This is a Lexus UX, the premium carmaker’s smallest crossover-SUV, which competes in the marketplace with the likes of the Audi Q2/Q3, the BMW X1/X2, the Mercedes GLA/GLB, the Volvo XC40 and the Jaguar E-Pace. Up until now, it has been powered solely by one of Lexus’ trademark full hybrid drivetrains, a 2.0-litre petrol engine with non-plug-in electrical back-up resulting in 180hp, around 202Nm from the electric motor and badging of UX 250h.
The change here is that the petrol engine has been dropped entirely and replaced with a far larger lithium-ion battery, rated at 54.3kWh, which powers a 150kW (204hp) electric motor with 300Nm. This pure-electric model is called the UX 300e and it bears the honour of being the first-ever production EV from either Lexus or its overlord, Toyota. Lexus claims the UX 300e can go up to 315km on a single charge of its battery, while it has the ability to be hooked up to a 50kW DC connection to replenish its cells from 0-80 per cent in 50 minutes. Practicality is also preserved to a large degree, as the housing of various electrical running gear hasn’t impacted on the passenger space in the compartment significantly (although the rear seats are as compact as they are on the UX 250h) and the boot space is only trimmed by 34 litres to a still-reasonable 367 litres with all chairs in the cabin occupied.
How is it to drive?
It can do 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds and it feels every bit as quick as that metric might suggest, if not a little bit quicker still. Indeed, plant your foot down a bit too quickly on the accelerator pedal and the UX 300e has enough instant torque to make its front tyres (it is two-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive) chirrup slightly as they spin up and beat the traction control.
Yet this strong performance – the UX 300e feels lively right up to motorway speeds, not just in town driving – doesn’t introduce any unruliness to the way the Lexus handles. It has lovely steering and a lack of misbehaviour from the front axle, which means you can make the most of the generous amount of grip on offer and keep the 300e moving quickly on give-and-take roads. Admittedly, it’s not thrilling in this regard, but it’s certainly composed, its general good handling manners a direct corollary of it being relatively light for a vehicle of this type and propulsion system.
Where it really wins plaudits, though, is for the ride and refinement. The UX 300e makes the most of having no internal combustion engine on board by having first-rate noise suppression so you hear barely anything of the tyres rolling along the road nor the bodywork of the Lexus cleaving through the air, and the ride quality is exceptional. The UX 300e doesn’t struggle on rougher road surfaces and it’s genuinely lovely to travel in on smoother patches of asphalt.
When is it coming to Ireland?
The Lexus UX 300e will go on sale in Ireland in January 2021, costing from €60,130 in its solitary specification of Luxury. That makes it about half as expensive again as a comparable UX 250h, although the SEAI grant of €5,000 towards plug-in cars does go some way to mitigating the expensive of the 300e. It also comes with a lengthy specification that includes 18-inch wheels, parking sensors at both ends of the car, a wireless smartphone charging pad, heated seats in all four outer seating positions of the cabin and a heated steering wheel too, ventilation in the front two seats, dual-zone climate control and leather upholstery.
Any juicy technology?
The Lexus infotainment system now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which is good because it means you can largely bypass the UX 300e’s one notable weak point: its human-machine interface. The controller, for the sharp-looking screen up on the dash, is a strange flat pad down on the transmission tunnel and it doesn’t work well in practice. Therefore, if you can use either CarPlay or Android and their voice control functions, the classy interior of the Lexus becomes an even better place to spend some time.
Carzone.ie rating: 4.5/5
A superb first attempt at an EV, the Lexus UX 300e has got the jump on its rivals. Tesla’s Model Y is on sale in its native California, but it isn’t available anywhere else, while Volvo’s expensive XC40 P8 Recharge hasn’t hit the market yet. Mercedes is readying EQA and EQB contenders, although they won’t land until well into 2021, and there’s no sign of any pure-electric, similarly sized rival to the 300e from any of Audi, BMW or Jaguar. But it’s not just the fact it is first to market that makes the UX EV such a good car; it’s that Lexus’ execution of the zero-emissions premium crossover is genuinely excellent in most regards. It has decent range, impeccable cruising manners, a powerful motor and accomplished handling. Save for slightly cramped rear-seat space and the infuriating infotainment controller, there’s plenty to like here with this fabulous new EV.