Review : Lexus UX 300e with Mark Levinson sound system

An exceptional music experience

With sound system from Mark Levinson, everything is ready for an exceptional music experience in the all-electric SUV Lexus UX 300e. Well, almost.

Lexus UX300e
Lexus UX 300e with Mark Levinson sound system

Our verdict

Beautiful sound, sparkling clarity and great attack throughout the sound register.
The doors rumble and vibrate with the worst bass.
  • Number of speakers: 13
  • Amplifier: 10-channel, 980 watt class D
  • Speaker setup: 1
  • Other: Clari-Fi sound enhancement of compressed music
  • Web: lexus.com
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Price: £ 8590

Lexus has been successful with its compact hybrid SUV NX 300h, built on the Toyota RAV4 but with a good dose of more luxury. In almost all tests, the car scores high on luxury and comfort. But even though the N stands for Nimble, most people agree that things are worse with the sporty features. Well, with the all-electric front-wheel drive UX 300e – which is otherwise like cheated out of the nose on the NX 300h – this can quickly change, when the electric motor lowers the acceleration time of 0-100 km / h from 9.2 to 7.5 seconds. Ok, so it’s not a sports monster compared to other electric SUVs like the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X, but then the Lexus is also in a lower price range. And Lexus is more about build quality and luxury, than impressing with wild acceleration.

Equipment and sound system in UX 300e

But it is first and foremost the sound that is going to be about now. The Luxury version of the UX 300e includes a Mark Levinson system, with 13 speakers and 980 watts of digital amplifier power.

Lexus Mark Levinson Logo
When you see this logo, you know you are getting great sound. Photo: Lexus

The 13 speaker elements are laid out in a 7.1 surround setup, including a center speaker in the middle of the top of the dashboard, two trebles high up between the front and rear seats, and a 20 cm subwoofer in the trunk left side wall. This thus does not steal any luggage space. We then look at 367 liters in total, which is scarce enough from before.

You can choose to play music in surround, or pure stereo.

Clari-Fi

Music in cars today mostly goes via Bluetooth, when you do not listen to even worse sound on DAB radio. Therefore, the ML system has a technology they call Clari-Fi, which tries to improve the sound from compressed music formats.

Photo: Lexus

It costs

Unfortunately, the Mark Levinson system is only available as part of the Luxury edition of the UX 300e, which increases the price from the standard edition by £ 8590 extra. The package also has a larger infotainment screen of 10.3 inches instead of 7 “, and also a Head Up Display that shows speed and speed limit directly in the windshield. Navigation system is also only available in this package, in addition to blind spot alerts, panoramic 360-degree rear view camera, noise-canceling glass in the front side, electric tailgate with kick sensor, parking sensor with cross-traffic warning at the rear, and a few other things.

Since the Luxury edition also includes everything in the Premium edition, you also get a wireless charger, keyless door lock system, parking sensors and also heating in the seats both front and rear. Leather seats, you know. Heating in the steering wheel and ventilation in the front seats are also in place. None of the mentioned features are found in the basic Comfort model.

We wish we could choose the ML system as an option regardless of the equipment package. In the Audi e-tron, for example, you can choose an upgraded B&O system for only £ 1500, which is a far more obvious investment.

Lexus UX 300e app
Additional features of the Lexus UX 300e can be controlled with the app. For example, charging. Photo: Lexus

The standard sound system

I stopped by Lexus Oslo, which had prepared the car for a test drive. But first I had to sit in a parked NX 300h to listen to the standard system, which comes with Comfort (the standard edition) and the Premium editions of the UX 300e. This is a fairly common stereo system with 6 speakers, DAB + radio and a display without touch panel. Instead, the infotainment system is operated with a touch pad at the bottom of the gear lever with the right hand.

The actual operation of the plant is similar between the cheapest plant and Mark Levinson. But you can not choose surround sound, or Clari-Fi, and the screen is only 7 instead of 10.3 inches.

It takes some time to get used to the touch pad, when you expect a touch screen. But it goes well eventually, and may even be safer in the long run, since you do not have to lean forward to make the choices. By the way, it is the same touchpad that is in the Luxury version of the UX 300e.

