This is Lexus’s first zero-emission vehicle, but the Japanese brand’s identity has remained intact.
The Lexus 300e is the Japanese constructor’s first pure electric car. That means that, for Lexus, this is a very important model, one that will have its place in the brand’s history book for pioneering zero-emission vehicles.
But, and this is an important but, the 300e is not pioneering much else. It’s a pretty straightforward car that neither boasts the most spectacular performances, nor the biggest range. So, why and how does it matter? Well, the UX 300e is a product more worried about other elements of what makes a car a car.
Lexus have always done things their own way and relied on the outstanding and unique engineering capabilities of the Toyota empire to implement solutions that were, at times, daring and, other times, purely disruptive. So, why does the 300e seem so…normal?
I believe Lexus knows their customers and wanted to build a car that was traditional in every possible way, except in its powertrain. And when I say traditional, I am assuming a compact crossover is nowadays a type of layout we are quite accustomed to.
The Lexus has a 204 horse-power electric motor powering the front wheels and capable of getting to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds. The 54.4 kWh battery pack equals a claimed range of 315km on the WLTP cycle, up to 400km in urban driving and can be charged in less than an hour through a 50 kW plug (there are two charging flaps: a standard charger on the driver’s side and fast-charge plug on the passenger side).
On a normal 8.8 kW wallbox, it takes eight hours to reach 80% of range and, like every other BEV (battery electric vehicle), if your only option is a domestic socket, then the charging time is enormous; in this case, 23 hours when range is close to zero.
Lexus have installed an advanced battery management system, to maximise efficiency when temperatures are very high or very low and help increase reliability, always a hallmark of the brand. Batteries come with a 10-year or one-million-kilometre warranty (wow, if I may say). For all other components, seven years or 160,000km.
On the road, those questions I asked before start to answer themselves. It’s very clear what the electric UX is for: this is a car for zen driving. In fact, this may be the ‘zennest’ (yes, I just invented a new word) car I have ever driven. It’s so quiet, so peaceful, so comfortable, you soon understand why it exists and what Lexus wanted to do with it. It is different because it is so traditional. And that’s a good thing. I am tired of cars trying to reinvent the wheel instead of focusing on getting what’s important right.
Lexus themselves assume this electric version of their compact premium crossover is primarily destined for city driving. A chic, very high-quality product to help modern urbanites overcome the stressful chores of their daily lives. And, believe me, it does that absolutely perfectly.
If proof of this was needed, get this: Lexus studied the noise patterns of pure electric vehicles and adapted some building processes to improve the UX 300e, as well as developing dedicated tyres and specific wheel arches that absorb a lot more noise and improve the cabin ambience. Suspension and steering are also unique to the UX’s electric version.
The 300e comes with LED headlights, all-round parking sensors and reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Depending on trim levels, there’s also leather, keyless entry, a wireless phone charger and more, 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, head-up display, a larger nav screen and a fabulous Mark Levinson audio system.
Materials and build-quality are impressive and I especially liked a kind of neoprene-style dashtop, very 2001 Space Odyssey. Driving position is very good, you can sit lower than in most cars of this segment, which I really liked, and for four people, the UX has plenty of space.
The infotainment system relies on a touchpad, something only Lexus is using, and it can be frustrating at times, although it gets better the more you get used to it. However, if you prefer, just use CarPlay or Android Auto (you probably will).
I enjoyed my days with the UX 300e. The effortlessness of its ways is genuinely relaxing, and it shows, without a doubt, where Lexus wanted to position their first pure, zero emissions BEV: as the leader in refinement, quality and a provider of a calmer pace of life. Obviously, with prices starting at €52,500, this is not a calmer pace of life for everyone, and it means the UX 300e is going after rivals from Tesla, Volvo, BMW and Mercedes.
It is definitely a different proposition, one I questioned before I drove it, but that made perfect sense once I did. May Lexus continue on their unique path; the industry sure needs these leftfield thinkers, especially the traditionally…traditional premium segment.