Silence by its very nature represents a primal urge to return to an earlier, blissful state, before we were dragged into the world screeching and gasping for air. Fast-forward a few decades and we still searching for that silence that brought us some semblance of peace within the womb.
Enter the electronic age and we may have found it.
The notion of the combustion engine has an immediate association with exhaust fumes, gasoline and sound, something that the new age of electrical engines and their hybrid brethren have none of.
When you press the start button on the Lexus UX 250h and the only indication of engagement is a swirling pattern of grey, star-like images, you tend to tilt your head forward and anticipate some form of noise. Nope: nothing. The vehicle is on, though, and you can verify this by gently sliding the gear lever into “D” and softly touching the pedal. Yes, it moves.
The UX stands for urban crossover; the small “h” after the 250 indicates a hybrid. This is a part electric, part combustion engine car that is meant to carefully ease you into the inviting luxurious seats of an SUV without causing petrol-heads to run screaming for the hills. Remember, it is silence that we all seek.
The grill is somewhere between glossy gun-metal overtures and has just enough class to remind onlookers that Lexus is Toyota’s premium brand. The silhouette is invitingly predatory. It looks and feels neoteric and this adds to its allure. The Celestial Blue colour with slickly crafted architecture eases the car into a space of grounded design and attentive detail that will keep people staring, from tip to tail.
The interior is subliminally luxurious, and has enough room for prospective buyers, who’ll be convinced that they are surrounded by premium quality. The mode buttons on the left of the dash allow quick transitions from eco to normal to sport modes. The square panel interface is a nightmare however — it blips and slips past your selection, and trying to find an address while driving is like expecting all the new Star Wars movies to make sense. It would be easier to use Magellan’s sextant than the navigation system: rather plug in via Android or Apple. The interior has a solid feel, but there are some nuances lacking in the rear.
Preconceived notions can lead us into treacherous territory, and this Lexus is nimbler and lighter to drive than the earlier models. Its steering has enough feedback for appreciatively fast driving and the chassis with its Active Cornering Assist will keep you safe by applying braking pressure when the Lexus under-steers. In sport mode the engine sounds like it has only one gear and throbs on the red line when you keep your foot flat. The UX is fluid in its acceleration and has decent thrust when you have the space. The consumption is astounding — we managed an almost unbelievable 20km/litre in stealth mode — and we managed to stalk people in parking lots without them even noticing us.
If you are up to any form of shady business, then a hybrid electric car is the only way to go. Whether it is sneaking out at night or back home early in the morning, or just looking very bourgeois when sliding into the gym, the UX will keep you entertained. In a future world the Lexus offers a fascinating choice for the eco-conscious, reusable coffee cup-using, save-the-planet millennial executive.
Lexus UX 250h
Price R699 000
Engine 2.0-Litre inline 4 16V
Top Speed 227 km/h