2023 Lexus UX 250h F Sport Premium - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Lots of positive aspects but needs more motor
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The Lexus UX 250h, the smallest SUV the company sells, is based on the Toyota Prius. For 2023, all UX models feature a hybrid drivetrain that combines a 2-liter four-cylinder gas motor with a pair of AC motors for a net output of 181hp. Upper echelon models like the F Sport Premium UX we tested feature all wheel drive. Given that the UX weighs in at 3,600 pounds, the power-to-weight ratio of this hybrid is a none-too-sparkling 19.88lbs/hp. Acceleration figures are predictably slow, with the 0-60mph run taking 8.6 seconds, and the quarter mile sprint clocking in at 16.6 seconds with a terminal speed of 86mph. Top speed is governor limited to 112mph. Clearly, if you're a bank robber, the UX 250h would not be your first pick as a getaway vehicle.
For 2023 Lexus has upgraded the suspension of the UX with an incredibly responsive F Sport package that could easily handle another 100hp. That kind of gain would move the UX into a performance league currently owned by VW's GTI and Audi's RS3. The new F Sport handling package includes 18-inch alloy rims fitted with Bridgestone Turanza EL450 Run Flat radials (225/50RF18). Also included in the F Sport upgrade are adaptive dampers which can be recalculated at the twist of the Drive Mode dial, which protrudes from the right side of the instrument cluster. This is a particularly useful location for such a device as it allows you to switch instantly from Normal operation to Sport or Sport+ Mode without taking your eyes off the road to find an obscure switch on the center console.
When you hype the UX into Sport+ Mode, the little SUV hunkers down closer to the road, the throttle becomes more responsive, and the dashboard graphics convert from bland to bold. The tachometer suddenly turns white, with a bold red area indicating redline operation. In Sport+, when you floor the throttle, the white face of the tach turns bright orange to indicate full throttle operation. Our test UX was also fitted with high retention sport seats featuring excellent side bolstering and a beautiful red/black leather covering that looked inviting and well tailored. The addition of the Premium package added a very bright head-up display, heated front seats, improved interior materials, and a small sunroof. One thing missing on cold mornings was a heated steering wheel, which should be included in the Premium package.
In defense of its modest horsepower output, the UX returned stellar mileage figures. The EPA estimates 41MPG in town and 38MPG on the highway. At freeway cruising speed, the UX is exceptionally quiet. The only sound intrusion comes from the hybrid drive train, which produces an ethereal moan when prodded for more speed. We had one memorable episode in heavy traffic when the stop light turned green and the UX turned itself off. To a 3 minute chorus of honking horns behind me, I struggled to relight the UX to no avail. The dash kept cycling through a variety of baffling configurations, but a foot on the brake and a finger on the start button produced no motor action. Just when I was about to bail and try and push the UX aside, it miraculously re-fired and I avoided an ugly confrontation with the irate motorists behind me. Not an inspiring moment for the hybrid drivetrain.
The UX line marks the first step up the Lexus ladder. The least expensive model is the basic UX 250h, a front wheel drive version that carries a price tag of $35,925. Next up is the Premium level, at $38,385, followed by the F Sport Appearance version at $38,385. Since there is really no incentive to opt for the Appearance trappings, without getting the hard goods, you'll want to select the F Sport handling model like ours, which carried a base price of $43,355. Lexus has done wonders with the interior of the top line UX we drove. The new, modernized 12.3 inch screen is easy to orchestrate while driving because all the essential functions for HVAC and the like are still controlled by a reputable row of physical buttons located just below the new screen. There's also a slew of operational buttons framing the spokes of the lovely leather-rimmed steering wheel.
We hope Lexus finds a way to issue a version of the UX that maximizes the vast new potential afforded by the F Sport Handling kit. As it stands, this entry-level Lexus offers the finish you'd expect from this company, but not the level of performance you would hope to enjoy.
2023 LEXUS UX 250h F Sport PREMIUM
• ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 valve + 1 permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor, 1 induction AC motor
• HORSEPOWER: 181hp combined output
• TORQUE: N/A
• FUEL CONSUMPTION: 41MPG City/38MPG Highway
• BASE PRICE: $43,355
HYPES: Lexus Level Fit and Finish
GRIPES: Great Chassis Needs More Motor
STAR RATING: 7.5 Stars out of 10