The UX 300e comfortably eases Lexus customers into all-electric motoring: this small SUV is comfortable, enjoyable to drive, feature-packed and well-made
Priced from $74,000, the 2022 Lexus UX 300e represents a conservative first step into the realm of full electrification for this Japanese luxury manufacturer.
Conservative doesn’t mean ill-timed or poorly-thought out: quite the opposite. Lexus buyers adore the brand for its ease of ownership, premuium appointments, long feature lists, and high levels of durability common to the Toyota group.
That the UX 300e is surprisingly fun to drive, spurred on by a 150kW electric motor and a noticeably lower centre-of-gravity, is a bonus.
The 305-315km WLTP range claim will be far too short for some, but for urban-dwellers potentially seeking to add a luxury runabout to their garage while cutting their carbon footprint, the UX 300e makes a solid case for itself.
$74K – or $81,000 in high-tier Sports Luxury guise – is not a cheap vehicle but the UX 300e counters questions of value with a generous specification sheet that takes in standard Mark Levinson premium audio, heated and cooled seats, LED lights, reams of adaptive safety, and a number of more bespoke inclusions.
Tackling the range anxiety question head-on is the Lexus Encore Platinum club membership that comes with every UX 300e, allowing owners to reserve a different Lexus in the range, four times, for up to eight days apiece, in the first three years of ownership.
Express trips to the snow in the diesel-fed Lexus LX 4WD are possible through a well-designed app, for instance, while owners can also book vehicles as exotic as the brand’s flagship LC grand touring convertible.
And slipping into electrification is made all the more easy thanks to Lexus covering the installation of an AC charging wallbox at your home, plus the provision of two charging cables.
Sitting atop a range of petrol (UX 200) and series-parallel hybrid (UX 250h) models, the all-electric 300e is the most powerful, quickest, and heaviest UX on the market.
With a single front electric motor occupying the space where you’d normally find an engine – albeit considerably lower in the cavity – the UX 300e makes 150kW of power and 300Nm of torque.
That compares very favourably with the 126kW/205Nm outputs of the base two-litre petrol four-cylinder (from $44,445) and the 135kW combined output of the petrol-electric hybrid version that starts at $52,025.
To say that the battery-electric UX technically makes only 15kW more than the $20K-cheaper hybrid would be rather reductionist: the speed with which the UX 300e piles on torque makes it feel pretty warm for a small SUV.
That it can complete the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.5sec puts it a full second ahead of the hybrid, but the mid-range acceleration is the most impressive, with the UX 300e punching out of runabouts and country-road corners with aplomb. There is no dual-motor variant with AWD; the UX 300e is front-wheel drive only.
Regenerative braking is weak by default, suiting those who want their EV experience to be as normalised as possible, but it can be dialled up to a moderately aggressive setting by selecting the leather-and-chrome direction selector’s “B” mode.
Do that and a keen driver will elicit an effect akin to left-foot braking in complex corners, with the ability to deftly balance the UX 300e for a remarkably spirited experience on a great road – of which there were a few on our Surf Coast launch route.
The chassis of the Lexus UX was already one of the most rewarding in the small luxury SUV class, and impressively, the ride and handling largely holds up despite the additional kilos: kerb weight for the UX 300e is 1840kg, which is 215kg more than the already-portly hybrid.
We won’t pretend you don’t feel the additional inertia in long, sweeping corners, but turn-in remains sweetly crisp; it helps that the front motor weighs half what the petrol engine does!
And the suspension tunes are excellent: subtle adjustments are made to keep the larger-wheeled Sports Luxury on 18s feeling as plush as the chubby 17s on the ‘base’ Luxury. Both grades absorb bumps well and refinement levels are high; it’s quiet, and Lexus have smartly avoided gimmicky EV noises, keeping the interior serene.
Body control is decent though the chassis does allow a little lean in corners to help out the tyres; you get the sense the UX is a momentum car. Back in the ‘burbs, the light and quick steering makes life easy and there is little of the unedifying ‘wheel-slam’ into potholes and imperfections we often find on overly heavy EVs.
Test drive the UX 300e back-to-back against the $76,800 Mercedes-Benz EQA 250, for instance, and you’ll find that the 200kg-lighter Lexus has a far more polished suspension – and, critically, less unsprung weight; the UX is so comfortable and compliant on broken-up roads.
The surefooted ride and agile handling is partially a corollary of the decision to keep the UX 300e’s battery small: 50kWh usable is pretty compact compared to the EQA (66.5kWh), Hyundai Ioniq 5 (72.6kWh) or the Volvo XC40 Recharge single-motor (67kWh).
Still, acceptable consumption of 17kWh/100km on test implies a range to exhaustion of 294km, which is at least accurate to the WLTP claim of 305-315km. For suburban dwellers, that is plenty, perhaps 10 ordinary days’ worth; for country trips three years of Chargefox public charging is complimentary.
Recharging speeds are sadly limited to 50kW and the UX 300e becomes one of the last full EVs on the market to use a Chademo port, along with the Nissan Leaf, while most cars have moved to the increasingly universal Type 2.
