Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: Breaking the price barrier?

Japanese automakers are trying to catch up in the EV race after years of backing the wrong horse. This horse is hybrid cars. The Japanese auto industry has invested billions of dollars in hybrid technology, believing it to be the most practical answer to global warming. However, the surprising pace at which pure battery electric cars have become mainstream has caught Japanese automakers off guard and now they are tripping over each other to bring a fully electric car to market as quickly as possible. Lexus, the Toyota-owned luxury brand, has announced a series of new electric cars it will launch during this decade.

Lexus has been on the fringes of the Indian market since coming to India in 2017, but like every other automotive company, big or small, it cannot ignore India’s booming electric vehicle market.

That’s why Lexus India is evaluating the UX 300e, an all-electric compact SUV and the brand’s first crack at an electric car for the Indian market. How good is it and should Lexus bring it to India?

The look

Electric cars are expected to look techy by their tech-savvy owners and on that front the UX scores well. The iconic grille, which appears pinched in the middle, certainly catches your eye and other design cues like the dagger-shaped headlights, and the sharp origami-like creases and cuts that adorn the body all add up to give the UX a futuristic look. .

The interior gets the same busy, geometric design treatment. The dash is layered with different textures and surfaces that feel a bit overdone, but the climate controls give relief. They’re good old-fashioned buttons and thankfully Lexus hasn’t followed the trend of moving these controls to a hard-to-reach menu on the touchscreen. The 10.25-inch screen is crisp and easy to use; if you’re not using the ultra-sensitive touchpad and just tap the icon on the screen. The dash is also digital, with multiple display modes, but the distance meter is oddly old-school and looks like a fuel gauge pulled from a ’90s Corolla.

The EV packs a punch when it comes to tech, but space can be an issue, especially in the back seat

The comfortable driver’s seat, which has a wide range of adjustments and good all-around visibility, sets the tone for the nimble handling and good handling that characterize the UX. It really is a compact SUV that will squeeze through the tightest gaps, but to find out just how compact it really is, you have to fight your way into the backseat.

Rear legroom is poor, and tall passengers seated behind an equal-sized driver will have to sit with their legs apart and their knees touching the front seats. The 300-litre trunk isn’t practical either and not much roomier than a sedan.

Sensation

But the equipment is not lacking; wireless charging, a 360-degree camera, a head-up display and a cracking Mark Levinson sound system are all standard on the higher UX variants. There are also several driving modes. So how does it roll?

It doesn’t feel electric fast. That is to say, it doesn’t come off the line like a scalded cat, but instead the modest 204bhp engine delivers measured power, almost deliberately. And when you remember driving a Lexus, you know it’s deliberate. The brand’s ethos is to deliver a smooth driving experience and not something that slams your head against the headrest every time you put your right foot down.

Now for the price. Toyota is unlikely to be able to price the UX300e below 60 lakh and for a car of this size, this may be a deciding factor. This is why Lexus does not engage, but simply explores the Indian market. What could finally give them the green light to launch UX is the rapidly changing perception and acceptance of EVs by rapidly changing buyers, which transcends traditional barriers of size and price. .

The opinions expressed by the columnist are personal

From HT Brunch, March 20, 2022

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Hormazd Sorabjee is one of India’s most experienced and well-regarded automotive journalists, and is the editor of Autocar India.
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