2019 Lexus UX250h

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Hybrids are practical electric cars because they’re part-time electric cars. You’re not dependent entirely on hard-to-find or rather long-to-find electricity – either to get going or to keep going. If the hybrid’s batteries wilt, the gas engine automatically steps in. You keep going.

No waiting hours to charge it up.

These facts make the new Lexus UX250h an interesting counterpoint to the Tesla3 – a fully electric car that’s about the same size – and entirely dependent on electricity, both what it carries and where and how long it takes to get more of it.

Both models are also their respective brands’ entry-level models – though the Tesla costs almost $6k more to start than the Lexus, doesn’t come standard with all-wheel-drive (as the Lexus does) and only goes 220 miles – maybe – before it runs out juice while the Lexus can go twice as far on its combo of gas/electric power.

What It Is

The UX250h is the hybrid version of the UX200 –  Lexus’ new subcompact-sized five-door crossover. 

It’s one of the few new hybrids on the market t – due to the government forcing electric cars onto the market.

In addition to the advantages it has over electric cars, it’s also got a leg-up over the non-hybrid version of the UX – which is less powerful, not as quick and isn’t available with all-wheel-drive.

Lexus reasons that people who buy luxury cars want more than just good gas mileage – and won’t accept less power and lower performance.

Prices start at $34,150 – exactly $2k more than the price of the non-hybrid (and FWD-only) UX200.

Lexus also offers F-Sport ($36,150) and Luxury trims ($39,350) which are also priced exactly $2k higher than their non-hybrid (and FWD) UX200 equivalents.

A Tesla3’s base price is $39,000.

All-wheel-drive is available, but it boosts the Tesla’s price by a wallet-lightening $10k – to $49,000.

That’s almost $15k more than the price of the already-AWD UX, which also has more cargo room (17.1 cubic feet vs. 15 for the Tesla) and a smaller footprint.

Without a larger “carbon footprint,” by the way.

What’s New

Both versions of the UX are new models for 2019.

The hybrid UX is the only model in this class that can go more than 40 miles on a a gallon of gas while also getting to 60 in about 7 seconds – without waiting for hours to get going again.

What’s Good

Exceptional mileage – and range. 

More power than non-hybrid UX.

Standard AWD.

What’s Not So Good

A bit less cargo space than non-hybrid UX.

Not much backseat space in either UX.

Trackpad control for infotainment system is awkward to use.

Under The Hood

Lexus (which is Toyota) pioneered hybrids so it’s no surprise they’re not ready to give up on them. Which is sound policy – because they solve the electric car problem. They’re not too expensive – and they don’t cost you time and hassle.

But the hybrid layout is fundamentally an economy-car layout – and that creates a problem for a luxury car maker: People who buy a Lexus expect it to outrun a Prius.

How to deliver the increased performance luxury car buyers expect?

Add three high-torque electric motors to goose the power of the UX’s 2.0 liter engine – which only makes 169 hp in the non-hybrid UX200. 

Output rises to 181 hp – and the 0-60 run decreases to just over 7 seconds.

The third motor powers the rear wheels when the front wheels break traction.

So you don’t get stuck when it snows.

Speaking of that.

The Tesla3 is rear-drive as it comes, which means it doesn’t go in the snow. It also doesn’t go very far. The advertised range – 220 miles – should have an asterisk beside it that leads to fine print explaining that the range of an electric car – any electric car – will vary dramatically depending on how fast (and hard) you drive as well as how hot or cold it is outside and how much you use electrically-powered accessories such as the heater, headlights and AC. The advertised 220 miles might be a real-world range of 175 miles.

Or less.

What never varies with an EV is the certainty of long recharge times – vs. how quickly and easily a hybrid can be refueled.

When the Tesla3 runs out of range, you will be stuck for a minimum of 30-45 minutes, which is the amount of time it takes to recharge partially (to avoid damaging the battery) at what is hilariously styled a “fast” charger. This assumes no one’s ahead of you at the “fast” charger.

If there is, you’ll also wait for him to “fast” charge before you do. Half an hour just became an hour.

