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First drive: Lexus UX 300e. Image by Lexus UK.

First drive: Lexus UX 300e
Yes, this really is the first full electric car from Lexus (or Toyota, for that matter). Is it any good?

 



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Lexus UX 300e

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Lexus makes the (possibly belated) switch to full electric power for the UX 300e. However, it was well worth waiting for the company's zero-emissions leap, because - unless you want your high-riding EV to drive like a hot hatch - then what you have here is the benchmark for all future compact premium EV crossovers to beat.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Lexus UX 300e Takumi Pack
Pricing: UX 300e from 40,900 including Government PICG, Takumi Pack as tested from 50,500 including PICG
Electric system: 150kW AC synchronous electric motor plus 54.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: two-speed triple-axis reduction-gear transmission, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door EV premium crossover
CO2 emissions: 0g/km (VED Band 0: no road tax to pay in perpetuity)
Range: 196 miles (17in wheels, 190 miles 18in wheels)
Maximum charging capacity: 50kW, Mennekes connection; 50 minutes for 0-80 per cent battery charge on 50kW, eight hours 15 minutes for 100 per cent charge on 6.6kW domestic Wallbox, 19 hours on standard three-pin domestic socket
Combined electrical consumption: 16.8kWh/62.5 miles
Top speed: 100mph
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Power: 204hp
Torque: 300Nm
Boot space: 367-1,197 litres

What's this?

A pure EV Lexus. Which makes it the first fully electric production car this marque has ever made. Or, indeed, its parent company, Toyota. Which is a quite astounding fact, when you consider just how proudly Lexus and Toyota have pinned their colours to the hybrid mast over the decades. That Lexus is a relative latecomer to the wider world of EVs as we enter the 2020s is not in question; but, equally, neither is the fact that the UX 300e, as this particular EV will be known, has beaten the likes of the Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge and Tesla Model Y to the punch. At the moment, there are no direct rivals for the UX 300e in this premium EV crossover niche; there's no electric Audi Q2 nor zero-emissions derivative of its Q3 sibling, for example. The BMW X1 and related X2 have plug-in hybrid models, but that's it. And it's the same story for the Mercedes GLA and Jaguar E-Pace.

However, the fact the Lexus UX 300e is 'the first of one' shouldn't detract from what a corking overall package it is. For starters, it looks great. Helps that the source material is so handsome, of course, and that precious little has changed here: the EV variant has '300e' and 'Electric' badges in place of the regular car's '250h' and 'Hybrid' telltales on the bootlid and bottom of the rear doors respectively, while the 'fuel filler' cap is square (rather than round) on the UX 300e and covers a Mennekes-type charging port. Nevertheless, it is superb to behold on the outside, especially in Celestial Blue (+570 as it's a metallic option), while inside the cabin is suitably high quality too. It lacks the theatrical 'sliding dial' instrument cluster of the UX 250h or any Lexus LC, which is a shame, but what information is displayed in front of the driver is clearly presented, while various EV-specific switchgear can be spied elsewhere across the console. The UX 300e also gains a shift lever that's more like that in the LC, only with a 'B' marking to increase the effect of regenerative braking, and it still has that infotainment controller too - enough said. Anyway, space is fair onboard, rather than remarkable, while the boot is trimmed by 34 litres when compared to a UX 250h as a result of the electric underpinnings.

There were a number of reasons the UX was chosen for the signal honour of being the first Lexus/Toyota EV, but one of the main factors was because it is the luxury Japanese firm's top seller across Europe. Here in the UK, the UX has five per cent market share with unit sales well in excess of 4,000 for 2020 (and we all know what a disastrous year this has been), so Lexus UK is predicting 1,000 UX 300e sales out of 5,000-plus in 2021 (or 20 per cent of UX numbers on these shores), with that number - and share - increasing in 2022 to 2,500 units, or 37 per cent. A 'plain' UX 300e, which is well equipped as standard, starts at 40,900 including the Government's Plug-In Car Grant (PICG) while the Premium Plus and Takumi Packs add 3,500 or 9,600 to that price accordingly. Lexus UK predicts the UX 300e Premium Plus Pack will be the big seller of the three trims available, although we were testing a 'bells and whistles' Takumi Pack car that'll retail for the wrong side of 50 grand. Is the UX 300e worth such strong money?

How does it drive?

