In its quest to set a new benchmark for handling quality in the new UX crossover, Lexus focused on developing aerodynamic innovations. Details such as the shape of the rear light clusters, stepped wheel arch mouldings and a wheel design that lowers wind resistance all contribute to the performance profile.
In advance of the first cars arriving in the UK early next year, the UX has already earned praise from journalists for its agile handling. That testifies to the success of the work invested by UX Chief Engineer Chika Kako and her team.
Kako explained: “I wanted the UX to deliver the benefits of a conventional crossover – features such as a higher seating position and better visibility – yet with the dynamic performance and agility of a hatchback.”
Inspired by Akio Toyoda’s determination that “every Lexus should be fun to drive,” Kako first tasked her team with engineering a highly rigid platform, the foundation for the car’s intrinsic refinement and handling. Using aluminium and composite body panels has saved weight and lowered the UX’s centre of gravity.
Working on this foundation, the team sought to make a breakthrough in handling characteristics. Kako called on the experience of the aerodynamic engineers responsible for Lexus’s ultra-high performance LFA and F-line models. This collaboration produced three significant innovations.
Aero-stabilising rear lights
The UX’s rear combination lights are designed with integrated fins that reduce the changes in air pressure by about 16 per cent, contributing to the car’s rear stability when cornering and driving in side winds. The eye-catching design features a continuous line of light formed by 120 LEDs across the width of the vehicle, tapering gently towards the centre.
Aerodynamic wheel arch mouldings
On crossovers the wheel arch mouldings are typically designed to protect the bodywork from gravel thrown up by the tyres, but on the new UX Lexus has given them an additional function. A step at the top of the moulding suppresses vertical body waves when cornering, increasing stability and steering firmness.
The UX is available with 17-inch aero-ventilating wheels which feature flaps on each side of the spokes. A world-first for Lexus, these are shaped like the Gurney Flap on the rear wing of a Formula 1 car to regulate airflow and increase downforce. The wheel design supports stable braking, better brake cooling efficiency and reduced turbulence along the sides of the vehicle.
The UX was extensively tested in Lexus’s 260-metre long wind tunnel, once of the largest and most advanced aerodynamics facilities in the world. In addition to the innovations above, the car has also been fitted with a flush underbody and an aerodynamic door mirror design, inspired by that used on the Lexus LC flagship coupe.
Once wind tunnel and circuit testing were complete, the UX was handed over to a team of Lexus master drivers for fine tuning. They completed thousands of miles of driving in all conditions to achieve the best possible balance between road and vehicle.