Lexus UX 300e centerspeaker
The center speaker in the middle of the top of the dashboard is only available with the Mark Levinson system. This helps to distinguish the voices better from the rest of the soundscape, but without it going beyond the whole. Photo: Geir Nordby

Driver-oriented compartment

Another thing I notice is that all the buttons and functions in the passenger compartment are very easily accessible, because the entire passenger compartment is angled towards the driver. The instrument panel to the left of the steering wheel is angled slightly to the right, while the passenger side of the dashboard tilts ditto to the left. A clever solution, which probably makes it more fun to be a driver than a passenger, but I have no problem with that at all!

Photo: Lexus

Decent standard sound

The sound of the stereo is pretty good. There are no noises anywhere, voices come out with good enough clarity, there is quite a rhythmic drive in the system, and it does not sound sharp. Of the type of pre-installed car systems, this is probably in the upper layer among the standard systems.

It’s still a bit flat, and the soundscape is kind of a bit down in the cabin. I would have preferred to get it higher up and it lacks some air and resolution. There is also no distinct power package here, so if you are going to go for a part, there are better solutions.

I notice that the doors creak and vibrate with the music when I pull up. I hope this will change when I get into the electric car.

Photo: Lexus

The UX 300e has a better cushioned interior

The electric car 300e in the Luxus version has better internal damping than the hybrid car 300h. Not least, it has double glazing at the front, for better damping of external noise when the speed is high (above 60 km / h, the engine is no longer the dominant source of noise, but road and wind noise).

The car I get to test has Belgian license plates. It has come directly from Belgium, and it was delivered with 18-inch alloy wheels. The standard is 17 inches, which will give less wheel noise, and which I would therefore prefer to test with. But since this is the only copy in Norway yet, you have to take what you get.

Lexus UX 300e touchpad
The touch pad to the right of the small “gear lever” controls the infotainment system. At the front of the armrest, the passenger can control the sound system. The driver controls it most easily on the steering wheel. Photo: Geir Nordby

Much better sound from Mark Levinson

One immediately hears that the Mark Levinson plant is a completely different package of gunpowder than what is standard. Here you can really thunder loose without the system giving signs of shortness of breath. One can not say the same about the car interior, more about that matter in a bit.

But more important is that the music sounds cleaner. The tones in both bass and box guitar are clearer, more open and more dynamic. Singing voices emerge from the music.

With high-end car stereos, I expect a lot of setting options. Not least the possibility of setting a delay for the various speaker channels, so that you can get a solid sound image minted in one seat (read: behind the wheel!). This is not the case here, you only have the opportunity to balance between the left and right side, and front and back (father).

Gray legs in full concentration behind the wheel. Photo: Geir Nordby

Surround sound

When playing music in pure stereo, I therefore notice that there is not much stereo perspective to talk about. But the surround function solves much of the problem. Much thanks to the center channel, which helps to draw the sound image with several points, and which increases the size.

The surround function contributes to the soundscape. Instead of being perceived as a gimmick, it places voices and instruments in a three-dimensional environment. With the singing voice in front, in the middle, raised from the dashboard. Ingrid Olava’s voice on Younger Now hangs almost like a gaseous hologram in the air. In a large landscape of sound, with lovely harmonic structures from the piano as well as from the percussion.

Lexus UX 300e screen
The infotainment screen is larger in the Luxury edition, 10.3 vs. 7 inches. It gives an extra good overview. You can also split the screen in two and display navigation on the right side while viewing music information on the left. Photo: Geir Nordby

How quiet is it?

At low speeds and with the air conditioning turned off, the passenger compartment is quiet. You hear the characteristic electric motor when you gas, but far from the same degree as when you do the same with an internal combustion engine. Here it is generally quiet.

When I then set out on the main road at 70, 80 and 90 km / h, road and wheel noise becomes more prominent. Most noise comes from the wheels, and it would probably help a lot with 17-inch rims instead of 18. To get more rubber between the car and the ground. So if you are buying this car, I would probably recommend the smallest rims. That said, there’s no more noise in the Lexus than in other cars I’m used to, but the electric motor provides no immediate noise advantage at higher speeds.

