Right in front of the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show and debut of the Lexus LF-30 concept that looks shabby and wild, Lexus announced that they would soon release the first production electric battery vehicle (BEV).
To calm the ripple of excitement, the US public relations representative at Lexus personally told us that it was not for the US market, and that it would be a variant of an existing vehicle – and not an EV that was all new or dedicated. platform. Even more on record, one representative suggested we would be truly underwhelmed, because the vehicle was clearly not suitable for the U.S. market.
Even so, Lexus gave us a quick drive from the new Lexus UX 300e, around a forested and convoluted handling route in the Higashi-Fuji demonstration site, just outside of Nagoya, Japan. Rain and strong winds from the typhoon that came limited the speed to only 60 kph (37 mph) and only a few turns, so while this writing was quite limited, we did it relatively impressed with an electric SUV.
What Lexus does is low-key, direct, and not too fancy; the engineers started with a UX 250-hour hybrid and removed the engine (2.0-liter turbo in the US), replacing it with an electric motor that drives the front wheels. Unlike the UX 250h, the Lexus UX 300e is just a front drive.
The battery on the UX 250j is positioned under the rear seat, but on the UX electric crossover, the package is larger and reaches the floor under the passenger compartment, in one stack under the front row of the seat and twice stacked under the second row. The total capacity of this package is 53 kilowatt-hours, which is good for a range of about 258 miles on the European NEDC cycle. In the U.S., this might equate less to our EPA cycle.
Lexus engineers claim the low battery and motor position shifts the center of gravity; from roughly the driver’s knee, down and back to the driver’s seat. The weight distribution is 54:46 for the Lexus UX 300e, an improvement over the 59:41 gasoline version. After that walk, Lexus also calmed down, with the sound amplified from the electric train that was channeled through the sound system.
On the rain and winding Higashi-Fuji track, the Lexus UX 300e drive is like … well, Lexus. It’s quiet, smooth, without surprises. I managed to use the electric throttle to exceed the requested speed limit, and found exactly the EV response you were hoping for; direct, seamless, and effortless.
I can’t verify whether the handling is more sporty, thanks to a lower and more even distribution of weights, but it is perfectly acceptable for a front drive premium subcompact crossover. Also pretty good: There doesn’t seem to be any packaging penalty for switching to the EV powertrain. The rear seat does not seem to be taller and there is no clear intrusion into the cabin or cargo area.
Maybe our initial expectations were set too low, but the UX electric crossover is fun boring in the best way. I suspect that if Lexus sells UX EV to the U.S., many potential buyers will take it on a test drive and maybe even at home, without realizing that it is powered by electrons and not gas.
So why won’t Lexus carry what appears to be an acceptable BEV by the US, especially those for the very hot small CUV segment? Well for one thing, Lexus product planners seem to worry that the brand will face criticism for not having the flash, reach, and performance of the scene thieves at Tesla.
There is also a price issue; revealed the Guangzhou UX EV motor show didn’t determine the price, but we must think that the UX EV should start more than the starting price of the UX 250j hybrid from around $ 36,000. Operating a well-equipped UX 250h for around $ 40,000, and more than that, Lexus will step directly into the Tesla Model 3. It is impossible for Lexus to take the best-selling luxury brand (and model) on the market with this low EV.
However, we think there is a market for luxury EVs that don’t wear kilowatt hours on their sleeves, so to speak. Until recently, Lexus vehicles were generally known to be smooth, calm, quiet, almost invisible, in every way. Why not signal the virtue for the age of EV?