- Luxurious and comfortable
- Smooth driving experience
- Well equipped, particularly in Premium Plus trim or above
- Mediocre sub-200-mile range
- Limited leg room for rear passengers
- Expensive when purchased outright
Range (WLTP): 190-6 miles Top Speed: 100 mph 0 to 62: 7.5 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3.9p
Just when we thought Toyota had put all its eggs into the hydrogen basket with the interesting but hardly dominant Mirai Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, the company’s luxury brand Lexus announced it was going all-electric. Now the first Lexus BEV, the UX300e, is almost here. Although the car body type is different, Lexus is targeting the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus in the luxury segment, with a similar price but an emphasis on interior comfort rather than performance and range. We were given a chance to drive a European-specification example ahead of the UK launch in March 2021. This is basically the car that will arrive next year, only left-hand drive. So we were able to get a good idea about whether the UX300e will put Lexus and Toyota back in the running for zero-emission dominance, and the company on its way back past Tesla for market cap value.
Price and Options
The basic Lexus UX300e comes in only just above the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus at £40,900 including the plug-in grant but is down compared to it in both power and range. The motor has 201bhp (compared to 241bhp for the Model 3), and the battery is a relatively modest 54kWh. However, the options included as standard are as high as you expect from a Lexus, including front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, 17in alloys, UV glass, eight-way electric adjustable front seats, and dual-zone air conditioning.
However, there are two trim variants above the basic one. For £3,500 extra, the Premium Plus pack adds keyless smart entry, illuminated door handles and puddle light, privacy glass, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, wireless phone charging, and the ability to choose 18in alloys for a further £750. Then there’s the considerably more expensive Takumi Pack, which costs £9,600 on top of the base price. As well as what’s included with Premium Plus, you get adaptive headlights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert with auto braking, a 360 panoramic view for the reversing camera, hands-free power back door, acoustic front windscreen, a sunroof, a larger 10.3in central display, 13-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio, head-up display, and the 18-in alloys as standard.
The car we drove was actually the European Luxury Pack, which lacked the sunroof of the Takumi Pack, but was otherwise similarly equipped with 18in wheels and privacy glass for passengers and boot. However, we suspect that the Premium Plus Pack will be the most popular choice when this car goes on sale. The Takumi Pack seems like a lot more money for not so many extra features.
In fact, the pricing seems expensive in general if you were to buy the UX300e outright, but Lexus claims that it is cheaper to own on a business contract hire than the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus or a Polestar 2, due to the residual value of Lexus cars. However, the Premium Plus Pack would be closer and that is likely to be the most popular trim level.
Sales start on 1st November 2020, with demonstrations from 22nd January 2021, and customer deliveries starting 1st March 2021.
If you’ve seen a Lexus UX before, there is nothing much visually different to the non-electric version. In fact, a few days after our test drive we saw a UX250h the same colour as our press sample and you would not have been able to tell the difference, unless you noticed the badge and lack of the word “electric” on the side. The UX sits within the “urban crossover” segment of the SUV market. It looks a bit like an off-road vehicle with its rugged plastic wheel arches, but the closest it’s likely to get to an off-road situation would probably be a private driveway.
The UX300e is therefore not a revolutionary exterior design, but a Lexus that just happens to have an electric powertrain. If you like the current angular Lexus visual aesthetic, you’ll like the UX300e. There is a lot of black plastic involved, but the blue metallic paint on our sample (£570 extra) is attractive and we understand why this seems to be a common colour for the UX – we’ve seen a lot of the hybrid version this shade.
The UX is relatively small, almost hatchback in size. In fact, at 4,495mm in length it’s only 5mm longer than a Nissan Leaf. It’s also a similar height at 1,545, although not as tall as the Kia Soul EV. This seems to be the appeal of this car type, as it gives more headroom inside and facilitates entry. With the keyless system available with the Premium Plus and Takumi Packs, you can keep the keys in your pocket at all times and simply pull the door handle to get in.
Aside from being a battery-electric vehicle, this is still a Lexus – which means it’s designed for comfort and luxury. The driver and front seat passenger will have a very enjoyable driving experience, with eight-way electric adjustment in both cases and supportive upholstery. The height of the car means plenty of headroom, and legroom is great too. The seats are cloth in the basic model, but leather with “Shashiko inspired quilting” is used for the more expensive options. You get the usual central cupholders, a Chi charger on models above the standard one, and a cubby with wired charging and connectivity.
However, the rear passenger space is a bit more cramped. The headroom is just as good as the front, but legroom is limited. This will be fine for kids – and we suspect this car will find favour with parents on the school run – but adults may not want to spend hours in the back. On the plus side, there are separate air conditioning vents for the rear passengers, two USB charging ports, and in all but the basic model rear heated seats as well for two passengers on either side. There is a middle seat at the rear with its own belt, but it is very thin and only really usable by a very skinny person in an emergency.
Storage and Load Carrying
The UX300e has a reasonable boot capacity as standard of 367 litres. This is midway between a Nissan Leaf and a Renault ZOE. It will be enough for hand luggage for four people, the weekly shop, or some hand luggage and a suitcase. However, you can drop the rear seats forward in the usual 60/40 split. Lexus hasn’t disclosed how much more boot space this gives you, but it is reasonably capacious, generally flat and should be enough for that trip to the DIY store, so long as you’re not buying a sofa. However, the area underneath the boot floor is merely enough for charging cables and some emergency kit.
