The Lexus UX 300E leaps from hybrid to pure EV
Unlike many current EVs, the Lexus UX 300e has a very welcome feeling of lightness
It’s taken Lexus a long time to completely cut ties with the internal combustion engine. Toyota’s luxury division was the pioneering high-end hybrid brand, taking the tech that its parent company effectively invented and honed to perfection through models like the Prius, which debuted way back in 1997. The company has sold well over 15 million hybrid models to date, with Lexus chipping in with mixed-power models from 2005 onwards. These days, you can’t buy a non-electrically assisted Lexus in the UK, and the LF-Z concept shown in March heralds the shape of its battery electric future.
For a company that has always made much of its design chops, going electric will be especially beneficial. The UX 300e might be a first, but it’s also a compromise, a car with a visually identical hybrid sibling. We’ve often noted that car design is in a bit of a limbo, with the best and boldest designs coming from manufacturers who have started from scratch and don’t have to accommodate the legacy of the internal combustion engine. This isn’t an engineering quandary – these issues were all carefully planned for years in advance – but a visual one; a glimpse at the Lexus LF-Z shows the company’s best-looking model to date, even if it is still only a concept.
The little UX 300e starts with a struggle, therefore. Added adversity comes with its scale, for at the moment, small cars still equal a relatively small range, due to the lack of space for battery packaging. This isn’t necessarily a problem, provided you’re good at planning ahead and don’t treat a car solely like a spontaneous lifestyle accessory. Fast-charging via the CHAdeMO plug, with 0 per cent to 80 per cent coming up in just under an hour. CHAdeMO is different the CCS plugs used in many German cars, although both systems are usually found together on the same charger. The main problem is finding a free charge point in the first place, a whinge that will hopefully soon feel akin to complaining about dial-up internet speeds.
Resplendent in ‘Terrane Khaki’ bodywork and a tan leather interior, the UX 300e conveys a welcome touch of class. Lexus knows a thing or two about reliability and build quality, so you can expect this little EV to run for years without any trouble at all. Some of the UI decisions remain questionable – the company’s touchpad system for media controls is still an acquired taste, after all these years – and externally the ‘spindle’ grille and weirdly square chunky plastic wheel arches are little Lexus quirks that might not delight. The other odd omission is the absence of satnav, which you’re assumed to bring via Apple or Google.
The projected range of 196 miles feels rather optimistic, and if you avail yourself of accessories like air conditioning or use a bit too much of the swift acceleration, you’ll be lucky to get 75 per cent of that. However, unlike many current EVs, the UX 300e has a very welcome feeling of lightness, a characteristic that so many EVs fail to convey. With a sense off lightness – however artificially contrived – comes a tendency to take things easy, eke out the range and revel in the comfort and accoutrements that Lexus have become famed for. Compact luxury EVs are still thin on the ground, so for now the Lexus has the field to itself. It’s a strong start from a company with the skills to make superior electric cars. §