The UX250h refuels (fully) in just a  couple of minutes – and once fueled, it can travel 434 miles in city driving and 402 miles on the highway no matter the weather and with the accessories running full blast.

It’s not quite as quick as the Tesla – which can get to 60 in about 6. But If the race exceeds the Tesla’s range, the Lexus wins by miles.

And, time.

It would take you you at least 30-45 minutes longer to go 500 miles because of the Tesla’s need to take at least one extended pit stop en route. Probably two. If you drove the Lexus instead, you’d already be there, unpacked and having a drink by the time the Tesla finally showed up.

On The Road

In stop-and-go city driving, the UX250’s gas engine is often off – but the UX itself is kept moving by its electric motors and the battery pack which provides the juice. It functions exactly like an electric car in this mode. There’s even a button (EV) for this mode.

Which is why the UX250 is capable of 41 MPG  in the city while the non-hybrid UX200 only manages 29 MPG.

It’s actually capable of more – the longer you operate in EV mode. This will require slower driving, of course – but the same goes for the full-time EV. The difference is you can roll on the throttle whenever you like and not have to sweat the range.

Or the time.

On the highway, the UX250’s fuel efficiency is about the same as the non-hybrid UX200’s – 38 MPG vs. 37 fMPG – because the gas engine is running pretty much constantly, which is necessary at higher speeds, in order to maintain those speeds.

But there’s a perk.

Torque.

The hybrid’s three electric motors give instant – and stronger – acceleration.

The Tesla3’s motors do the same, but with The Catch. The faster you go, the shorter you go . . . and the longer you wait.

Tesla touts the Ludicrous Speed of its EVs, but if you have to go slow in order to go then what’s ludicrous is speed you can’t use. It’s like looking at a steak dinner (and paying for it) but eating oatmeal.

The UX has performance you can use.

It’s true, of course, that if you use it frequently you won’t go as far. But you’ll still go a lot farther than the Tesla3 – and it won’t take nearly as long to get going again. The elimination of recharge anxiety is the hybrid’s ace in the deck. Almost all of the benefits of going electric – including nearly zero emissions, if that’s a concern for you – without all the downsides.

And if emissions are a concern, then the last thing you should be doing – if you’re serious about your beliefs and not a virtue-signaling poseur – is driving a high-performance electric car like the Tesla.

High-performance batteries and motors consume more electricity and that means higher-than-necessary carbon dioxide “emissions” (in quotes to emphasize the fatuity). If you are really “concerned” about C02 “emissions,” then you should be driving a minimalist EV like the Nissan Leaf that operates at Prius Speed . . . and even it may “emit” more C02 in the aggregate than the fuel-sippy UX250h.

Which “emits” such a negligible quantity of C02 that the whole discussion is fatuous.

But the UX does emit something the Tesla3 does not. Something good for the environment… yours.

Sound.

A performance sound. This is enhanced in F-Sports with an acoustic resonator that works like a volume control. Rotate the knob on the top right of the dashboard to select the most aggressive (sport) mode and the sound wicks up the more you push the gas pedal down. The sounds of air being sucked into the vortex; of mechanical things happening. EVs produce the sound of the morgue – silence.

Which is great, if you’re dead.

Electric cars are like waiting rooms that move – until they don’t.

There’s also more to do in the UX – because the Lexus has a transmission. It’s not a manual transmission (the UX comes standard with a continuously variable automatic) but it does have driver-selectable modes and (in F-Sport trims) paddle shifters that let you toggle through (and hold) the transmission at whatever spot in the powerband seems  – and sounds – right.

EVs have direct drive, like an electric drill – which is basically what they are and just as homogenous.

DeWalt vs. Makita. And just as interesting.

The UX isn’t ferocious, but it’s surprisingly fun. You put this car on, like a personal driving suit. It’s not tight – but it is form fitting. You survey a UFO-like dash with glowing displays set back here and forward there. If you’re a fan of the Alien/Prometheus films, the best way to convey what it’s like to be inside the UX is to imagine yourself one of the Space Jockey/Engineers powering up his ship.

It also corners excellently, something hybrids aren’t usually known for. Extremely neutral up to the grip limit of the tires, which is lower than the grip threshold of the car. This makes the UX even more fun to drive, though, because you can play around with a greater margin of safety.

