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 NEDC test, the UX 300e is rated for 250 miles, however once undertaken the WLTP cycle will inevitably bring this number down, and on the road 180-200 miles would seem closer to reality. Turning the energy into movement is a front-located motor which is good for 201bhp and 221lb-ft of torque. 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. Whilst charging times haven't been confirmed, at the higher rate it should go from zero to 100 per cent in 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.
As for us in the UK, well we will have to wait until 2021 for it to go on sale.