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A Small Car with Big Ambitions: The Lexus LBX in Singapore
The Lexus LBX is a new entry-level model for the brand, and its first (potentially) Cat A COE vehicle. Here are our first thoughts about the new small-luxury SUV after a preview drive in Japan.
- Luxury feel
- Fun to drive
- Hardly quick
- Compact cabin
What is the new Lexus LBX?
The Lexus LBX – for Lexus Breakthrough Crossover – is the marque’s smallest vehicle to date.
It is based on Toyota’s TNGA-B platform, which means it is related to the Yaris Cross, but that’s no bad thing.
The LBX has a parallel-hybrid powertrain and is powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine, plus an electric motor, mated to an e-CVT transmission that drives the front wheels only.
An all-wheel-drive model with a second electric motor for the back axle is due at a later date.
The standard car makes 134bhp, which pushes it just 5bhp over the Cat A COE limit, but we think Lexus could deploy some electronic trickery to keep it in that class.
That it is related to the Yaris Cross is something most owners will never know – Lexus has gone all-out with quality interior materials to give it a premium feel.
It even comes equipped with fancy Lexus safety technology including blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and even autonomous emergency braking.
Compared to the Yaris Cross, the wheelbase has been stretched slightly, and the track widened, which should impart a more stable feel on the road, and the suspension modified for a more luxurious ride.
Lexus has even added a balance-shaft to the three-cylinder engine to reduce vibrations.
Due to make its debut in Singapore at January’s Motor Show, the LBX looks set to win new customers to the Japanese luxury brand.
How does the Lexus LBX drive?
As we said, Lexus may have started with a common Toyota platform, but it set about transforming it to display some of the qualities that Lexus drivers expect.
Our test drive was on a mirror-smooth racing track, so may not be representative of real roads, but the LBX acquitted itself quite well. Noise in the cabin is really quite subdued.
The 1.5-litre engine is not turbocharged, which is something of a surprise – though the extra power wouldn’t help keep it in Cat A – and has to work fairly hard to get the LBX moving.
The claimed 0-100km/h sprint is a fairly leisurely 9.2 seconds, and despite the addition of a balance shaft, some vibration still gets through when you work the engine hard.
We suspect Lexus may put some more effort into this before launch.
The chassis feels awesome though. It feels light and nimble, the steering is lovely, and even when you’re throwing it around a set of corners, the body roll is well under control.
We’ll reserve our final verdict until we’ve tested it on real roads, but our first impressions are this is a really solid effort.
What’s the cabin like?
We’ve already said that the cabin displays the Lexus virtue of relative silence when it’s being driven, but can it live up to the Lexus standards of luxury?
Again, first impressions are quite good. The materials have a quality feel, and on the higher-spec cars there are suede and leather type materials for the seats with a copper line through them, that we really like.
The steering-wheel is leather-clad and has paddle shifters as well as nice Lexus-quality switchgear.
There’s a central 9.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, which is smaller than the Lexus standard, but it uses the same software. That means wireless connection to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and touch-screen climate controls, though there is a little knob to change the temperature and another for audio volume.
There’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument display for the driver.
Interestingly, you sit quite low in the LBX, and for bigger drivers the driving position can feel quite tight. Likewise, the rear seats are not overly generous, but our 6-foot road tester can fit. It would be tight with five adults, and those small rear doors are a giveaway to the LBX’s underpinnings.
An electric tailgate reveals a surprisingly generous 332 litres of boot space.
While the LBX feels quite compact inside, that’s obviously a function of its relatively compact exterior dimensions, and we love that Lexus is building a car in this class.
Where it has absolutely got it right is in the interior quality and refinement – it really does feel like a Lexus.
We’re impressed with the marque’s first foray into the compact luxury SUV segment.
We love that it is really fun to drive, and that it combines that with a luxury car ride quality, and upmarket interior feel. It seems to us like just the sort of car to attract new buyers to the brand in Singapore.
The video is produced by Chasing Cars, partner of our sister company Budget Direct Australia. Some features or options in the car build and the car’s pricing may not be applicable to the Singapore market (including the availability of car parts). Remember to check with your local dealer for details.
Writer is a motor enthusiast and journalist, Tony Tan.