Tire screech/slip is easier to pull back from than the car letting go.

F-Sport trims get a firmer-riding (but not harsh) suspension and more aggressive (18-inch) wheel/tire package, plus a racier-looking dash display, sport bucket seats and that sound-enhancer system.

At The Curb

Toyota (which is Lexus) is conservative when it comes to engineering – a good thing, if you esteem longevity and few repairs along the way – but the styling of the UX isn’t. 

Lots of interesting angles juxtaposed with curves – and cladding, if you go for the F-Sport. Swoosh LED cat’s eye headlights. Cylon Centurion grille. 

Like the RX350 – just on a smaller scale.

This includes the trackpad interface for the apps/audio system – which you’ll also find in the RX and other Lexus models. It’s not the easiest system to use accurately while the vehicle is moving but Lexus – ever thoughtful – addresses this potential problem with redundant secondary controls. You can control the volume, change stations and so on via more traditional steering wheel-mounted buttons or use the trackpad, as you prefer.

The main cluster is a cozy – and racy – LCD pod; you can change how it looks and the info it displays by toggling through the various modes (F Sport trims get a red backlit Sport mode with a tachometer in addition to the blue Eco and the Normal modes).

You also get a surprising amount of room given the footprint.

A Tesla3 is nearly a foot longer overall but only has slightly more backseat legroom (35.2 inches vs. 33.1 for the Lexus) and less cargo room (15 cubic feet vs. 17.1 for the UX250; the non-hybrid has 21.7 cubic feet).

The center console storage cubby, however, is pretty small – as are the two cupholders built into the center console. But the main worry here is the possibility of spilling something that will will fritz out the probably very expensive trackpad. Make sure the lid on your coffee cup is on tight.

The Rest

Another manifestation of Lexus’ conservative approach is that the UX isn’t a plug-in hybrid.

These have a few advantages – chiefly that you can usually drive farther (and faster) on just battery power. But the disadvantages include much higher buy-in cost, which renders the gas savings irrelevant.

All trims come standard with AppleCarPlay but not Android Auto. The Luxury trim comes standard with a huge (10.3 inch) LCD touchscreen; the base trim has a smaller (7 inch) display.

A nice touch is the available “washi” interior trim, which emulates Japanese fabric paper. You can order this with the base trim. Lexus doesn’t restrict availability to the higher-cost Luxury and F-Sport trims.

The Bottom Line

In a saner world, there would be more hybrids like the UX – and fewer ludicrous electric cars cars like the Tesla3.

Kudos, Toyota, for keeping a grip.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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19 COMMENTS

  1. How was ease of entry/exit, Eric? If I recall, you’re over 6′ My mom test-drove a UX 200 and she hit her head on the frame, and she’s about 5’7″.
    She ultimately decided against it as the cargo area was too small to fit her dog kennel (needed for road trips to keep Fido in his place) and the larger SUVs were out of her price range. But she loved the sales process – very straightforward, and the salesman didn’t do any of the usual nasty tricks.

    • Hi Chip,

      For me, no problemo – but I’m still pretty limber. People who have issues with their backs and knees may have . . . issues. It’s a fun little runabout otherwise. And a lot more sensible than a verfluchte EV.

      • eric, very nicely styled seats. I have to ask if they’re still larger than Toyota seats.

        The first people I knew who bought a Lexus, about a 100 years ago, were both small so I figured the seats would be small but they weren’t.

        I haven’t found a comfortable seat in a Toy though, too tight at the top and keep me pushed out. The Sienna seats felt like they might be ok but I didn’t ride or drive it. The wife said the seats were fine but the visibility sucked the big one. I spent a while removing headrests and flipping down all but the driver’s seat. She said it was a lot better than the first 60 miles with them all upright.

        She said she was told it was easy on gas. Yeah, about like the Z 71 is easy on gas. She was told the same about the Charger with the V 6. The only way to get good economy with either is on a trailer.

