The Lexus LF-Z Electrified Concept Revealed

What took them so long?

By Gary S. Vasilash

It was called the “Lexus Concept Reveal Show,” and the purpose of the show, such as it was,* was to introduce the LF-Z Electrified.

The show was about the car—a design that has the now-familiar Lexus sheet metal angularity but type-wise something of a cross between a four-door sedan and an SUV, which arguably makes it a bona-fide “crossover”—that is to come out in some form (concepts don’t always turn into production vehicles) by 2025 as part of “20 new vehicle models including BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs, and other electric vehicles.”

Well, it sort of has a spindle grille: the Lexus LF-Z Electrified. (Image: Lexus)

Heretofore the focus at Toyota—of which, of course, Lexus is a part—has been on hybrids.

And it was ahead of the rest of its competitors back in 2005 when it launched the RX 400h, a hybrid.

An interesting thing about that: Lexus was ahead with the straight-up RX, which has become a phenomenal success for the brand, out performing not only anything else in its lineup, but vehicles from its competitors. And the hybrid version was something that others didn’t have because they, to a certain extent, thought that diesel engines were the future.

Yet Lexus was there with that hybrid, then made hybrid variants of everything from its performance cars to its compact utilities.

But its full-EV–especially in the blinding-light of Tesla–was nowhere.

The details of the LF-Z Electrified are sketchy. As in “DIRECT4,” a “four-wheel driving force control technology” that sounds as if it is an approach to torque vectoring (the various wheels are controlled such that the appropriate amount of torque is distributed to each depending on conditions). It rides on a specific battery-electric vehicle (BEV) platform.

The battery is placed longitudinally and helps provide a low center of gravity, but what kind of battery it is or how big aren’t revealed.

The interior is said to be minimalist, using a new design concept, “Tazuna,” which is the Japanese word for rein, as in a rider reining in a horse. (Mazda has long used Jinba Ittai in the development of its vehicles: the combination of a rider and horse as one.)

Lexus has to come big with electric vehicles. Audi is rolling out with models right now, Mercedes is ratcheting up its output, BMW has a suite of electrified vehicles and has announced its own BEVs, and even Cadillac is going all in.

Given that Lexus was already providing electrified vehicles back in 2005 makes me wonder what’s been taking it so long.

*While this was about a car, it should not be mistaken for an “auto show,” one of those events held in a municipal convention center or fairgrounds with miles of aisles of displays of new vehicles, an event that was in the process of diminishing in importance before the pandemic. It almost seems as if those shows, where things like concepts were routinely introduced, may be giving way to things of a tightly controlled and digital nature.

2020 Lexus UX 250h Luxury: The Charm of the Smaller

The Lexus CT200h became available in the U.S. market in 2011. It was a global vehicle, one that was a hybrid-only vehicle, albeit not the first Lexus to be such: there was the HS 250h that had gone on sale in 2009 in the U.S. The HS didn’t work out so well in the U.S. market, having been pulled in 2012. Arguably, the issue was that the HS 250h was pretty much just a compact four-door that was Lexus-nice, but not enough. The CT200h had a better run in the U.S. market—going until 2017—and it continues to have a level of appeal as it was a compact hatchback, making it somewhat special (the CT200h wasn’t the first Lexus hatchback: there was the IS hatch, which had a run from 2002 to 2005, but it wasn’t a hybrid).

The Lexus CT 200h hybrid: A charming hybrid circa 10 years ago. (Images: Lexus)

The CT200h came to mind—not the more similarly named HS 250h—when I drove the UX 250h, a compact crossover. The charm of the CT carries over to the UX.

Realize that Lexus offers the RX as a hybrid, as well as the NX. So it is big, smaller and compact with the addition of the UX. The other two are more SUV-like than the UX. It strikes me as a, well, compact hatchback. Yes, it is designed more like a crossover than an SUV, but if you squint. . .there’s the CT200h.

And like the other two, the UX is available as a gasoline-only-powered vehicle. The hybrid version brings AWD with it.

The vehicle is powered by a hybrid system that consists of a 2.0-liter inline four that is supplemented by a two-motor generator hybrid transmission—one motor serves as a generator to provide electricity that goes to the vehicle’s nickel-metal hybrid battery system (yes, NiMH) and to control engine speed while the other motor provides power to the wheels as well as performs regenerative braking. The total system horsepower is 181, which is suitable for an AWD vehicle with a 3,605-pound curb weight: You’re not going to be breaking any speed records and may not even be the first to go when the light turns green, but you’re also going to get an estimated fuel economy of 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined, which Lexus says makes it the most fuel-efficient crossover without a plug. (Who would have thought that Lexus would be the leader in fuel efficiency while providing a vehicle that is anything but frugal in its interior execution and amenities? This simply speaks to the proficiency that Lexus has in executing vehicles.)

Lexus UX 250h hybrid: Charm circa right now.

The vehicle “seats five.” With a moonroof the passenger volume is 88.5 cubic feet; it is 90.4 cubic feet sans. Trust me: you don’t want to be the fifth person in the vehicle regardless of the roof. The SAE cargo volume is 17.1 cubic feet: remember—this is a compact crossover, so you’re not going to be moving any fridges in it unless it is sized for a dorm room.

But the real thing about the UX is its charm. Which is something that isn’t often characteristic of vehicles nowadays. The 2020 UX 250h Luxury trim has a starting MSRP of $39,900, which makes it the most-affordable Lexus hybrid by a few hundred bucks: the NX 300h AWD starts at $40,160, and while it is a bit bigger, there is something about the UX 250h that makes it special.

Like the CT200h.