Whilst Lexus has had hybrids since the first RX 400h was launched in 2005, like Toyota it has been slow – almost reluctant – to embrace pure EV technology. However, back in October at the Tokyo Motor Show the Japanese brand unveiled its electrification strategy alongside the LF-30 concept, and the UX 300e is the first car to go on sale as part of it.
Compared to the LF-30 concept the UX 300e is rather reserved. In fact, as a package the compact SUV doesn't exactly push the boundaries of what's possible with current EV technology. Lexus states that its electrified technology “enables integrated control of powertrain, steering, suspension and brakes, realising the full potential of the motor control technology”. Driving pleasure and dynamics are also front and centre of the UX 300e's positioning, embracing the brand's 'yet' philosophy (“continually reinventing automotive luxury by bringing seemingly incompatible ideas into harmonious coexistence; from the way a single component is engineered, to the way the automobile performs on the road).
The UX 300e uses the GA-C platform upon which the standard UX compact SUV is based and shares the same look and a good proportion of the standard car's components. The battery is located under the cabin – as per most electric SUVs – maintaining interior space as well as bringing down the centre of gravity.
As we've alluded to, as a package the powertrain is restrained. The battery has a capacity of 54.3kWh – smaller than is available in the smaller Nissan LEAF. On the WLTP cycle this has been brought down to 196 miles. Turning the energy into movement is a front-located motor which is good for 201bhp and 221lb-ft of torque delivering 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds. Four levels of regenerative braking help recuperate energy along the way.
To go with what is a fairly small battery is a low rate of charge – just 50kW DC maximum. Standard AC charge is just 6.6kW. At this speed, 80 per cent is possible in 52 minutes, with 100 per cent taking somewhere north of an hour (80 minutes at an educated guess).
We might be lamenting the small battery size, but Lexus Europe has announced that the UX 300e's air cooled battery will get a one million kilometre (621,000 mile) or 10 year warranty. The car, which is already on sale in China, is one of the few to use air cooling rather than the more commonly used water cooling (with the other notable volume model being the Nissan LEAF). According to Lexus, air cooling is safer and lighter than water cooling, but unlike the LEAF, Lexus's system is active and draws on the cabin climate systems to regulate battery temperature. Furthermore, the low maximum input of 50kW for charging will put far less thermal strain on the battery during charging cycles.
Despite generally being considered to be less robust, this big warranty demonstrates that the brand is clearly confident in its technology.
The Lexus UX 300e looks very similar to the standard car, with very few design cues to give away the fact that the car is an EV. 'Electric' is embossed low on the front doors; there is a new aerodynamic wheel design and a flat underbody which is also aerodynamically efficient. Much of the interior is also lifted straight from the standard UX, which means a high level of connectivity (in the UX 300e's case this includes charging and vehicle status control from a smartphone) and a simple, functional cockpit area. Lexus's Safety System+ comes as standard and driving assistance isn't in short supply.
A potential explanation to the moderate specs of the Lexus UX 300e comes from the launch location in Guangzhou and availability dates; the car has recently gone on sale in China. And we reckon that it's this evident focus on the buoyant Chinese market that has seen the car take the form that it has, as it will join a plethora of other compact SUVs with moderate ranges available in that market. The difference is that the UX 300e wears a Lexus badge, so it'll inevitably sell like hot cakes compared to some of the domestic Chinese brands due to the desirability factor.
Lexus will be opening order books here in the UK in October with the first UX300e deliveries starting in March 2021. Indicative prices start at £43,900 for the UX grade model, with the Premium Plus option pack taking it up to £47,400 and the Takumi pack topping the range at £53,500. We don't expect these prices to differ a great deal once finalised, though obviously those models under the £50k mark will be eligible for the £3000 PiCG.
Standard equipment includes Lexus Safety System+, Bi-LED headlights with auto high beam, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, auto wipers, heated and power adjustable front seats and 17 inch alloys. The Premium Plus Pack adds leather, a heated steering wheel, front seat ventilation, heated outer rear seats, smart keyless entry, wireless smartphone charging and illuminated door handles and puddle lights.
Add the Takumi Pack and the UX300e gets a 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, Lexus Navigation with 10.3 inch display, power boot, 360 degree panoramic view monitor, head-up display, auto-dimming rear mirror, triple-eye headlights with adaptive high beam, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert with auto brake. Alloy scuff plates and 18 inch alloys top off the exterior look, which can be specified in Fuji Red, Velvet Black, one of five optional metallic colours or two special finishes – Sonic Titanium or Sonic White.
If you really can't wait, you can pre-order on Lexus's website by placing down a £1000 reservation fee and get priority when the order books actually open.