Electromobility: Toyota’s first electric attempt – the Lexus UX300e in the Handelsblatt car test
Düsseldorf Toyota is often underestimated in Germany. The Japanese are not only one of the largest automakers in the world, but also one of the most successful. While VW in Wolfsburg is negotiating hard about efficiency and capacity utilization, Toyota is very successful and profitable despite the lack of chips and the corona crisis. Only in one future field does Toyota currently not play a role.
The group has long neglected battery-operated electric cars. While competitors such as Tesla and VW are slowly conquering the segment, the global brand Toyota has not had a single battery-powered electric car on offer for a long time. Even if it was never formulated so clearly: Secretly, one hoped to be able to stay below the CO2 requirements with the hybrid models that have been sold many times, until one would finally conquer the market with hydrogen models ready for series production.
This plan can now be described as a failure. Because the Group’s only hydrogen model, the Toyota Mirai II, should at best remain a car for the niche even in its new edition, and the CO2 requirements – at least in Europe – will soon no longer be achievable with pure hybrid models. So Toyota is now also building battery-powered electric cars, albeit with a heavy heart.
The luxury brand Lexus is now to use the UX 300e to show what the path might look like. The prerequisites seem good: Phonetically, the brand is actually perfect for e-mobility: After all, the name of the Toyota premium brand sounds like luxury with an “e”. Die-hard Lexus customers are also willing to pay a little more for a car. In the USA, Lexus moves the brand on a par with BMW and Mercedes.
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At the beginning of 2021, they took on the electric pioneer Tesla and promised every Tesla customer in the US a $ 1,000 bonus if they swapped their electric car for a Lexus: “You had your fun. Now is the time to be uncompromising. “
The Lexus UX 300e is the Japanese’s quick reaction to the electric boom – but it’s not particularly uncompromising. Because technically the car is based on a combustion model. The UX celebrated its premiere in 2018. In terms of design, he follows the new philosophy of Akio Toyoda, who promised back then: no more boring cars.
A promise that the UX keeps: Whether you like the wide radiator grille and the futuristic-cubist look is certainly a matter of taste. But the look of the UX is certainly not boring. The typical blue of the brand stands out in the white-silver-black German uniformity, the Lexus comes across as angular and jagged. Unlike the German luxury brands, the Japanese want to provoke optically.
But so far, the compact UX has mainly been sold as a hybrid. As an electric car, the model weighs around 250 kilos more due to the battery alone, which is why the body has been reinforced.
This literally heavy burner legacy is unfortunately noticeable on the UX 300e all too often: There is no second trunk installed under the bonnet – as is the case with many other electric cars – but an electric motor that has plenty of space on the left and right. At 367 liters, the trunk is not only smaller than the competition, the dynamic look robs additional storage space. As with the BMW iX3, an electric drive in a combustion engine is always a compromise.
The Lexus does not indicate the remaining range in percent. Instead, you actually see a gas pump and a fuel needle – as if you weren’t even on the move with electricity. It is not uncompromising. And the howling sound, which is supposed to replace the combustion engine, is a compromise that would have been better saved.
After all, the first impression of the interior makes up for it. When it comes to processing, Lexus can hardly stand up to any manufacturer. The neatly processed black leather makes a good impression. The built-in analog clock looks set and elegant. This is the upper class that you would expect. For a premium manufacturer, however, Lexus could have resorted to aluminum more often than to cheap hard plastic.
Radio stations, volume and many assistants can be controlled via the steering wheel. However, the interior looks a bit overloaded with its armada of buttons. And the touchpad, with which the multimedia system is operated, is so tricky to use that it is better not to use it while driving.
The Lexus has enough power with its 204 hp, but doesn’t always know how to handle it. If you press the accelerator too briskly, the assistants have to help so that the front tires do not spin on wet roads. This happened accidentally twice in the test. With a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour, this Lexus is still not a speeder on the autobahn, but it doesn’t have to be.
The Lexus behaves impressively in the curves. This is where the Toyota premium brand comes into its own. The Lexus reacts very directly and extremely precisely. The specially developed shock absorbers stabilize the vehicle excellently when it is cornering a little too quickly.
In contrast to many competitors, the 54.3 kWh battery is cooled or heated by air so that it always works in the optimal temperature range, the manufacturer emphasizes. On top of that, there is a ten-year guarantee on the battery. This can hardly be checked in the test at perfect outside temperatures. What stands out: The range forecasts in the Lexus are reliable. There are no big outliers.
The manufacturer specifies the maximum range of 315 kilometers – competitors such as the Audi Q4 e-tron or the BMW iX3 are getting ahead. In our test, it turns out a little lower.
The UX 300e has two connections for charging – and both have a problem. The Japanese can be charged with a common type 2 plug – but very slowly. A maximum of 6.6 kW alternating current then flows into the battery. A full charge takes nine hours. This is maximally acceptable if you have your own wallbox. Angry looks and additional fees would have to be expected at public charging stations.
When it comes to fast charging, the Japanese are practically one of the last manufacturers to use the Chademo charging standard, which is widespread in Japan, but no longer plays a role in Central Europe. In theory, the Lexus charges with 50 kW at such stations – but you have to be lucky enough to find one of the few Chademo charging stations.
I look on a map to see where suitable fast charging stations with the Japanese connection are nearby. The range is manageable: there are exactly three, all in supermarket parking lots.
After all: at Lidl, the shop should be free. The fact that you have to charge your premium car at a discount parking lot of all places does not, however, meet the demands of Lexus drivers.
When I arrive, a VW ID.4 pulls into the parking lot at that very moment – just like me looking for electricity. In addition to the VW, a Mercedes C-Class is already parked as a plug-in hybrid. Although this charging station is my only chance to charge the car quickly, I have to turn around again when the range is 30 percent. The second Chademo charging station has a technical problem and does not accept credit card payments. In order to get to work the next day, I leave the test car for safety.
Lexus has done itself a disservice with Chademo. This may work in Japan, but in Germany the connection is a huge competitive disadvantage. Despite the long range, a long-distance journey in the Lexus should turn into an odyssey along the few Chademo charging points. And new ones will probably not be added: The EU has long since committed itself to CCS pillars and is only promoting fast charging stations with this connection. Toyota has also understood this: In the new fully electric Toyota bZ4X, which the company has announced for mid-2022, the Japanese will also rely on CCS.
In competition with competitors such as the Audi Q4 e-tron or the BMW iX3, the Lexus UX 300e should have a very difficult time in this country – especially because the price before deducting the state purchase premium of 47,550 euros is already very self-confident. You can’t buy the car in Germany anyway, Toyota relies on a leasing model.
The entry into electromobility is therefore likely to be difficult for Toyota. But the group still has enough time to catch up. The Japanese shouldn’t be underestimated.
Lexus UX 300e specifications
Four-door electric SUV
- Length: 4.49 meters
- Width: 1.84 meters
- Height: 1.54 meters
- Wheelbase: 2.64 meters
- Boot space: 367 liters
- Electric drive
- System output: 150 kW / 204 PS
- maximum torque: 300 Nm
- CVT transmission
- Lithium-ion battery with 54.3 kWh
- 0–100 km/h: 7.5 s
- Vmax: 160 km/h
- Range: 315 km (WLTP)
- Price: exclusively in leasing
More: Toyota arrives late, but reliably – the new electric car bZ4X can do that