It's hard to believe, but the lowest priced Lexus you can buy off the lot right now is the UX—a small SUV that honestly feels more like a hatchback than an actual sport utility vehicle. The UX name is derived from "Urban eXplorer", however, with its underwhelming powerplants (169hp 2.0L inline-four and a 183hp hybrid model), you're unlikely to see one beyond a Whole Foods parking lot. So why in the hell did we pick up a 2019 UX 200 F Sport as our new toy? Well, let's just say we love a good challenge and we dared to explore a little further with the UX than what Lexus initially intended.
After a few months of getting to know our 'lil UX, we received several compliments in regard to its bold and modern design language. We can't help but agree. It looks at home on the streets of downtown Los Angeles, and we especially dig the rear tails (they're made up of 120 LEDs!). The interior doesn't disappoint either as every design element is well thought out and driver-centric. We did notice the back seats and trunk are a little tight, meaning it's not the ideal ride for a family of four or to transport a set of wheels and tires (I tried and had to make two trips). But its handling is up to par as it shares the same DNA as the Toyota C-HR, a crossover we modified two years and even took out on the track. And speaking of modifying, it's finally time to say goodbye to stock!
THROW OUT THE PLAYBOOK
Our initial plan was to do the obvious: lower it, import a lip kit from Japan, throw bigger wheels on and wrap it a brighter color; however, at the end of the day, it just felt like we'd be going through the motions. We didn't want to do the same thing (even though we know it would've looked mad clean!). So, we put our thinking caps on and remembered past experiences with crossovers, trucks and SUVs. It's not always their large size that make 'em appealing, but their ability to go virtually anywhere and drive on any type of surface. It got the gears turning, so, we made the decision to throw out the old Super Street playbook and write a new one. This time, we're going up!
Note: Before the truck guys come on here to roast me, the new goal isn't to turn this into an off-road or overlanding project, but something with a bit more ground clearance, and offer the drivability qualities you'd find more with an SUV than a city-centric hatchback.
H&R RAISES THE BAR
Despite the noticeable factory wheel gap, the UX is surprisingly low. So much so, that it'll often scrape regular curbs in parking lots. Without going with a balls-out lift kit, I decided we needed some taller springs. We contacted our friends at H&R Springs who've been selling a wide range of coilovers and spring kits intended to raise vehicles—now with over 30 applications. After giving them my spiel, it was just a matter of weeks until its German R&D team developed and shipped an affordable spring kit (MSRP: $399) to us that would raise our UX 1-inch in the front and 1.2-inches in the back.
Packed with our H&R goodies in the trunk, I headed down to our good friends at Auto Tuned in Monrovia, California, where they would give us a hand installing the new springs. A normal spring install is pretty straightforward on the UX, however, the only issue we ran into was that compressing springs was a bit more difficult than usual due their taller height compared to stock. You'll definitely need a wall-mounted spring compressor for the fronts.
After finessing our pretty blue H&R springs in, we were shocked how much of a difference an inch raise makes. We were well on our way to reconfiguring our UX to be more like an SUV and more like an "eXplorer". In regard to ride comfort, there was no compromise at all. It didn't feel too bouncy or "springy" as one might expect.
The waiting game begins now... I spent a couple days test-fitting different wheel options at Mackin Industries and we decided on a wheel design from RAYS Japan that isn't yet offered in the States. We'll be the first (wink, wink)!
We're definitely stoked about the wheels but pairing them with a set of meatier tires is what's got us excited and nervous at the same time. Going from all-season street tires to all-terrain tires is no walk in the park and it's already looking like a tight fit, especially since we don't plan to cut the fenders. You're not going to want to miss how it at all pans out!