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Geely-built taxi is a cabbie favourite, but what’s it like for the uninitiated?

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"We all know them, the London taxicabs, and most of us sample them as ‘fares’ at some time or other. But very few ordinary car owners have ever driven a taxi."

This was the opening line of a story published in The Autocar of 25 June 1937, titled ‘Three Days on a Taxi’. We took a 12bhp, Birmingham-built Austin taxicab to Brooklands, where it dispatched the 0-30mph dash in a fearsome 19.1sec and averaged 47.62mph over a quarter of a mile. It had a turning circle of 7.62m, cost £370 when specified with the single landaulet body and in town was deemed ‘as handy as can be imagined’. It was nothing if not fit for purpose, and the only disappointment was that our tester was never in fact hailed.

The concept of ‘fitness for purpose’ is why road testing a black cab is as interesting an exercise in 2023 as it was in 1937. The latest TX model by London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) is as finely honed for carrying passengers around as a Porsche 911 GT3 RS is for lapping the Nürburgring or a British Army Jackal 2 is for traversing brutal terrain while laying down fire. Anything so specialised deserves attention – not forgetting the fact that anyone can own an LEVC TX. 

The black cab has come a long way since 1937. Until recently, diesel was the fuel of choice, but since 2018 all newly licensed taxis have to be zero-emission capable. The LEVC TX here is a petrol plug-in hybrid range-extender, and with more than 10,000 sold worldwide since 2017, it currently accounts for around 40% of London’s black cab fleet. The cabbies themselves clearly rate it, but how does it feel for the rest of us? Time to find out.

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For a long time Britain’s taxicab culture centred around Mann & Overton, which began importing vehicles from France in 1908. In 1948, the company commissioned Austin, along with coachbuilder Carbodies, to build the FX3, which introduced the classic silhouette. By 1985, Manganese Bronze Holdings had acquired both companies, then Chinese car maker Geely joined the fold in 2006 with a view to making cabs in Shanghai for international markets. By 2013, Geely had taken over entirely, rebranding to LEVC in 2017 and opening a £500 million facility in Ansty, near Coventry.

That brings us up to date, so what about the British-engineered and British-made TX? It cuts an imposing figure but is in fact of similar size to the BMW X5, if a little shorter and narrower, and, to allow for a crouched standing position for passenger ingress and egress, around 140mm taller. The exterior design, based on a concept devised by Geely’s Barcelona studio, speaks for itself. If perhaps a little amorphous compared with older black cabs, this remains the most recognisable vehicle in the world, with chrome brightwork and well-defined rear haunches. It is, however, beneath the composite, easily replaced panels where the TX is most interesting and impressive.

LEVC’s hackney carriage is designed from the ground up, not being adapted from an existing vehicle, so it uses a bespoke bonded-aluminium monocoque that is glued and baked on site. The structure weighs just 370kg – 30% or so lighter than an equivalent steel structure – and means that, in basic trim, the TX has a kerb weight of less than 2150kg. In higher specs, such as our Vista test car, which features six passenger seats and a deployable wheelchair ramp, that increases to 2230kg – which is still less than you might expect, given the battery.

That battery is a 34.6kWh lithium ion pack (recently increased from 31.0kWh), which lies flat beneath the front portion of the wheelbase, ahead of the storage compartment for the wheelchair ramp. It feeds the car’s 148bhp, rear-mounted electric motor, giving a 78-mile WLTP-rated range. If the battery is depleted, or the driver wants to maintain the current level of charge, the TX’s front-mounted three-cylinder petrol engine is used to top up the drive battery. It never drives the wheels.

In this way, the TX isn’t unlike the Vauxhall Ampera or BMW i3 Range Extender, but the same can’t be said for the suspension and steering. At the back is a transverse leaf spring, while at the front the TX uses a dual-axis MacPherson strut paired with Ackermann steering linkages to give quite sensational extremes of steering lock. The turning circle of 8.45m is just within the 8.54m specified by Transport for London’s ‘Conditions for Fitness’ for licensed taxis. By comparison, an X5 needs at least 12.6m.  

