard party with expensive cars as the theme.

Gooding & Company presented only 56 cars, 47 of which sold. Though an XK120 and a Porsche 356 A Speedster both looked like they’d been rode hard and put away wet, as the cowboys say, begging to be restored, the other Gooding cars were beautiful high-end cars – like the eclectic Citroen DS 21 Concourde, Austin Healey 100-6, and a ’64 Maserati Sebring Series 1, an old Rolls and a Kaiser Darrin, a couple of E-Types, a Volvo P1800ES, and a spectacular ’63 Split Window Corvette. No hustle and bustle here and no public access. Bidding is all online. Top seller was a rare and exotic 1961 Maserati 5000GT Touring Coupe at nearly a million bucks.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Back to our little Lexus UX: we had a few road trips between auctions to check her out, including a jaunt down the I-10 to visit friends in Tucson. Seats adjust admirably and are bolstered just right so an hours-long road trip was a breeze. As reported earlier in this narrative, the UX’s controls were a bit challenging, though after a few days we were managing them well. I was a great fan of the little rocking mouse Lexus used to use to manage functions on the screen. That’s been replaced by a square touchpad on the console precisely where my hand will fall with my elbow on the center rest. Good position, but the pad is disconcertingly sensitive, even at its least sensitive setting, and the cursor can make unfamiliar moves jumping around from field to field. Haptic and auditory feedback are well done, though.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Finally, I was fortunate to be able to soak up the elegant ambiance during the RM Sotheby’s Auction at the Biltmore Resort and Spa, a golf resort and sprawling complex of gracious living. Arriving a couple hours before sales begin I found myself in the middle of an elegant and dynamic cocktail party circulating throughout the lawns and shaded parking area in front of the hotel’s convention center. The well-dressed crowd mingled amongst a most impressive collection of rare and significant cars – probably none worth less than 100-grand. The air smelled sweet and flowery (might have been the smell of money). A great many of the 70 cars presented by RM Sotheby’s will bring between a half million and a million dollars, with a significant percentage of Ferraris and other foreign exotics. I drooled over a cute little ’59 Devin racer.

The dapper crowd streamed in to the ballroom as bidding began. The room was abuzz with standing room only. The auctioneer’s well-amplified banter barely overpowered the din as a lovely Series-1 Jaguar XKE crossed the boards. Among those RM Sotheby’s cars was the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Aluminum Gullwing that sold for a record $6.82 million. Average price of the 66 of 70 cars sold was over 655-grand. Among my favorites were a ’57 Austin Healey 100-6, another Citroen DS 21 (this time a convertible), a ’27 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Piccadilly Roadster, and a ’55 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America. What a wonderful selection of automotive aesthetics!

We’ve been running around the region long enough now that we can assess the Lexus UX’s performance. The efficient hybrid powertrain – a 2.0-litre ICE, assisted by an electric motor, together make 181 horsepower. This one is easily delivering 32-mpg on the highway and 38-mpg in city driving. Rated at 41 city and 38 highway, we’re not doing as well as the EPA estimates, but my driving style is not really conducive to maximizing fuel economy. My preference is for the “Sport” driving mode that feeds algorithms to the CVT, throttle and other systems. I want it to be the quickest and most responsive it can be all the time. The UX also has “Eco” and “Normal” modes for those less enthusiastic about driving. I’ll bet we could do 41 mpg in Eco mode. This little UTE has more than enough grunt to blast onto the fast-moving 101 Loop, and the instant throttle response allows us to gracefully dance through traffic.

Oh, and about that olive farm: at the edge of civilization southeast of Phoenix, an area called Queen Creek happens to be at about the same latitude and with similar soil and climate conditions, as parts of the Middle East where olives trees have thrived since the earliest days of civilization. A family originally from Michigan bought land here a few decades ago and they grow and process olives according to a mix of traditional and modern scientific principles. They've created a well-regarded restaurant and tourist attraction to celebrate the olive, the oil and the cosmetics made from them, all on sale throughout the gift shop.

So, our time in the desert southwest was well spent again – a fun little car, an exotic ecology, and as much automotive stimulation as one guy can stand.

© Shunpiker Productions, LLC