Unlike the Polestar 2, the UX 300e includes a pretty big adaptive safety suite as standard equipment rather than relegating modern tech to the options list.
Equipped with Lexus Safety System Plus, the UX is fitted with AEB (including reversing AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance with lane tracing, road sign detection, blindn spot monitoring, and auto high-beam. The Sports Luxury scores a 360-degree parking camera.
Missing is junction AEB intervention, while the blind spot cameras fitted to an increasing number of Hyundai Group products would make seeing out of the UX even easier.
Unsurprisingly, the first all-electric Lexus is a lesson (to other EV manufacturers) in build quality. We could not find an ill-fitting piece of trim, lazily imperfect shut-line or even a squeak across four different UX 300e examples we inspected closely.
As they ready future dedicated BEVs, presumably with superior packaging and longer range, Lexus have played to their strengths with the UX 300e: this vehicle is well-equipped, good to drive (as outlined above), and quality is simply excellent.
There are a few subtle touches to set the 300e apart from lesser UXes, including washi paper-esque dashboard trim and Sashiko stitching on the Sports Luxury, which also picks up illuminated air vent controls.
But for the most part, the UX 300e doesn’t need to try particularly hard, because it’s classic Lexus. Heated and cooled seats are standard, meaning the ‘Nuluxe’ vinyl upholstery in the $74K Luxury isn’t much of a problem, even if the more supple true leather in the $81K Sports Luxury is our pick. A heated steering wheel is standard, too.
The seats are comfortable, with plentiful electric adjustment and power lumbar, and the driving position itself is pleasantly low in a car that already has a 10 percent-lower centre of gravity than its combustion sibling.
Upholstery colours take in black or white for the Luxury, with the Sports Luxury broadening the choices to take in ‘rich cream’, ‘ochre’ tan and a ‘Zephyr’ white/blue two-tone combination.
It’s a little frustrating that this new UX grade doesn’t grab the same new touchscreen as the recently-revised Lexus ES sedan or RX midsize SUV, but we made do with the far-set 10.3-inch widescreen display that is controlled only via a trackpad between the front seats.
Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, along with navigation and DAB digital radio, and impressively, a crisp 13-speaker Mark Levinson stereo is included even on the Luxury grade. Four USB ports are fitted, two old-style, two USB-C.
Ahead of the driver is a digital instrument cluster with a trip computer, media, navigation and safety setting screens – plus the ability to customise the car’s charging schedules.
Storage is decent, with a dual side opening centre box, big cupholders and wireless smartphone charging. What is less capacious is the back seat, which is fine for smaller children but quite a squeeze for adults or tall teenagers.
At 414 litres, the boot is reasonably big for the small SUV class and you get a power tailgate, but beneath the cargo floor you will only find a tyre repair kit – there is no spare wheel.
The Australian market launch of the UX 300e coincided with Lexus’s decision to upgrade to a five year unlimited kilometre vehicle warranty, along with a 10 year/160,000km warranty for the high-voltage battery, guaranteeing that it will retain at least 70 percent of the original state of charge.
That’s an improvement over the old four year/100,000km vehicle warranty and markedly better than Tesla’s four year/80,000km warranty, if not Kia’s market-leading seven year unlimited kilometre arrangement.
Unusually for a battery-electric vehicle, the UX 300e requires maintenance every 12 months/15,000km. Each of the first five visits is capped at $295 for a five year/75,000km servicing cost of $1475.
By comparison, the Polestar 2 only requires a service every 24 months/30,000km while the Tesla Model 3 can last 36 months between physical check-ups.
Our launch drive of the UX 300e took in uphill, downhill and fast flat sections, and we observed electricity consumption of 17kWh/100km, which was only marginally worse than the 15.9-16.4Wh/100km WLTP claim.
Similarly-sized EVs like the Hyundai Kona Electric and the ubiquitous Tesla Model 3 go further on every volt but the Lexus is still reasonably efficient, particularly for a vehicle based on an existing combustion platform.
A number of upfront and ongoing costs are minimised or removed with a purchase of a UX 300e: Lexus will pay for Jet Charge to install an AC wallbox in your garage, for instance, while three years of Chargefox rapid charging is complimentary.
The value of the Encore Platinum membership could also be very significant, with loan Lexus vehicles available throughout Australia, and at Auckland and Queenstown in New Zealand.
Many EVs go further than the Lexus UX 300e and some cost less to buy – but few manage to combine entertaining handling, a truly compliant and comfortable ride, a high-quality interior and a frustration-easing ownership package quite like the electric UX.
For such a small crossover, the UX 300e is pricey – but the included wallbox, app-driven access to a pool of bigger Lexus models and complimentary charging returns a substantial figure straight to your pocket.
While it won’t suit those needing to cover serious distances nearly as well as the 350kW-charging Hyundai Ioniq 5 or any Tesla, thanks to that brand’s superb Supercharger network, the UX provides buyers with a well-made way to step into full electrification.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
Hyundai Ioniq 5
With Hyundai increasingly pushing the boundaries of design and desirability, what better vehicle to showcase what lies ahead for the brand than the strikingly futuristic, dramatically different and curiously appealing Ioniq 5?
Variant tested LUXURY
Key specs (as tested)
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