Steering Notes

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If the Jeep Wrangler’s unique selling point is its breakover angle and a Ferrari’s its V12 engine, then the LEVC TX is arguably defined more by its Ackermann steering geometry than anything else, exterior design included. 

While most passenger cars can manage to turn their inner wheel to around 30deg, the TX can go to 60deg. This is what allows a fairly long vehicle to meet Transport for London’s requirement of a sub-25ft (8.53m) turning circle, which seems an arbitrary figure but is actually what’s necessary to negotiate the roundabout outside the Savoy hotel on the Strand. 

The hardware that enables this is relatively easily packaged and consists of an additional, shorter two-pivot steering arm that comes into play when the conventional rack is already at its limit of travel.  The really clever bit is that it doesn’t make the TX’s steering feel unnatural in normal use.


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Geely ownership gives LEVC access to a formidable parts bin. Climb into the driver’s seat and it’s impossible not to spot that the neat steering wheel, portrait-oriented touchscreen and stubby gear selector are all recognisable from models such as the Volvo XC40. Materials and finishes are more utilitarian, and hard plastics in varying shades of grey abound, but in higher-spec cars the upper dashboard and lid for the central cubby are trimmed in a soft synthetic material and the seats are fully electric with good adjustment. An eight-hour shift wouldn’t exactly breeze by, but neither would it be unnecessarily arduous.

Fantastic visibility and our car’s ‘driver protection’ screen make the TX’s cockpit reasonably comfortable and secure-feeling. The interior is also conspicuously creak-free, which hints at the rigidness of the aluminium monocoque.

Storage is mostly good. Centre cubby aside, there’s a deep door pocket and a slot for paperwork in the ceiling, but the space where a front passenger seat would be is reserved for bulky luggage, so the driver can’t easily use it. There’s a lockable box beneath the driver’s seat, and cupholders can be bolted onto an aluminium rail fixed to the far side of the transmission tunnel. Some testers noted how easy it was to catch your ankle painfully on the leading edge of the seat rail when climbing out, however.  

When I collected the car from LEVC, there was a Clive Sutton-specced TX in the lobby. Standard outside but totally lavish inside, it’s something well-heeled Londoners who want to go properly incognito sometimes ask for. I can see the appeal.

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But a conscientious cabbie cares every bit as much for his or her passengers’ comfort as for their own. The TX doesn’t disappoint, but it’s worth noting that – as many Londoners know – the three front-facing seats are considerably more repose-friendly than the three more upright rear-facing berths, which fold down. The difference is unlikely to concern anybody simply grateful to be taken home in the small hours, perhaps a little worse for wear. But those, say, travelling to a wedding across town should select their seat with more care.

The TX otherwise wants for little. Vista spec’s glass roof lends a surprisingly urbane atmosphere. There is also on-board wi-fi, USB sockets, temperature control and an intercom to more clearly chat with the driver. Every seat has a seatbelt, with two also featuring Isofix points. Leg room is not an issue. Any fewer than four occupants and never mind a LWB Range Rover: we’re talking something closer to a private jet. It’s tighter when all six seats are in use, but the only potential pinch point is the facing pair directly behind the driver. Don’t put your tallest companions in these and everyone will be fine. 

Multimedia system

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The TX uses an LCD instrument panel as standard, and while it’s not as crisp as the fresher offerings elsewhere in the industry, it’s neat enough and serves well enough in this application. To its left, the 9in central touchscreen is a Volvo-sourced unit with the same frustrating user experience we’ve found in cars such as that manufacturer’s XC40 and V90. It has satellite navigation and DAB, and there’s an interesting graphic that shows what the powertrain is doing, but it’s difficult to find your way around the system. 

Notably, neither is it compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which is something that should be remedied during the next round of updates. Meanwhile, sound quality is as expected, which is to say pretty lacklustre. LEVC is never going to offer a Bang & Olufsen set-up in the TX; if it did, it would probably sell a few.


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London is largely blanketed in 20mph zones, so straight-line speed is about as relevant here as rolling refinement is to an Ariel Atom. But we should touch on it anyway, not least because black cabs regularly make trips out to the city’s orbital airports and sometimes much further afield. They need to be able to cut it in fast-flowing traffic. 