Lexus UX 300e instrumentpanel
The instrument panel on the Lexus UX 300e shows, among other things, how the car is in its file, to the left below the speed limit. Photo: Geir Nordby

Party sub offers problems

Time to gobble up a bit. The disco- and rock-inspired party song Safe and Sound by The Sounds plays up to party in the car compartment. And that sounds tough. But as I gobble it up, I suddenly notice something: it’s gurgling. In the bass.

In the search for confirmation of this, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters will put the plant to the test. The first half minute goes well. But that’s only until the bass guitar comes in. The doors are shaking. I do not even play very loud. Only slightly. The same thing happens with Eminem’s Godzilla, who screams after being played at a high volume.

This is something quite different from the experience we had with the Audi e-tron, which never shook in this way. And soon you will read about our sound experience in the Porsche Taycan Turbo, also with a coupe of a quite different caliber.

Here, not enough work has been done with the acoustics in the doors and in the construction. There is no doubt that the system is tip-top, but it definitely does not reach its full potential when you can not play loud without the bass tones making it crackle in the doors and the cabin otherwise. And, no, there’s nothing in the door pockets. The compartment is empty, except for me.

Lexus UX 300e left door speaker
In each side door is a 17 cm speaker with an inverted bass diaphragm. Photo: Geir Nordby

Great driving pleasure

When the party disappointment is behind me, I can state that this is a good car to drive, with very good sound if you stay within the limits, and even if I did not manage to get comfortable with the touch-sensitive control plate in the short time I had the car , then I can see the point of it. It responded well, and you potentially stay in the right position behind the wheel to a greater extent than if you steer with a touch screen.

The car does not heel in the corners, but is stiff and good, and sticky to the road in the corners. With my 186 cm in height, the rear seat is quite narrow at the back, this is a much smaller compartment than cars like the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X. In fact, it is not very much bigger than a Nissan Leaf on the inside, even if you sit higher with better overview. The trunk of the UX 300e is actually no bigger than that of an old Leaf.

Lexus UX 300e leftspeaker
At the bottom of each A-pillar is a coaxial element with a 9 cm midrange and a 16 mm treble in the middle. Photo: Geir Nordby

Something that will probably make many people still delete this car from their list is a battery capacity of 54.3 kWt, which gives just over 300 km according to the WLTP measurement standard. Combined with CHAdeMO fast charging of only 50 kW. In comparison, the Ford Mustang Mach-E with B&O sound system will end up at about the same price, with a 76 kWt battery that gives 450 km range after the same WLTP measurement. And also support for 150 kW fast charging – three times faster than the Lexus there, that is. You can also not get a towbar or four-wheel drive on Lexus, while both are available on the Mustang.

On the other hand, the UX 300e is Norway’s cheapest Lexus. And that must count a little!

Lexus UX 300e subwoofer
There is room for a 20 cm subwoofer in the trunk side wall. An inverted membrane does not require as thick a wall as usual. Photo: Geir Nordby

Conclusion

The Lexus UX 300e comes with a fairly normal stereo system as standard. This sounds pretty good, nice tonal balance without any exaggerated notes of any kind. It just sounds a little flat and tame, and the resolution – especially in the overtones – is somewhat limited.

The Mark Levinson plant offers something completely different. The surround sound fills the cabin with a far more holographic sound image, and the dynamics are in a different class. There is very little to complain about at the facility, which reproduces both voices and instruments with the resolution they deserve.

The cabin could have been more acoustically worked through, because when you turn up the volume, it shakes doors and other things. Not an optimal environment to put an ML system in. But turn down the volume a bit, or listen to music that is not so bass heavy, then it goes well. But it is allowed to be a little disappointed. If you are in the buying group for the UX 300e and are wondering whether to choose the Luxury package just to get the ML system, the price increase will be the stiffest. If, on the other hand, you also skip the accessories that come with it, drive on.

The Lexus UX 300e is otherwise a great car to drive. It is stable on the road, and although it is never a direct savage on the road, the acceleration is more than capable enough.

It will probably not be a bestseller, with only 50 kW fast charging and a range of just over 300 km. For that, it has too tough competition from other cars in the price range, all of which have better battery and charging capacity.

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