The powertrain system is operated with a gearstick-like knob in the centre console, which you pull back for drive, push forwards for reverse, and sideways for neutral. If you pull it back a second time in drive mode you engage a higher level of regenerative braking a bit like the Nissan Leaf e-pedal, although there are also paddles on the steering wheel to adjust the level of regeneration. There’s a knob above the steering wheel to switch between Eco, Normal and Sport modes, and another for traction control.
The air conditioning system has discrete buttons and is zoned between driver and passenger side, so they can both set different temperatures. We particularly like the separate analog clock, rather than having a digital one or other electronic time display. The central media and navigation screen is one area where the Premium Plus Pack and standard UX300e are the same, as these get a 7in screen, whereas the Takumi Pack upgrades this to a larger 10.3in display. This comes with a much more accomplished 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, where the lesser models only include six speakers. However, all models include support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as offering Lexus Link connected services.
Performance and Driving
The 201bhp motor means that the UX300e is reasonably perky in Sport mode. It can hit 62mph in 7.5 seconds, which is a little quicker than most mainstream EVs, but way off the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, let alone the more expensive Model 3 models. Although the steering is quite assured around twisty “A” roads, it’s clear that the UX300e is aimed more at comfortable cruising than involved driving. It’s certainly a smooth car for navigating traffic or along winding curves.
The UX300e is front-wheel drive, and there is some torque steer if you accelerate hard, although there is clearly good traction control compensating for this. You can feel a wriggle in the steering wheel as this kicks in, but nothing alarming. The UX300e also feels very planted at speed – it is a 1840kg car, after all. At least for the front occupants, it would be a pain-free way to travel long distance, if the range allowed it. But, as we’ll see in the next section, this isn’t this car’s forte. For everyday city driving or a commute that involves regularly heavy traffic, however, this is a luxurious, pampering drive.
Range and Charging
The elephant in the room with the UX300e is the WLTP range you get from that 54.3kWh battery. With 17in wheels, it’s 196 miles, but with the 18in wheels on our sample this drops a little to 190 miles. Now that less premium-branded (and cheaper) EVs are offering ranges in excess of 200 miles, this seems a little limited. Lexus did try to justify the range with statistics that 70% of premium car customers drive 29 miles day or less, for a total of 145 miles a week (assuming weekday-only usage, presumably). They also tend to charge overnight – because premium car buyers have off-street parking and can therefore install a wall box. However, since Lexus is explicitly namechecking the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, it should be noted that the latter will give you 30% more range, and is feasible for longer journeys as a result. The UX300e is more clearly aimed at shorter city or regular commuter usage.
Lexus is also rather unusual in that it has chosen to equip the UX300e with the typical Type 2 for AC charging but CHAdeMO for DC. There are still a lot of charging points offering the CHAdeMO connection, but now that even Nissan has turned towards CCS for its forthcoming Ariya SUV, we do question this choice. AC charging goes up to 7kW, so on a wall box you can charge to 100% in 8 hours 15 minutes, whereas a 13-amp plug and granny charger will take 19 hours. The DC charging tops out at 50kW, so the car takes 50 minutes to reach 80% capacity from zero.
With a 14p per kWh power supply, the UX300e is also a little more expensive per mile than some other EVs we’ve reviewed at 3.9p per mile. However, Lexus is currently working on an optional cheap deal for installing a wall box, and has partnered with Digital Charing Solutions to provide a Lexus Charging Network, accessible via a Lexus Link app. DCS has partnerships with Podpoint, Source London, Ionity, Instavolt, E-Flux, Char.gy, Fastned, EV-Box and Geniepoint, so there will be plenty of locations to choose from.
Lexus provides a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty on drivetrain defects, including the EV elements, but the battery has the typical eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty for 70% retention. The vehicle itself has a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, the paintwork guarantee is three years, but you get 12 years of anti-corrosion security. However, Lexus is also offering a 10-year, 1,000,000km extended care on all functional defects of the main battery and capacity degradation below 70%, provided regular health checks are performed via the Lexus network. This is similar to Lexus’s hybrid drivetrain extended cover scheme.
The basic UX300e is in insurance group 30E, but this is likely to rise to 35 for the Takumi Pack trim. So this won’t be that cheap a car to insure. But of course you won’t be paying any VED and zero benefit-in-kind (BiK) as a company car for the first year if purchased through a company. The company can also write off the whole cost of the car against income in the first year to reduce corporation tax, like other BEVs.
The safety features of the UX300e are comprehensive. The basic Lexus Safety System+ included with all models incorporates a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and lane trace assist, road sign assistance and automatic high beam control. The Takumi Pack switches the automatic high beam control for an adaptive version and adds blind spot monitoring as well as rear cross-traffic alerts with automatic braking. We are a bit surprised that blind spot detection requires the most expensive Pack, but otherwise the standard safety features tick all the boxes.
|Price:||£40,900; Premium Plus – £44,400; Takumi – £50,500|
|Range (WLTP):||196 miles (17in wheels); 190 miles (18in wheels)|
|Charge time (13a, 100%):||19 hours|
|Charge time (7kW, 100%):||8 hours 15 minutes|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||50 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||7.2kW|
|Cost per mile*:||3.9p|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh