I first drove the Lexus UX300e back in 2020, just prior to its on-the-road release date. That car was a major deal for Lexus, as the company's first fully electric vehicle. Fast-forward just two years and I'm sat behind the wheel of the 2023 UX300e update, which I've been driving around Edinburgh, Scotland, over this weekend.
While I enjoyed the original SUV crossover out on the road, there are some major improvements to the 2023 UX300e that are impossible to ignore – especially if you ever eyed-up the original car. Having spent a number of hours around the city and across the highlands, here are the three major upgraded features that I think will hugely appeal to prospective buyers.
1. A much bigger battery
It's becoming increasingly clear that smaller battery capacities don't really cut it for customers in the UK. City run-about EVs certainly have their place, but if you intend to do a long-haul trip – like the 300-miler to Glastonbury Festival I did in a Merc EQS, curing my range anxiety – then you need greater battery capacity.
Which is the first major step forward that the 2023 Lexus UX300e takes over its 2021 predecessor: there's a 72.8kWh cell inside now, upping the previous 54.3kWh one by a massive 40%. That should equate to a maximum 280 miles per charge, which is a big increase on the former 200 miles.
Of course real-world conditions do dig into range potential and I wouldn't anticipate you'll get a true 280 miles per charge on average. That's just how WLTP ratings work in Europe – and it's a criticism I would throw at any other EV-maker – but it still makes the UX300e much more viable for longer trips. This is the single biggest UX300e upgrade in my opinion, making it far more appealing to far more prospective buyers.
Funnily enough, however, rather than an outright digital display to show the battery charge level, Lexus instead uses an analogue 'fuel gauge' to the right side of the driver's cluster, which to me feels like a stepping-stone move in getting current fuel-based drivers to feel more at ease with being behind the wheel of an electric car.
2. A much larger infotainment screen
This is the first thing I noticed when stepping inside the 2023 UX300e: the infotainment screen, which is fixed upright on the dash, is a much larger 12.3-inch scale. The previous one was 10.3-inch, which might not sound all that different, but as measurement is based on the diagonal corner to corner, I think it's really noticeable.
Lexus' in-car systems have vastly improved too, with a navigation system that now feels the right side of functional, and new features such as "Hey Lexus" voice activation so you can bark various requests at the car and have it action them for you. So your favourite tune on Spotify is only a quick line of speech away.
Personally I'm more on board with the infotainment setup though, and as this 12.3-inch display is easy to reach and a touchscreen functionality, it's super easy to just reach over and tap it to make adjustments. It's nice and high in your eye line, too, unlike some competitor models that feel so low down, as if you're taking eyes off the road.
3. Far better controls
Dovetailing from the larger display in the 2023 UX300e is a feature that you'll appreciate only if you know about older Lexus infotainment operations. The company's older cars, including the original UX300e in 2021, featured a 'mousepad-like' control system that, personally, was my least favourite of any manufacturer to use.
Fortunately, Lexus has started to remove this setup from its cars, with the 2023 UX300e taking benefit of a more streamlined voice- and hands-on approach to controls. Indeed, where the pad once lived there are now heated (and cooled) seat controls, which are just a finger tap away and nice and easy to reach. Much better.
Indeed, I've had friends previously shun Lexus owed to this older mousepad-like system, so for the new UX300e to ditch it is a quiet gain for those who never knew about it, and a massive win for existing Lexus users thinking of upgrading. That's my take on it anyway.
Overall, then, the new Lexus UX300e is a much more considered stab at being a contender as one of 2023's best cars, especially if you're seeking out a luxury SUV crossover. It looks smart, its trio of outlined improvements are major, and it's a comfortable cabin to be in too.
There are some downsides, however, such as the front-wheel drive and high-torque setup which I found skittish and sometimes skiddy in the original car and that now, with the added weight of more battery, is clearly no better (especially in the Scottish rain). But all-wheel drive cars tend to cost a stack of cash more, so in the order of keeping this Lexus that much more open to a wider range of customers, it's a forgivable part of its mechanical make-up.
Especially when there's now sensible range per charge, plus an easy-to-use infotainment system (with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay at your fingertips), and enhanced safety package features for this gen (enhanced collision detection and sign-recognition systems galore). It'll therefore be no surprise to see plenty more UX300e cars on the roads in the near future, even with its now £47,495 starting price...