Driving report: Lexus LBX: Grow downwards

It's surprising that at a time when many manufacturers are retreating from lower vehicle segments, Lexus decides to go the exact opposite route and present its smallest car since the brand's inception.

Driving report: Lexus LBX: Grow downwards

It's surprising that at a time when many manufacturers are retreating from lower vehicle segments, Lexus decides to go the exact opposite route and present its smallest car since the brand's inception. Technically, the 4.19 meter long LBX is closely related to the Toyota Yaris Cross, which is also based on the GA-B platform. Visually, however, the two sister models have no significant similarities and the Lexus looks more of a piece than its long-legged counterpart from Toyota. It is 6.5 centimeters wider and almost five centimeters lower than the Yaris Cross with almost the same length.

The quality of the materials that cover the dashboard with the central 9.8-inch screen is noticeably higher and the comfortable seats, covered with either leather, imitation leather or fabric, not only look good, but also accommodate occupants of all sizes appropriate travel comfort. In addition to the 12.3-inch display behind the wheel, the driver of the LBX can optionally look deeper than in the Corolla Cross at the recommended head-up display and its most important information. In this class, it's just as unusual as the insulating glass on the front doors or an exclusive Mark Levinson sound system with 13 speakers. Given this class of vehicle, you shouldn't expect miracles from the amount of space available, so if you're 1.80 meters tall at the latest, it will be tight for your knees and head in the rear. With a loading volume of 332 liters, the front-wheel drive car offers significantly less space than the ever-shrinking competition. And as an all-wheel drive there is just 284 liters available, so the rear seats have to be folded down quickly for larger items.

The well-known hybrid drive combines a 1.5-liter three-cylinder with 67 kW / 91 HP / 120 Nm with an electric motor with 69 kW / 94 HP / 185 Nm, giving a total output of a manageable 100 kW / 136 HP with a maximum torque of 185 Nm results. The all-wheel drive has an additional electric motor on the rear axle to improve grip, especially when starting off, but the manageable 4 kW / 6 HP / 52 Nm with the same total power does not bring any noticeable advantages in terms of drive. The most important technical innovation is the chemistry of the small 1 kWh battery, which is not made of lithium but of nickel hydride like in the old Toyota/Lexus hybrids. Kunihiko Endo, chief engineer of the Lexus LBX: “If we only compare nickel hydride and lithium, of course the latter is lighter and more efficient, but the bipolar construction makes the difference because the electrode works as an anode in one cell and as a cathode in another, which allows us to reduce the volume of the battery while increasing its electrical conductivity and performance.”

The drive shows the familiar image of some hybrids, not least because of the continuously variable CVT automatic transmission: the acoustically present gasoline engine revs up loudly when the driver presses the accelerator pedal and creates too much noise for the power delivered. It only becomes more subdued when the accelerator is released. This is not the only place where the insulating glass is pleasantly noticeable in the interior. The top versions also have shift paddles on the steering wheel to simulate the functionality of a five-speed manual transmission, and an S driving program for a shorter transmission ratio is intended to give the driver a feeling of particular drive. The performance is not very impressive, but should be enough for many potential customers. The little Lexus gets to 100 km/h from a standing start in 9.2 seconds and has a top speed of 170 km/h. The hybrid's standard consumption: 4.4 liters Super per 100 kilometers.

The chassis set-up gets good marks. The comfortable chassis with McPherson front axle and torsion beam axle at the rear (front-wheel drive) or double wishbone rear axle (all-wheel drive) was developed with automatic distribution of the braking force to all four wheels in order to limit the body roll. Kunihiko Endo: “It is an individual hydraulic control of the braking force on the front and rear wheels, and this variation enables stable, horizontal driving behavior.” The stability of the almost 1.4-ton SUV with limited pitching behavior benefits significantly in curves the variable braking force distribution, while the body roll is also reduced. This makes driving more relaxed than the competition. If you want to test it out for yourself, the first deliveries to customers are scheduled to take place next April. Depending on the equipment variant and drive, the prices are between 32,990 and 46,190 euros.

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