The Lexus UX300e is missing the point
We expected more from Toyota Group's first ever 100% electric car
Is there such thing as a bad car today? If you think about it, nowadays there is so much research, energy and resources going into the development of road-going vehicles that there is no room for genuinely poorly-conceived cars. Obviously, there are modern cars that I drove that I disliked, but everything is relative and these cars may be very well suited for other individuals. That's why I do not like to give too negative reviews about cars because after all nearly all of them today are safe, reliable and relatively good to drive. In other words, they all have strengths and weaknesses, but most of the time the upsides prevail. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the car we are reviewing today.
This is the Lexus UX300e and it was introduced last year in 2020 as the world's first ever fully electric Lexus. Which also makes it the first electric Toyota. It starts at a very interesting CHF 39'900.- (£32'650), but our press car was closer to the CHF 60K (£49K) mark because of all the options. Despite being currently the smallest car in the range, it is definitely a premium one. The exterior design is quirky but very modern and it looks like a car that could be more expensive than it actually is. The UX300e we received had this beautiful khaki green colour over than leather interior, and I must say that in my opinion this spec is spot on. If you ask me, I will tell you that I really like the design of this Lexus and I believe that it absolutely stands out in this crowded segment of compact SUVs. It's all about sharp lines and the design details definitely make this car interesting to look at.
Same applies to the inside where it is just a fantastic place to sit in. It's the kind of environments in which you just want to spend time and travel for many miles. The seats are some of the best in the category and even though the car is quite short, there is plenty of space inside not feel too cramped even if you're sitting in the back. The rest of the cabin is typical Lexus with high quality materials but also some ergonomics that make little sense, especially if you're used to German cars. In terms of tech, yes the infotainment is slightly outdated and you still get the trackpad on the center console to navigate around the different menus. I don't know if you need a lot of getting used to but I did not find it very intuitive. In fact, the new Lexus NX that was introduced earlier this year got rid of it, therefore I might not be completely wrong.
Then comes the driving and here again the UX feels premium. The ride is comfortable and there is obviously not much noise to spoil the pleasant experience. Don't expect anything sporty because you'll be disappointed, but then again is it really what Lexus buyers expect? In that sense, the UX300e is pretty much in line with the driving philosophy of the brand. The UX300e's battery makes 201 bhp which is enough to go from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 160 km/h. I know, so far it does sound like a compelling car, and it seems like there is a lot of upsides. However, there is one fundamental thing where the UX300e fails to impress and that is its battery. Equipped with a 54.3 kWh battery under the floor, Lexus claims that it will do 299 km in a single charge. To put this into perspective, a Tesla Model 3 that costs exactly the same will reach nearly 500 km! Apparently, Lexus did many studies to understand how many miles their city customers made within a day and that number was 29. Therefore, they figured they'd stick with a smaller and lighter battery to not compromise the driving dynamics. Maybe, but do we actually care about that in such car? In a world where consumers are obsessed with the range of electric cars, 299 km feels like a no brainer for a car of this segment. But that's not the only issue.
Even though 299 km is not enough today, I wanted to check if the range was accurate or not. To my surprise, it was not... For example, the last trip I did with the UX300e was when I had to bring the car back to Lexus Switzerland. That trip from my home to the dealership is approximately 23 km, and completely flat. The moment I got inside the car, there was 37 km of range left and I said to myself that I will easily reach my destination. To be 100% sure, I sticked to 110 km/h on the highway, switched off the A/C, the radio, and basically all the features that require some juice. The result was one of the most stressful drives I have ever experienced. When I got to the dealership, there was only 5 km of range left so that means that during a 15 minutes drive I lost about 10 km of range. 10 km that mysteriously vanished for nothing. For its defense, I know that highways are not optimal for electric cars, but still. When I drove the Polestar 2 and Audi RS e-tron GT, I remember how close their range were to reality. Therefore, my time with the small Lexus did not end that well.
I really wanted to like this car. I really like the design, the interior, the way it drives, but was left disappointed by the poor range and how inaccurate it was. It feels like Toyota/Lexus was desperate to quickly put a fully electric car on the market and did it on a platform that was never supposed to get it. Of course, the UX300e is not a bad car per se, but it's when you start comparing it with its direct competition that you realize that it's not the one to get. There is room for improvement and I do expect the Japanese brand to soon come up with a model that is up to the standards set by the leaders of the industry. The new bZ4X looks indeed very promising, but even more models should follow. Therefore, if you're in the market for an electric car from this particular Japanese brand, I would just wait.
A huge thank you goes to Lexus Switzerland who have been kind enough to let us test drive this UX300e. It was still great fun, and we cannot wait to try more models in the future.
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