  2. “Freaking thing looks like it’s been in an accident before it even hits the street……”

    LOL. I came to write the same. Looks like someone clipped a bollard and tore the front bumper cover. I know it is a matter of taste but damn, cars have gotten ugly. Note to designers, less is more and more fiddly details for fiddly details sake do not improve the look. Pointy little bits, squished headlights and intake ducts at the front might look OK on a Lambo but on a SUV they look ridiculous.

    Don’t recall what era had those black fender trim but I do recall they looked like shit then too.

  3. I believe that full electric is going to severely damage the other car companies while Toyota capitalizes on more market share. Especially in pickups. The next generation Tunfra will have a hybrid option that supposedly will get 30 mpg’s. It will have the capability to tow 18,000 lbs, exceeding current 3/4 ton models from the big three.

    I watched an interview with Mike Sweers of Toyota’s body on frame lineup about 6 months ago. He mentioned the fact that full electric is less than 2 percent of the car market right now and that there isn’t enough infrastructure to support even that. Imagine 10 percent electrics. Hybrids have no such problem. Toyota and Mazda seem like the only major manufacturers that realistically look at the future rather than believing pie in the sky ideas.

    Electric car lovers will lie and tell you that fast chargers take 15 minutes, omit the fact that it’s only an 80 percent charge and on and on and on. They’re like owners of eco boosts that tell you they get over 20 mpg’s. The honest ones will tell you they never get better than 18 under any circumstances.

    The big three are setting themselves up for their own demise……..just as government dependence and the P.C. cult intended.

    • Even the crazy Canadian government admits that even in their country of only c.24 million people and abundant hydro-electric, that the infrastructure can not handle a lot of people having EVs, and that the cost of making it so that it could would be so high that it would never be worth it.

      And yet Uncle wants us to believe that our rickety patch-work infrastructure can somehow support everyone having EVs in a country of >300 million?! (And even if it could, what would be the benefit to just transfering emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack?)

      • It is total craziness Nunzio.

        The ceo’s at Ford and GM have talked themselves into believing it though. In the same way that the obese, food stamp wielding, couch potato Murican talks himself into believing he’s free. Contrary of all evidence and logic.

        • Anc, I mean, there have always been assorted loonies around (And no one used to take ’em seriously),and there have always been pockets of mass insanity (California comes to mind…) but the last few years, it seems that the entire world has become afflicted with a case of mass insanity- from the lowest cretin, to the CEOs of multinational corps and the richest moguls.

          Everywhere you look, everyone is just pursuing the worst possible course; making the most ludicrous decisions- even against their own self-interests- It’s literal insanity.

          Con-men and hucksters (Like E-loon) stand up and say things that the most retarded rube would have laughed at years ago- but today, those same absurdities are embraced readily and eagerly by “educated” people of financial substance…… It’s truly mind-boggling!

          But the truth is criminalized….

          Hey ya know though, those welfare pigs are probably freer than the average working-class person! Or at least, both are as equally enslaved. It’s part of the craziness, to think that people who have the fruit of their labor snatched from them before they even see it, to be redistributed to cretins for free sailfawns and rides in the amberlamps; who have tro narc on themselves and report every financial transaction and everry iota of labor they perform, to Uncle; Who have to pay taxes on top of taxes, and essentially pay “protection” just to be allowed to keep their property; whose every action in life is regulated, requires a permit and or inspection and fee….that they can ever remotely say with a straight face that they are “free”…..

          At least the residents of actual loony-bins and prisons generally recognize that they are not free- perhaps they have become the saner ones.

          “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”.

          • It is sad. I realize I’m not free. I try to live as free as possible. Try to withhold as much from uncle as I can. Work in cash when possible, but there’s only so much that can be done. Having a family of 5 kids puts severe limits on what I can do. I have to make sure I’m around to take care of them until they reach an age to take care of themselves.

            The things I do to have some semblance of freedom seem small to me, but many people think I’m way out there. I drive around a pickup with a dealer placard on it instead of plates. People lose their minds at how I don’t get pulled over for it. It’s actually much better than having expired plates. That’s when they get you. But, I suppose it depends on the state you live in. In Califonia I’d probably go to prison for my sins. In Idaho, I just pay the registration ticket every three or four years and be on my way. It’s actually a huge savings and no standing in line at the DMV. That’s worth a lot.

