You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

MC Drives: Lexus UX 300e

Moneycontrol logo Moneycontrol 28-05-2022 Parth Charan
MC Drives: Lexus UX 300e © Moneycontrol MC Drives: Lexus UX 300e

Ever since its arrival in India, Lexus has taken an unconventional approach towards finding its niche in the Indian luxury car space. Without the local manufacturing heft of European luxury carmakers, Lexus chose to differentiate itself with a line-up consisting exclusively of hybrid cars. As a corollary to its efficiency and sustainability-oriented approach, the question of just when it will enter the electric vehicle (EV) space has loomed large for the past two years.

The UX300e is Lexus’ measured response to that question. As the brand’s first electric car, it’s a particularly fascinating piece of design, having been shipped over by Lexus, simply to gauge consumer response to it. On the surface of it, the UX seems to truly embody the chimera that is the modern “coupè SUV”. In terms of length, it’s almost as long or longer than most mid-size SUVs in the country, yet its hunkered stance, low ride height and lithe frame scream “compact performance car”. Whether its dimensions suit the luxury car buyer’s preferences is hard to gauge. But the UX300e, thus far the most compact SUV in the Lexus line-up, is a compelling piece of design. Sharp-edged protrusions on the fenders are met with a narrow, tapering front-end. Plastic cladding around the wheel arches contrast against a rich and, dare I say, electric shade of blue. You don’t have to take a hard look at the “L” shaped badge to figure out that this thing is Japanese.

The UX300e comes with a 54.3 kWh battery, producing 201bhp of power, putting it in hot hatch  power territory. Except I can’t recall the last time I had such fun driving a hot hatch. The UX300e is a sleeper car alright. It’s diminutive proportions and sobering green licence plate mask the fact that it’s something of a hooligan. All three driving modes offer instantaneous, wheel-spinning acceleration, particularly “Sport” where the car loves to scurry away from a standstill, tyres squealing and no sound. There’s heavy reliance on its traction control system here, but that doesn’t stop it from making a frantic dash towards the horizon with willful, almost reckless abandon.

Sure, there might be other luxury EVs offering more range than the UX’s claimed WLTP figure of 300-315km, but Lexus’ trademark attention to detail has resulted in optimal battery weight which doesn’t saddle this crossover with a mega-sized battery pack. Instead you get a car that’s been perfectly calibrated to the last decimal, treading the fine line between spirited performance and (relatively) well weighed.

And those aren’t even Lexus’ trademark attributes. The hybrid models, including the RX and the ES, while being exceptionally insular and well-sprung, had CVT gearboxes with a pronounced rubber-band effect. Not in this case. The battery sends power via a front-axle mounted 150Kw permanent magnet motor, sending power to the front wheels without any other mechanical middleman. And it does so, while having one of the best suspension setups of any EV in the country. That much is in line with all the other Lexus models, all of whom continue to offer more comfortable and pliant ride quality than any of their European rivals.

Inside the UX

This is where things become a bit less impressive. The cabin of the UX is roomy, richly textured and unfailing plush. But there are little ergonomic drawbacks that stick out. For starters, its infotainment system seems nearly a decade old, relying on a trackpad instead of any touch-operated functions. The dash-mounted multimedia unit is fairly small, and the graphics seem dated to say the least. The audio system punches above its weight, for sure, but the rest does leave you wanting. Then there’s the transmission lever, which feels tactile enough to hold but requires some deft maneuvering on the driver’s part to set the car in motion.

That said, the cabin is exceptionally quiet, even by EV standards. In fact, it’s quiet even by Lexus’ industry benchmark-setting standards. The steering is sharp without being particularly communicative and the low-slung battery makes this otherwise softly-sprung EV corner with poise and effortless ease, as long as you watch out for the hair-trigger throttle response. The steering wheel is, of course, equipped with little flappy paddles, both for the sake of familiarity and to allow some control over the intensity of the regenerative braking. You can dial-up the regenerative braking, sure, but not to the level where it can bring the car to a halt entirely without pedal braking.

Verdict

The UX300e is a truly admirable first-attempt at making an EV, by a legacy carmaker. Especially when you consider the fact that it’s built on an ICE car platform and not a bespoke EV one. Whether it will be able to pique the curiosity of the discerning luxury EV buyer in India remains to be seen. Conventional wisdom suggests it won’t because the EV market is particularly small and EV buyers are a fastidious and utility-conscious lot. But given that the Teslas of the world aren’t coming in anytime soon, perhaps the EV hungry appetites of the well-heeled can be satiated with this unassuming-yet-potent little electric crossover (with better build quality than Tesla can hope to match). With its sharp styling, balanced weight distribution, insular cabin and sprightly performance, there isn’t much the UX doesn’t do right. If Lexus were to revise the interior and price it competitively, perhaps it could have the ideal urban EV on its hands.

More from Moneycontrol

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon