Actually, it's not just a particular car that needs to exist, it's a whole new segement. And, sure, you'd think that every possible car segment has already been thought of, and while this one may have been considered before, it's not really available. What is this segment? It's the box. But not just any box. The luxury box.
Before you judge, let me explain how I got here. So, this week I have a new EcoBoost Mustang. It's a blast, and I'm having a lot of fun driving it around. I'm using it for everything — hauling around the kid, getting groceries, racing for pinks, all that. There'll be a full review to come, but I don't think I'll be spoiling anything by saying I'm enjoying it so far.
Then, I drove my wife's first-gen Scion xB.
Now, before I got in the car after almost a week of not driving it, I would have thought the main thing I'd feel was frustration at the loss of around 200 HP. I was totally wrong. What I felt was relaxed.
Yep, relaxed. There's something about the fundamental layout and design of that xB that makes it the easiest, most effortless car I've ever owned. And that's not from some power-assist kind of standpoint — it's still a manual with a small engine — it's the result of clean, spacious design. There's no overhangs at all, the hood is tiny and the window area is vast.
Getting kids and things in and out of the car is absurdly easy. It's low, the doors open wide, there's a ton of leg and headroom in the front and back. My wife bought a full-size bike yesterday and just shoved it in the back, while our son was still in his car seat. The car just makes general getting you and your stuff around remarkably easy.
The Mustang, for all its fun and swagger, was, I realized, more of an ass-pain than I was really aware of. The visibility isn't great, the window pillars are thick, the hood is long and high enough that parking in tight spaces takes a good deal of focus, getting in and out is always sort of awkward, and after driving the xB I realized that all of this adds up to a little bit of under-the-radar stress that just sort of hovers around you. The xB has none of that.
So, Scion's already ruined the recent xB with their second-gen redesign, and the originals were cheap, entry-level literal econoboxes. But I'm now thinking that the positive qualities of this basic design deserve a new, wider audience. And audience that appreciates comfort and ease. A premium audience.
There needs to be luxury box-shaped smaller cars. Boxury cars. Since the Scion was a Toyota, let's come up with a hypothetical Lexus: the BX class. What would it take to make this thing appealing to Lexus buyers?
I should be clear that the goal is not to do what Aston Martin did with the Scion/Toyota iQ and make a Cygnet. The fundamental goals are different. Aston had to do that to meet fleet-wide MPG goals. The BX class needs to happen because there are real, tangible benefits to the basic design that can be appreciated in a luxury context. It's not a punishing compliance car — it's a new take on luxury.
Ideally, the basic dimensions should be close to the original xB: tall box, minimal overhangs and hood, wide doors, and low stance (as in not an SUV or CUV). The BX is small on the outside, but inside, where it matters, it would be as nearly big as any of Lexus' current SUVs.
Don't believe me? Let's just look at room in the rear seat, where most small cars suffer the most — the current Lexus RX350 SUV has, in the rear, 38.6 inches of leg room, and 37.7 inches of headroom. A 2006 xB has 38 inches of rear leg room and 46 inches of rear head room. That's about as much legroom and a solid eight or nine inches more headroom. That extra headroom makes the whole interior feel much more open and spacious.
So, what if that boxy, roomy interior was kitted out like the fanciest of Lexii? Leather heated seats, front and rear climate control, panorama roof, rear LCD screens, wood trim, USB jacks everywhere, you see where I'm going. Do it up, all the way.
And, instead of the xB's little 109HP four-banger, why not cram in something more potent? Even keeping a short hood, I'm pretty confident that Toyota can find some turbocharged four that makes between 250-300HP that would give the box a nice little kick. Maybe add the now rich-guy-demanded AWD and you'd have a drivetrain that could compete with the fancy boys.
The exterior aesthetics of the car may be what you'd think would be the biggest hurdle, but while that's likely true, I think it's surmountable. For that goofy mockup I've been using here, I just grafted a Lexus front end onto a first gen xB, and, if I may say, it doesn't look nearly as bad as I thought it would. An actual BX would have the right Lexus detailing and design cues throughout.
And, besides, it's not like luxury car buyers will only buy sleek and elegant — look at big, boxy SUVs like Range Rovers, Escalades, Navigators, or genuine cyborg-buffalo beasts like the Infiniti QX80. If those are selling, something like this could, too.
A properly done Lexus BX250 could be just the thing for rich moms who are tired of wrestling with parking full-size SUVs in crowded parking lots and don't want to give up much room, status, or luxury. This could be the luxury ride of choice in congested cities.
The marketing would have to sell this car from the inside out, but I think that's a viable idea. The interior should feel a solid step up from most other SUVs in its price class, to compensate for the initial reaction to the smaller, box-like design. Marketing will get the word out that this is a desirable, high-status car to have because of its semi-stealth nature of its opulence.
Premium car-makers, I hope you're listening. I'm using Lexus as an example, but, really, anyone could play this game. A premium Soul. An Acura based on an enlarged N-Box. An Infiniti based on a heavily reworked Cube. A Lincoln designed around a truncated Flex-like car.
I know my wife wouldn't mind something a little more upscale than our silly little xB, but neither of us want to give up the fantastic ease and usefulness of that car. We can't be the only people looking for something like this, right?
The Lexus BX250. Lexus, you guys know how to get ahold of me if you want to talk.