Car reviews - Lexus - ES - 300h Sports Luxury
Build quality, quiet and comfortable ride, spacious rear bench, fuel economy, large boot, value for money
Room for improvement
Touchpad infotainment interface, rearward vision, no folding rear seatback, remote steering feel, large turning circle
Updated seventh-generation Lexus ES remains a class act
31 Jan 2022
By MATT BROGAN
THE UX300e is the Japanese premium brand’s first battery-electric vehicle. It joins petrol and petrol-electric hybrid variants to bring the total number of UX offerings to ten. The two-variant UX300e line-up – which includes the $74,000 Luxury and $81,000 Sports Luxury grades – is offered with a wide-ranging customer support program and a longer-than-usual five-year warranty.
The UX300e’s battery pack is backed by a ten-year/unlimited-kilometre assurance period (Lexus offers a comprehensive battery system health check after the fifth year of ownership) and, if the high-voltage battery’s energy-storage capacity falls below 70 per cent, the pack is covered for up to 160,000km.
Included in the purchase price is access to free public battery charging, complimentary home-charger installation and entry to Lexus’ exclusive Encore Platinum owner benefits program.
As the de-facto performance flagship of the UX range, the 300e draws power from a 54.3kWh lithium-ion battery located beneath the floor and feeds 150kW/300Nm to the front wheels via a front-mounted motor, which is said to propel the crossover from zero to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds.
Lexus says the UX300e has an optimal driving range of 360km (or 305km WLTP), which places it behind rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz EQA (480km) and Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric (418km).
Australian charging details have not been disclosed, but in overseas trim, the UX300e can accept up to 35kW DC fast charging, by which its battery’s state of charge can be replenished from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in 69 minutes.
The UX300e receives a unique suspension and steering set-up with firmer dampers, hollow stabiliser bars and more rigid rear suspension bushes. Regenerative braking can be applied (and adjusted) via the steering wheel paddles, with performance indicated via a standard 7.0-inch central display.
Additional aerodynamic enhancements are said to further improve the model’s eco credentials.
Lexus Safety System+ is standard and includes a pre-collision system featuring pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, all-speed active cruise control, lane-trace assist, road-sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert and parking support brake with obstacle and vehicle detection..
Blind-spot monitoring, automatic high-beam assist, front- and rear parking sensors and eight airbags are also fitted.
The equipment list for both UX300e variants is quite generous. The entry-grade Luxury shares much of its equipment with the UX250h Luxury Enhancement Pack 2 and is fitted additionally with heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, a heated multifunction steering wheel, a 13-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system and 17-inch alloy wheels.
It carries over the UX250h’s LED head- and fog lights, keyless entry and start, electric tailgate and -steering column adjustment, eight-way adjustable front seats, 7.0-inch driver display and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen with DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
At the top of the battery-electric UX line-up is the UX300e Sports Luxury (tested) that adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, sensational tri-beam adaptive LED headlights, 3D-look illumination inside the cabin and a textured dashboard inspired by Japanese grained paper.
There’s an obvious premium feel to the UX300e’s cabin; the leather-clad seating is cossetting and the driving position excellent. Even the rear bench is quite spacious… There’s adequate toe room under the front seats, and although aft legroom is at premium, it isn’t what we’d call tight.
The car is easy to see out of and, as a result, just as easy to place on the road. There’s a lightness to the steering that makes the UX300e a breeze to drive in the cut and thrust of the big city – and the change to Sport mode increases the steering’s weight, while reducing the number of turns required from lock to lock. Lexus quotes a turning circle of 10.2 metres for the UX300e.
Sport mode also increases the throttle response, and while the UX300e is quite brisk in accelerating from a standing start, it’s the electric model’s roll-on performance that impresses most. Overtaking is a cinch, as is the transition between urban and freeway speeds.
And of course, it all happens rather quietly. Lexus says it has implemented additional sound deadening to create an even quieter cabin by placing noise insulation materials around the wheel wells, fender panels and electric motor. The small SUV also receives acoustic front-side glass.
The ride is hushed. Only the roughest of surfaces generate unwelcome tyre noise that permeates into the cabin. There’s also a hint of wind turbulence created by the front and rear door join, but you only notice it at freeway speeds.
At 1840kg, the UX300e weighs 185kg more than its petrol-powered siblings and it can feel heavy on the road. To accommodate the additional mass of the batteries, Lexus has fitted the UX300e with additional body bracing and firmer dampers. The car carries itself well enough at city speeds, but on winding country roads it exhibits a notable amount of body roll – and a hint of understeer.
The traction and stability systems work hard to regulate the wheelspin that the UX300e dishes up and we can’t help feel that softer-compound tyres would facilitate improved front-end grip.
The ride is comfortable enough, although the firm dampers of the UX300e could do a better job of rounding off the kick-back generated from sharper-edged potholes and bumps. We’d also like to see a more natural braking action incorporated next time round – the brake pedal feels somewhat wooden compared with those of other electric cars that have entered the market.
There are dual charging ports available on the UX300e, with a Type 2 AC charge port on the right-hand side and a CHAdeMO DC fast-charge port on the left. Both cables are provided and may be stored beneath the (414-litre) boot floor. We used the AC (home) charger during our time with the UX300e and found overnight charging sufficient for replenishing the cells.
On test, the UX300e averaged 17.9kWh per 100km – or approximately 300km from a full charge.
The UX300e debuts a new transmission shifter (whose action is like that of the Toyota Prius), as well as a revised drive-mode select button and audio volume dials. They somewhat improve the interaction between the driver and the various console-mounted controls, but in truth, the Lexus infotainment interface is still fiddly and over-sensitive.
Simply put, there are too many menu pages to delve through and the touchpad is distracting to use while on the move. Fortunately, most functions can be accessed via the steering-wheel controls.
Otherwise, the information presented to the driver is easy to understand. The concise instrument panel, straightforward trip computer and gauge-style battery monitor take the guess work out of understanding the vehicle’s state of charge. The colour head-up display is large and easy to read, and the adaptive cruise control one of the more diligent systems we’ve experienced in the segment.
Many of the UX300e’s pitfalls come from the fact it is built on a converted petrol-vehicle platform – not a bespoke electric one. However, the compromise isn’t all that great, and as a commuter car Lexus’ newcomer is close to ideal. It’s sufficiently efficient and relaxing to drive, so we’d say that, on balance, it’s a fittingly premium offering from the Japanese brand.
However, with a lot of cheaper and equally well-finished EVs nipping at the heels of the UX300e, we’d urge potential buyers to do their homework. If you don’t plan on using the generous customer privileges offered by Lexus – and you don’t necessarily need to park a luxury marque’s model in your driveway – then there are a considerable number of other options available.
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