The aluminium-and-composite construction of the body and chassis around me has dulled the usual road noises, at least on these fairly smooth semi-rural roads of outer Coventry. The familiar shudderings of the well-seasoned steel-bodied black cabs I’ve become used to in London are entirely absent. This, I tell myself, is progress worth paying for.
I’m behind the wheel of the all-new LEVC TX taxi, the one that has just begun taking paying customers in London, and it’s a remarkably enjoyable experience. In a steady state, as I say, it glides. If you gun the accelerator, you get the kind of clean, prompt, powerful response no diesel-and-slushmatic TX4 (the venerable outgoing model) is ever going to provide, and there’s so much forward progress under your foot that you wonder for a second whether it’s all strictly necessary. Perhaps for “Don’t lose that cab!” or “Quick as you can!” scenes from detective films of the old school.
In roundabouts, the car leans a little but grips and turns in willingly like, well, like any other well-engineered saloon. You sit up high, for sure, and have better visibility than any family saloon, but there’s a prominent centre console and an impressively supportive seat (even though the example I’m driving is in the least expensive of three offered trim levels), so there’s still a pleasing sense of security.
I’ve only driven for half an hour, but I’d like to do a lot more. This car feels snug and long-hours comfortable, as it must. Cabbies are likely to spend eight hours behind the wheel amassing 120-150 miles of passenger-toting in a day, split by an hour’s break for lunch and (under the new electric scheme of things) a half-hour tickle worth around 70% of battery charge from one of the growing banks of taxi-dedicated 50kW rapid chargers. I’ve just unplugged our test car from one of the new Chargemaster ‘pumps’ in front of LEVC’s imposing building in the Ansty industrial park, just off the M69 in outer Coventry.
It’s 20 years since I’ve driven a black cab, but the memories aren’t positive. The cramped seat and surroundings and the bodily shudderings will always be memorable, but worst of all was the heavy, wooden steering; any change of direction was a chore.
That’s all changed now. This new TX’s hydraulic, power-assisted, rack and pinion set-up is super-smooth and accurate in your hands and requires just the right amount of heft to accurately position the straight-sided TX in busy city traffic. The fairly small steering wheel and quick ratio – similar in gearing to a Lotus Elise – provides easy access to the super-tight (8.5 metre) turning circle the London taxi authorities have always demanded, which allows the car to reverse direction in tight city back streets.