Lexus launches first EV in New Zealand

Lexus UX 300e EV New Zealand

While Toyota’s first EV wil be with us next year, luxury off-shoot Lexus has just beaten its parent company to the punch by releasing the all-electric UX 300e small SUV here.

The UX 300e has landed here in two guises, but intriguingly only one will be available to the general public. This is because Lexus is making the unusual move of angling for the fleet market with the electric UX and will be offering a lower spec version to large corporate and government fleets directly via an operating lease structure.

Lexus New Zealand general manager, Andrew Davis, says that the leased cars are returned to the company at the end of the lease, which will no doubt mean they will be fed back into the second hand market via the company’s approved used car programme .

Because the entry car will only be available through Toyota’s fleet channel on the lease scheme, the company has not released a price for it, however, the consumer-spec UX 300e Limited will scrape in under the $80k Clean Car scheme cutoff for the $8625 rebate, landing here at $79,990 including on road costs.

Lexus says the UX 300e maintains all the luxury interior features of the current UX model, with the Limited scoring larger wheels (up from 17 to 18 inch), triple LED headlights with adaptive high-beam, roof rails, rear privacy glass, a sunroof, rain sensing wipers, cornering lights, a rear stabiliser bar, a heads-up display, and a hands-free power tailgate over the fleet-spec model.

Two synthetic leather options are offered in both cars, with the Limited getting three different leather options as well, while both variants also have front and rear seat heaters and front seat ventilation.

As in keeping with other Lexus vehicles, the UX 300e gets a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with a 10.3-inch display, as well as Apple Car Play and Android Auto, while standard safety features include the complete Lexus Safety System +, blind spot monitoring, parking support brake and a tyre pressure warning system.

While you might consider the $85,500 Mercedes-Benz EQA 250 to be the UX 300e’s main competitor, Davis doesn’t necessarily see that as being the case, pointing out that while the Benz plays a similar game in the small luxury SUV setting, its pricing doesn’t include on-road costs. Crucially, it also doesn’t make it under the $80k Clean Car cutoff that sees the UX’s price drop to $71,365 after the rebate.

This, according to Lexus New Zealand’s product manager, Logan Potter, puts the brand in new territory, with the UX 300e essentially competing with the likes of the Kia Niro EV and Hyundai Kona Electric.

So while the UX 300e can be said to compete with the Mercedes in terms of luxury and quality, and also bumps up against the higher end of the Korean mainstream EV offerings, it has a few quirks of specification that may skew the playing field against it somewhat, and essentially place in more direct competition with the $74,990 (before rebate) Mazda MX-30.

The UX 300e is FWD and produces 150kW of power and 300Nm of torque, which is largely par for the course in the small electric SUV segment, but its battery is a relatively small 54kWh affair, with a claimed NEDC range of 360km.

Lexus and Toyota New Zealand don’t get supplied WLTP figures from head office, as Japan still uses the older, less accurate NEDC testing. The WLTP test cycle is considered to offer a far closer approximation of real world range, and by way of comparison, our long-term Mercedes-Benz EQA 250 has an NEDC-tested range of 486km, while its WLTP-tested range is 426km.

In a strange quirk of Japanese specification, the UX 300e also only comes with a CHAdeMO connector for a maximum of 50kW DC fast charging, which sees it lag behind the faster charging capabilities of other EVs in the segment. Potter says that the option of the more common CCS Type 2 plug wasn’t available on the UX, but stressed that the ChargeNet network offered widespread support for CHAdeMO.

The UX 300e also comes with a separate Type 2 AC charging port for home charging, but in an unusual move Lexus are only offering a three-pin ‘slow charger’ (that usually comes standard with most other EVs) to the first 100 buyers, who will have the choice of this or a $250 ChargeNet credit.

Andrew Davis says this is so that the company can monitor which of the two options is more popular, so it can gauge whether to potentially offer a slow charge cable or fast charge credit as standard in the future.

Adding to the UX’s charging oddities is the fact that it only comes with a 6.6kW onboard charger, where 7.4kW units are the norm.

Primarily, however, Davis said that the UX 300e was “a Lexus first and an EV second”, stressing the importance the company placed on it being essentially the same to drive as the hybrid UX, making the transition into an EV easier for customers who may be slightly reluctant about making the move from ICE.

“The UX 300e is the first model of many new and exciting electric vehicles we will see from Lexus over the next few years,” he said.

“Built for a mostly urban driver in mind, the UX 300e provides an enjoyable and sustainable city driving experience.”

Aside from the electric drivetrain, the 300e differs from the hybrid UX offerings by having different “performance” dampers fitted to the rear to improve handling, while boot space has increased to 310 litres for the EV, over the hybrid’s 286 litres thanks to the removal of the petrol tank.

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