To answer the question we posited at the end of the previous section, the answer is 'yes'. Yes, the UX 300e is most certainly worth the cash, especially if you place mechanical refinement right at the top of your 'purchase motivators' list. In terms of rolling noise suppression, ride comfort and general ease-of-use, the UX 300e is spectacularly good. It's as pleasant and accommodating at motorway speeds as it is whisking around towns in near-silence, and the sound-deadening around the cabin of the regular UX comes across as even more wondrously effective when it's not having to quell the ruckus of a combustion engine on top of tyre roar and wind buffeting. Thank the fact the Takumi Pack also gains an acoustically insulated windscreen, as part of its generous specification list, for the cathedral-like conditions (in terms of noise, you understand; we're not saying the Lexus is cold, draughty and pious within) inside the cabin.

So it has the EV prerequisite of 'impeccable refinement' ticked off, then, which goes well with its upmarket, premium aspirations. Thankfully, Lexus has adopted that particularly Japanese approach to EV engineering that was displayed by Mazda and its new MX-30. In that, Lexus has similarly deduced that with most European commuters only covering 30 miles a day and 145 miles a week on average, the UX 300e doesn't need a whopping great lithium-ion battery that's capable of moving it 250, 270 or 300 miles in one hit. The company is keen to point out that it could easily have made the UX 300e go such distances if it had wanted to, but it felt a 54.3kWh battery was more appropriate to the end user. This decision saves on cost, it keeps the weight gain down (the 300e is approximately 160-185kg heavier than a 250h, which isn't a catastrophic increase of bulk by EV standards) and it means the vehicle can therefore still drive in a sprightly fashion.

Lexus actually claims a range of 196 miles on the 17-inch wheels of base models, although a Takumi on 18s will only cover 190 miles maximum. Is this enough? Well, yes, it is. Especially as those claims to decent driving manners brought about by the mid-sized battery seem entirely believable. While piloting the UX 300e quickly falls a touch short of being out-and-out exciting, as crossovers go it's a very likeable experience and as EV crossovers go, it's blinkin' superb. There's perhaps slightly duller turn-in than you'd get in the UX 250h and maybe slightly less composed body control in extremis, but both of these minor issues only present themselves when you're really provoking the Lexus to the point of nonsensical driving behaviour. Most of the time, it has good, clean composure, with positive steering, well-judged brakes, masses of grip and balance, and that seriously punchy drivetrain. Because, while it might look like we're comparing Jaffas with Granny Smiths, the last EV we drove prior to the UX 300e was that very Mazda we mentioned earlier. Now, while the MX-30 is admittedly a lot cheaper and less powerful, at 145hp plays the UX's 204hp, the torque difference between the two is a mere 29Nm and the weight is skewed about 200kg in the Mazda's favour. Yet the MX-30 never felt anything like as formidable and rapid as the UX 300e. Plant its throttle at low speeds in greasy conditions and there's enough verve about the Lexus' power delivery that it will momentarily spin its front wheels, even with traction control system engaged, while the 7.5-second 0-62mph looks, if anything, vaguely conservative. It feels a properly quick and (of course) velvety smooth car, so it gives you that highly desirable 'EV-shove' sensation without coming across as wildly unruly in the process.

We also heartily approve of the battery management. The UX 300e turned in very near its quoted 16.8kWh/62.5 miles 'economy' figure, posting 17.9kWh/62.5 miles on a 60-mile route which wended its way through the picturesque, up-and-down Surrey Hills. That it wasn't a very warm or nice day, meaning various battery-draining cabin-heating elements were employed during the drive, only made the final status of the Lexus UX 300e all the more commendable: it was still showing more than 90 miles of range and in excess of half its battery charge when we concluded the test. Driven more carefully in urban areas and more favourable weather/traffic/topographical conditions, customers should have no problem extracting nigh-on 200 miles of range out of their cars on a regular basis.

Verdict

Lexus has stolen a march on its premium rivals in this sector and it hasn't wasted this golden opportunity, turning in a thoroughly excellent product in the form of the UX 300e to set the standards in a class which is sure to grow in size very quickly, very soon. Aside from somewhat cramped rear passenger accommodation, a relatively modest boot and a perhaps-slightly-bold price as tested, everything else the UX 300e does is polished with the lustrous sheen of high-quality engineering. If you want an EV crossover or SUV of any size, you can easily do far worse than this brilliant Japanese machine - because you certainly wouldn't credit it for being a company's pioneering attempt at an EV, that's for sure.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 13 Oct 2020









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2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.

2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 300e Takumi UK test. Image by Lexus UK.








 

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