IAIN ROBERTSON 

Lexus UXe

Lexus UXe

The luxury arm of Toyota is the first to launch an EV, reports Iain Robertson, which is based on its much vaunted UX sporty SUV model, although its first appearance and pricing in the UK market is unlikely to be made much before summer 2021.

The motor industry has been almost ridiculously busy over the past couple of decades. To be fair, it has been forced into a fiscal corner that is driven by environmental demands, as much as through governmental meddling. However, the car scene has also changed (almost) irrevocably.

It is not so long ago that the archetypal hot hatch ruled most car-users’ hopes and aspirations, in a car market controlled largely by Ford and Vauxhall, with PSA on the side-lines, with Renault and a host of oriental brands dabbling on the peripheries. Since the turn of the Millennium, the focus has been concentrated on electrification, while the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) has made a near inexplicable impact on the new car scene.

Lexus UXe

Lexus UXe

While SUVs seem to have minds of their own, with new models emerging from the most unlikely of brands, many of them carrying supercar price tags, another market shift has occurred that has diminished the worth of Ford Motor Company and led to Vauxhall being snaffled-up by a rapacious, Chinese-funded Parisian PSA Group. Most observers would state that the US giants were caught off-guard, especially as the former mainstream models, like Mondeo and Insignia, have been superseded in registration terms by the upmarket Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, to the extent that both models are soon to be axed.

Even world-conquering Toyota has been forced into second place by the immense Volkswagen Group and some would say that it is the unceasing growth of the SUV and EV sectors that have been responsible. However, both Toyota and Lexus have been pioneers in vehicle part-electrification technology, with Lexus introducing the RX 400h model around fourteen years ago. In fact, the Toyota division took a motor industry lead in creating vehicles that could deliver both performance and environmental efficiencies.

Lexus UXe

Lexus UXe

At this year’s recent Tokyo Motor Show, the company unveiled its global electrification strategy, ‘Lexus Electrified’, and targeted a fundamental leap in vehicle performance, dynamic handling, control aspects and driver engagement. It was a headline worthy position to adopt, especially as Toyota had been very conservative about its future plans, determined to gauge market responses to EVs, before making any deeper commitments to them.

The company’s technological developments encompass the integrated control of powertrain, steering, suspension and brakes, by using the full potential of the motor control technology that has been intrinsic to Lexus HVs (hybrid vehicles), which have sold strongly around the world. There is scarcely another manufacturer able to rely so heavily on its developments in hybrid technology as Toyota Corporation and its primary driving force parameters can be managed to provide the perfect vehicle posture in any driven situation. Naturally, Lexus continues to strive to make vehicles that are also safer, luxurious and more enjoyable to drive.

Lexus UXe

Lexus UXe

As the first production model for the Toyota Group under the electrified banner, the all-electric UX 300e has been developed for first-rate on-road performance. Lexus engineers realised the need to preserve the distinctive design and convenience aspects of the UX compact SUV that are so consumer pleasing. As an EV, the UX needs to be even more focused, to take advantage of both potency and performance benefits.

The UX 300e’s high-output electric motor provides instant torque responses, for brisk acceleration, allied to brake energy recovery that helps to extend its notional full-charge range, which is given as around 250-miles. The high-capacity battery pack is located directly beneath the cabin floor, in order to provide a low centre of gravity. Needless to say, Lexus makes use of the latest connectivity technology, the UX 300e maximising the potential of an EV, while delivering driving performance and convenience simultaneously, to remain true to Lexus’s corporate philosophy.

Lexus UXe

Lexus UXe

The platform that underpins UX has been strengthened to handle the stresses of pure electric power and its cabin is said to be among the world’s most refined, although a low-speed (up to around 30mph) exterior noise control system ensures that it alerts pedestrians of its presence in built-up areas. Although the instrumentation is geared more towards efficient EV operation, the otherwise conventional dashboard design echoes the high-quality and sportier presence of all recent Lexus models.

Whether the new UX 300e will continue with the brand’s typical trim levels, or have a single EV model line, is yet to be decided. However, UX 300e potential owners can be assured that the cabin ambience will be to the highest standards of luxury and competence, with which the Lexus marque has been synonymous throughout its history.

Conclusion:       It was inevitable that Toyota/Lexus would build on its stoical support of hybrid technology and introduce its first EV in due course. It may be ‘late’ to the party but you can rest assured that the UX 300e will be completely ‘on-point’, when it makes its UK debut in around 18 months’ time.