Despite being a part of the Toyota family, Lexus is a standalone carmaker with an entirely distinct ideology and appeal. Its products are luxurious, and in some ways, quirky, too, which is why prospective buyers do take a while to warm up to them. But once you convert, you’re unlikely to go back to anything else. Be it the unmatched smooth drive, overall superb quality of the interior, or the unique design, there is always something that sets a Lexus apart. And in the case of the UX compact crossover, the list is slightly longer than usual. It is the first all-electric Lexus available in select markets. The company is currently evaluating the prospects of selling the UX in India. The country is currently seeing an influx of electric vehicles, even at the premium end of the spectrum. The question is whether the demand is big enough, at least in the short run.
There’s nothing like the Lexus UX 300e in the Indian market currently in terms of looks. Its striking design features include angular creases, sharp lines, cladding on the wheel arches, large grille, door mounted rear-view mirrors, and the LED strip light that runs along the entire width of the tailgate. It makes the otherwise impressive Volvo XC40 Recharge look like a box. Though the 300e is made to look like an SUV, it is a compact crossover, just 4.5 metres long. You don’t step onto the seat, but slide into it. This isn’t bad news, because it offers a nicer driving position than other crossovers. The cabin is luxurious with the use of premium leather, and soft fabric on top of the dashboard. The seat designs are inspired by Sashiko, the distinctive Japanese white-on-blue embroidery that originated in the 17th century. The tall instrument panel is complemented by a well-detailed head-up display. The classy 10.3-inch central infotainment system is controlled using the touchpad on the centre console. The two knobs atop the instrument console let you choose between drive modes, and allows you to switch off traction control if you’re feeling brave enough. Connectivity is enabled through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which works with a companion smartphone app.
The top variants are equipped with an excellent Mark Levinson audio system. The electrically adjustable (and ventilated) seats are comfortable at the front. At the back, though, it’s a different story, with limited leg space. The boot is not very big either. The electric tailgate, however, makes it easier to operate. In pursuit of zero tailpipe emission, the 300e has run into a common issue of EVs using existing platforms — the lack of ground clearance because of the battery pack located underneath the floor. The problem is even more acute in cars made to accommodate both conventional engines and battery powertrains. That’s, of course, not to say the 300e can’t handle bad roads. The suspension takes care of small potholes, but it’s the tall speed breakers that can be an annoyance.
The UK specs indicate that the car with 17-inch wheels will run 200 miles on a full charge. The 300e that I got a chance to drive in Bengaluru gave me little more than a 250km range on about 90 per cent battery. Keep in mind that it’s not been calibrated for Indian conditions yet, and my use was a mix of highway and city driving. Driving at a medium pace, I took the car from Lexus Bangalore, and drove it through the city to a small town in Tamil Nadu, and back to a charging station in Bengaluru. That was a drive of about 140km, and the UX still had about 100km of charge left.
This is when I plugged it in at a 50kW fast-charging Fortum Charge & Drive station. From roughly 30 per cent to 90 per cent, the charging took about a quarter of an hour, and cost me just Rs 600. High-end driver assist features on the 300e include dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system (which can detect imminent obstacles), lane tracing and road sign assist, and an adaptive high-beam system. The 200 bhp, 300 Nm electric motor is connected to the front wheels. The claimed 0-100 km/h time is 7.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 160 km/h. Lexus says the car produces just 62 decibels of noise on the outside, which is remarkable. Given the limited charging infrastructure in the country right now, the Lexus UX 300e is a great second car for city use. But the low ground clearance and lack of space at the rear are some deterrents. It’s energetic on the move, so driving is fun.
No new car on the market comes close to the sharp appearance of the 300e. If you’re sold on that, there’s nothing to stop you from calling the closest Lexus dealership. Except one thing: Lexus India hasn’t officially begun selling this. I hope they don’t take too long to realise that while still a niche product, the premium electric car space does deserve to have this fine Lexus on sale. Right now. While the Indian price is yet to be determined, the £42,000 UK price tag (around Rs 40 lakh) gives some indication of what to expect. Its closest rival is the upcoming Volvo XC40 Recharge, which has twice as much power, longer range (yet to be certified for India), but relatively dull styling.