Opt for a Lexus and you’re buying into a lifestyle – not just the premium brand’s reputation for comfort, reliability, build quality and top customer service.
The launch event for the updated version of the all-electric UX 300e was a chance to drive the car in around Edinburgh, but also to discover more about Lexus – from the Japanese aesthetic traditions that are incorporated in its vehicles to the technical innovation and distinctive design underpinning the range.
It’s four years since the compact Lexus UX (Urban Crossover in Lexus-speak) was introduced.
Originally only available as a self-charging hybrid (Lexus UX 250h), a 100% electric version (UX 300e) soon followed.
The UX 300e was the first pure EV from Toyota’s upmarket sister brand and very good it was too – but it wasn’t perfect.
For 2023, Lexus has listened to the feedback, addressing two main issues. Not only has the EV’s range been extended by 40%, but the infotainment system has also been upgraded.
Additionally, more capabilities have been added to the safety and driver assistance systems, while the ride, handling, refinement and some aesthetics have also been tweaked.
The UX 300e now has a larger 72.8kWh lithium-ion battery (the original had a 54.3kWh capacity), meaning the all-important range has increased from 189-196 miles to 274-279 miles (depending on wheel size).
This longer range makes the UX 300e a much more practical proposition for adventurous journeys.
Inside, the most obvious visual change is the replacement of the modest infotainment screen, controlled by a fiddly touchpad down in the centre console, with a larger touchscreen display.
Elsewhere, the UX 300e looks much the same as before, which is no bad thing because it’s one of the best-looking EVs in its class.
At the heart of the Lexus ethos is ‘Omotenashi’ – the Japanese spirit of hospitality.
I experienced this at first hand at the Lexus UX 300e launch event in Scotland, but it’s also part of the brand’s everyday philosophy of treating customers with respect and courtesy, as you would house guests, anticipating their needs and exceeding their expectations.
Stunning Carlowrie Castle in Kirkliston, just outside Edinburgh, was the setting for our introduction to the new car. As there were journalists from all over Europe, pipers were on hand to accompany the UX 300e as it drove up to the 19th Century baronial mansion.
Californian-born chef Richard Heller’s delicious menu combined Scottish, Japanese and international influences, while sommelier Lenka Whyles hosted a fascinating whisky tasting session to complement the dessert selection.
After a night spent at the quirky new Virgin Hotel, right in the centre of Edinburgh, it was time to drive the new Lexus.
Slightly lower than most of its rivals, it boasts a coupe-like profile and it’s full of innovative features including wheel arch mouldings which not only protect the bodywork, but also have a secondary aerodynamic function – just like the rear lights and the special alloy wheels.
With its sleek, sculpted profile and pert rear complete with full-width rear lightbar and roof spoiler, plus the unmistakable Lexus mesh front grille up front, it’s certainly distinctive.
After a trip around some of the sights of Scotland’s capital, we stopped off at Jupiter Artland in Wilkieston – an award-winning contemporary sculpture garden, set in 100 acres of meadows, fields and woodland.
There we were introduced to the Sashiko quilting technique, the inspiration behind the UX’s smooth and perforated leather upholstery, adorned with a striking new geometric Kagome pattern.
Experts from the aptly named Edinburgh Sewcial Club were on hand to talk us through the 1,200-year-old Japanese craft which translates into English as “little stiches” – a reference to the simple running stitch used.
On our way out of Jupiter Artland we passed a selection of outdoor sculptures and installations by renowned artists including Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley, Cornelia Parker, and Phyllida Barlow.
Then it was back on the road in our Lexus UX 300e test car in top-of-the-range Takumi Pack spec (there’s also an entry-level trim, followed by a Premium Pack).
The cabin itself is stylish, beautifully finished and very Lexus, with superb attention to detail.
There’s plenty of space up front, but it is on the cosy side for taller rear passengers, while luggage capacity is a useful 367 litres, expanding to 1,278 litres with the back seats folded.
Our car had smart 18-inch alloy wheels and was generously equipped. Highlights included heated and ventilated front seats, a head-up display, a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, a 360-degree panoramic view monitor and rear-cross traffic alert.
Crisp, clear and responsive with real-time road and traffic information, the 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is a huge improvement over the outgoing model.
On the road, the UX 300e seems much the same as before with a 201bhp electric motor powering the front wheels. It’s quick off the mark (0-62mph in 7.5 seconds) and feels nimble in town, helped by light steering and a tight 10.4-metre turning circle.
The seating position is comfortable and the cabin is suitably refined. It also rides well, though some may find it on the firm side.
Despite the tweaks to fine-tune the driving dynamics, it’s still not class-leading and more spirited drivers might not find it hugely engaging to drive. But it’s just the ticket for everyday trips and a doddle to drive.
Also, the front end is on the light side, so it’s not hard to spin the front wheels when accelerating on slippery surfaces.
Ultimately, the overwhelming sensation is one of comfort and refinement, which is very Lexus.
Our journey took us over the Firth of Forth for a photo opportunity at the base of the historic Forth Bridge, before heading back over on the stunning Queensferry Crossing bridge to Scotts Restaurant, situated in Port Edgar Marina with spectacular views of the three bridges.
After a fantastic lunch packed with seafood treats, Scottish chef Robin Sheriff led a fun workshop focused on his passion for Miso – a Japanese flavouring made by fermenting steamed soy beans with salt and the fungus aspergillus oryzae (koji).
The final leg of our trip took us to nearby Blueparrot Productions for a chance to create our own unique images of the UX 300e utilising a technique called “light painting”.
Using a very long exposure time in the dark, it allows you to walk invisibly into the shot as it is being taken, then move around with a special light sabre. As you can see from my attempt, the colours and shapes of the illuminated object are frozen in each image.
A fascinating 24 hours in and out of the car, the event ticked all the right boxes – a perfect introduction to the new Lexus UX 300e.
I’d estimate the UX 300e now has a real-world range of 225-250 miles. If you’re lucky enough to have your own wallbox, it will charge overnight at home. Otherwise, you’re looking at 80 minutes for a 0-80% battery boost using a 50kW public connection.
So, some rivals may offer longer ranges, quicker charging and more driver engagement, but I suspect the UX 300e will sell better than ever, not just because it’s much improved, but because it’s a Lexus.
Additionally, like all Lexus cars, it benefits from an extended manufacturer warranty for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first (as long as you service your car with Lexus).
For the record, similarly-sized rivals include the Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona Electric, Peugeot e-2008, DS3 E-Tense and Vauxhall Mokka Electric.
Verdict: With its longer range, refreshed infotainment system and other upgrades, the new, improved Lexus UX 300e should be on your shortlist if you’re looking for a classy crossover that’s easy to drive, comfortable, safe and refined.
Feature in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk