A black-tie event at the National Convention Centre last weekend raised more than half a million dollars to help a beloved Canberra charity look after seriously ill children and their families in hospital.
For eight years now, the local Lexus car dealership has sponsored a gala ball for Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), raising money through entry tickets and one-off donations. Over 1000 people donned their finest and asked for the pleasure of a dance. The dollars are still being counted, but the total figure is already over $545,000.
The new Lexus UX SUV can take credit for at least some of the enormous fundraising success. The UX250h Luxury, valued at $53,225, was among the items being raffled.
The UX is the smallest of the prestige brand’s SUVs and also one of its most popular. The only difference between the prize and the Graphite Black one I’m currently driving through the city is … hang on, let me check … It says ‘electric’ on the side. Yeah, that’s what it is.
The UX300e is a bit of an electric vehicle (EV) pioneer for Toyota and its affiliate brand, Lexus. The 1997 Prius may have paved the way for Toyota to become king of the hybrid, but after years of playing it safe, they’ve decided to take it to the next level. Toyota promises 30 new fully electric models by 2030.
The news is they’re still playing it safe. The Lexus badges are surrounded by a blue halo, and it says electric on the side. That’s pretty much the game of spot-the-difference over. It even has the same enormous mouth as its petrol-powered stablemates.
But it seems this is precisely what buyers want.
Lexus of Canberra general manager Mikkel Litonjua says many electric UX buyers are coming from other models in the range and want all the features they have come to know and love but just without the oily, noisy bits.
“They want a normal car, with all the familiar technology and style, but with an electric drivetrain.”
So the electric UX scores the same host of safety systems and the tan leather-trimmed interior, and ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’, and ‘Sport’ drive modes. The analogue clock even makes its subtle appearance next to the infotainment screen, bringing a heart-warmingly cosy element to the cabin.
The only obvious nod to ‘sustainability’ lies on the dash – a panel-stitch finished segment inspired by ‘Washi’, a grained Japanese paper often used on traditional sliding doors.
I thought leaving the gear shift paddles on the steering wheel may have been a step too far, but it turns out the UX300e has four ‘levels of deceleration’ designed to mirror a ‘natural driving style’.
That and it also effectively has two ‘gears’. The lower one is designed with the stop-start traffic of the inner city in mind, while the other one has longer legs to suit highway driving.
It isn’t quite as quiet as you’d expect. But to enjoy some aural feedback while you accelerate, hit a button marked ASC (for ‘Acceleration Sound Control’) and a motor sound will be piped through the speakers. Once up to speed, this drops away so you can continue listening to your own breathing.
However, being this normal does come with downsides. I feel a twinge of guilt as I move over into the transit lane on Adelaide Avenue. This is only open to buses, taxis and zero-emission vehicles, but other motorists may think I’m just an entitled gas guzzler. Or worse, too drunk to read the signs.
Fortunately, a simple roundabout will clear up the uncertainty. Spin the drive mode dial – which pokes out like an ear above the speedometer – to Sport, twitch your right foot, and immediately you’re riding a wave of power through the corner, leaving the petrol fumes far behind.
Lexus claims a 0-100 km/h of 7.5 seconds, which isn’t far off many hot hatchbacks. Thanks to the fact that the entire heft of the batteries lies deep beneath your bottom, you’ll find more body roll in a cemetery.
You do have to pay for the privilege, however. For one thing, the UX300e is a Lexus, and for another, it’s electric. Pricing starts at $74,000, and that’s not including driveaway costs, which are lower thanks to incentives to go electric.
To sweeten the deal even more, buyers score three years of complimentary access to all public charging stations run by one of the biggest local providers, Chargefox.
Alternatively, you could buy some raffle tickets for a good cause. Who knows, you might get lucky.
2022 Lexus UX300e
- $74,000 (plus driveaway costs)
- Electric motor, 150 kW/300 Nm
- 0-100 km/h in 7.5 seconds
- 360 km range
- 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
Visit Lexus of Canberra for more information.