            Still, it’d sure be nice to be free so we wouldn’t have to worry about getting permission to travel anyway.

            • Ditto, Anc. I manage to live quite freely compared to most these days- or so it seems- but it comes at a price; the price of not doing a lot of the things we might otherwise do if we were free. But I made the choice, to maintain as many of the most basic freedoms, as the primary objective, at the cost of lesser things- like financial prosperity, etc.

              All in all, it’s worked out good for me, ’cause I figured this stuff out when I was in my teens- so I’ve stayed quite free and have managed to have a great life while maintaining about as much freedom as one can have here these days.

              Back when I was younger, before all of the computerization (Late 70’s-early 80’s) it was actually FUN out-witting the Nazis. Like, living NY at the time, which is an inspection state, if I had a problem getting a vehicle inspected (which was often the case, ’cause the state-licensed shops that did the inspections are all crooks), I’d save the temporary sticker they’d giv e ya when ya first registered a car; white-out the expiration date, and make copies, with a relevant date stamped on the newly made one…via the rubber date stamp thingy you could buy at any stationery store)!

              Can’t do that stuff anymore…..

              Man, can’t imagine living in this police state with 5 kids….. I worry enough about the dogs and cats, and being around for them.

            • Oh, and speaking of dealer plates…. You should see what my friend has gotten away with! (Back in Nazi NY no less)- Including using ’em to drive an old F800 from MI to NY! (He does get pulled over a l,ot though, and spends a lot of time in court…definitely not worth it- but that’s from other things…he’s been very lucky with the dealer plates!).

              For me, the big thing is avoiding the armed goons and the courts, ’cause i don’t play nice with those pricks…and they’d either end up killing me, or T’other way aroun d…which would ultimately result in the same thing.

      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Site_C_dam

        There have been several ideas floated for why this is needed but the original ‘for natural gas processing’ has basically been dropped. Flooding a few million acres for electric cars seems the new mantra. Wonder how much CO2 eating vegetation will be lost under the 23,000 acre lake.

        “In April 2010, passage of the Clean Energy Act exempted the project from further BC Utilities Commission review.”

        Standard practice around here. Same shit pulled when ramming smart meters through. Have an entire commission specifically for reviewing government decisions, pass legislation banning them from doing so. Can you say corrupt?

        BTW, more like 37 million people in Canuckistan.

      • Nunzio,,, The US grid isn’t in THAT bad of shape…. but they want you to think so in order to get you to agree to pay for the upgrade so it can handle the EV load. Everything,,, EVERYTHING today is some sort of psyop, BS or scam. Take the hurricane they’re claiming now to be at 180mph gusting to 200…. It’s all BS…. Go to Ventusky, Earth or where ever and you will find it’s a Cat 1 at about 90mph. Tell you what,,, If there is anything (ANYTHING) left in the Bahamas then it was not a 200 mph hurricane. NOAA is THE LEADING BULLSHITTER when it comes to pushing the GW agenda. Just notice that most hurricanes they monitor are now all Cat 4 and 5 where a few years ago you might get a couple a year.

        The whole country is being scammed in just about every way imaginable. After 3 generations of dumbing down it appears to be pretty easy to do.

        • Very true, Ken. But…it really couldn’t handle everyomne having EVs…and THAT I believe is the plan- to straddle us with a form of transportation which can not be sustained at the levels we are used to…which will lead to rationing.

          But definitely, this whole enviro-climate-change-EV-green thing is a HUGE scam, whose purpose is (as some of it’s proponents have even admitted) just subterfuge for their plan to destroy Capitalism.

  4. I didn’t think that the noses of cars could get any uglier…. I stand corrected.

    Freaking thing looks like it’s been in an accident before it even hits the street……

    Maybe I should buy a ticket on E-loon’s toy rocket to Mars in 2022, ’cause there’s no sanity left here on earth…..

    • I guess I don’t really pay attention to the nose much. I’ve never particularly thought any “crossover” vehicles looked very good. Ugliness just comes with buying a crossover.

      • That’s partly why I call ’em “Crossdressers”. I don’t even know why they have all of these stupid categories…they’re all just ugly cars with n cargo space.

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