ionner and leader in the field of hybrids, the Toyota group is launching through its luxury subsidiary, Lexus, its first electric model based on its compact SUV, the UX. First test drive.
When you think of Toyota’s names, you immediately think of the Prius, the model that popularized hybridization technology and helped the Japanese group – to which Lexus also belongs – to become successful and build a solid reputation. Although Toyota is much better known than Lexus in the eyes of its customers, the luxury subsidiary has nevertheless sold 1,800,000 hybrids worldwide, including 450,000 in Europe alone. And it is precisely through Lexus that the Toyota group will market the first electric model in its history, based on the UX, the brand’s compact SUV.
Launched in January 2019, the Lexus UX quickly established itself as the Japanese manufacturer’s best-selling model in France. After being available only as a hybrid, the compact SUV now inherits a new 100% electric powertrain.
Externally, this version is very close to the others, and there are only a few details that make the difference, whether it’s the specific rims, the mobile grille or the logos on the tailgate and rocker panels. For the rest,
the UX retains its original lines, notably with its front end featuring a wide grille that extends all the way to the top, surrounded by tapered headlamps, and its profile marked by very square black wheel arches. But it’s the rear end that stands out, with tail lights that extend across the width of the tailgate and have an atypical shape.
This stylistic peculiarity is also found in the cabin, with a dashboard featuring an instrument panel that houses the ESP deactivation and driving mode selection buttons.
The design is classic, with a non-touch multimedia screen in the center that can be controlled by a pad on the center console. This pad is located next to the radio control system. It’s really unnatural in terms of ergonomics, whether for the pad or the radio. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with the quality of the materials, which is in line with what you would expect from a premium brand.
The good surprise comes from the practical aspects that have been improved, which is very rare to be reported. For example, the trunk volume has been increased by 47 liters compared to the hybrid version due to the elimination of the fuel tank. It now totals 367 liters.
This remains disappointing for a vehicle measuring 4.50 m. Batteries located under the passenger compartment do not in any way hinder the rear passenger compartment. The roof clearance has been reduced by 2 cm, but this is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since the knee room has been increased by about 1 cm.
The arrival of the Toyota group on the electric market is not really surprising, but it may even seem late. Lexus justifies this by explaining that they had to wait for the right time, and it’s now. Electric technology is perfectly mastered by the Japanese automaker because of its experience with hybrids, which use the same components: an electric motor, a battery and a power control unit.
Of course, as with all electric vehicles, the thrust and acceleration are frank, but they are not violent either. A choice made by Lexus that aims above all to favour comfort, as evidenced by the work done on soundproofing and filtration, which are excellent. The extra weight of 200 kg (1,785 kg) is not too noticeable.
The UX with its lower center of gravity is as pleasant to drive as it is to be a passenger. Body movements are well controlled without affecting comfort.
Lexus announces a range of 305 km/h according to the WLTP standard. That’s a pretty realistic figure, since we recorded a consumption of 20.6 kWh on our test drive over a very varied route that included cities, counties and expressways, for a range of about 260 km in real use.
Not bad, but a little fair for a vehicle for family use. To try and save miles, Lexus offers different regeneration modes: two in Drive and two more in B mode, for a total of four that can be selected using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Whichever mode you choose, regenerative braking is never too intrusive.
For a full recharge, count 29 hours on a household socket and a little over 8 hours on a wallbox. To go faster, you can connect to a fast charging station since this UX is capable of supporting a 50 kW charge.