The TX has no launch control but gets off the mark crisply, and at 30mph it is only a few tenths behind our acceleration time for the Honda E – a smaller but every bit as city-focused machine with reasonable performance for its role. Thereafter the TX gets more ponderous. It eventually hits 60mph in 12.7sec, tallying with LEVC’s 13.2sec 0-62mph claim. With six passengers – potentially an extra 400kg – one has to assume performance would be somewhat blunted. Maximum speed was a recorded 81mph – more than enough in the UK.

But if the TX is slow to reach its cruising speed, it’s also relatively easy to maintain it once there. This car will sit happily on the motorway, accelerating from 60mph to 70mph with acceptable ease. Never do you feel as though you have to keep the accelerator pinned to the floor, and we noticed no shortfall in propulsive force when the powertrain was in Save mode (that is, maintaining the battery’s state of charge) with the 1.5-litre petrol engine generating electricity for immediate use.

The TX is also intuitive to drive at city speeds. Throttle response is quick but not sharp, and the brakes bite early and decisively but are easy to modulate thereafter. It feels like plenty of thought went into such details and the pay-off is clear: the TX is never tiring to drive.

If we are to level a meaningful criticism in terms of performance, it concerns outright braking distance. Even empty of passengers, the car needed 9.6m to come to a standstill from 30mph. This is roughly one metre more than the distance required by most full-sized SUVs, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X7. In areas of high footfall and unpredictable pedestrians, you’d expect better. 


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The TX handles curiously well. A generous wheelbase and rear-drive layout give it a fundamentally solid base of dynamic operations, but even so it’s a surprisingly tidy handler. Once out of the city, it will tackle flowing country roads with if not panache then something approximating it, and it shows little of the uncontrolled body roll and nose-heavy cornering balance you expect based on looking at the body.

Perhaps a simple mechanical recipe helps. The TX is passively suspended, uses electrohydraulic steering and has a stiff structure. Moreover, the Ackermann extension arms – those that allow the front wheels to turn some 60deg in their wells – don’t seem to corrupt the action of the steering when it travels through more moderate arcs. LEVC’s effort has more verve about it than many an anonymous crossover although, as we said of the Austin back in 1937, it is unlikely you’d ever deploy a TX for pleasure.

Stability is good. Even when driven in an extreme fashion there seems little potential for roll-over, and under full power the TX bleeds harmlessly into understeer as its modest levels of grip are breached. Can you get it to slide? Just a touch. It’s worth pointing out that the engineers behind this car are now busy in the final stages of the Polestar 5’s development. And we shouldn’t forget about manoeuvrability. In short, it’s freakishly good. It feels as though you’re turning on a sixpence. 

Comfort & Isolation

The TX benefits from unusually generous suspension travel and, despite its unanticipated dynamic aptitude, being unobliged to make many (if any) concessions to good handling. When it comes to the challenging granular roads of our capital city, 65-section tyre sidewalls also pay dividends. 

Altogether, it should therefore come as no surprise that the TX rides well. It is especially adept at absorbing speed bumps, which it does in a fashion even a Range Rover can’t match. It can be tempting to be distracted by the fact that the TX’s seats aren’t as enveloping as those you’d find in a typical £70,000 passenger car, and that the interior ambience is of course colder and more plasticky, but in terms of undiluted primary ride quality at low speeds, this car is as good as anything. One caveat is that progress isn’t quite as serene for passengers as it is for the driver. Another, which affects everyone, is that the range-extender motor can be quite rattly, thrummy and even breathy – intrusively so at times.

As speeds rise, so does the TX’s relative lack of insulation compared with comparably sized saloons and crossovers. At 30mph we measured 59dBA, making it quieter than the Honda E (61dBA) but far louder than the Range Rover (52dBA) and just about any other similarly sized SUV. By the time you’re travelling at motorway speeds, the TX is generating 70dBA, when even a three-year-old diesel Hyundai Santa Fe is whispering along at 64dBA. Still, it would be unfair to penalise the TX too harshly in this regard, given average daily speeds are barely into double figures.


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LEVC says its upgraded, 2023-model-year range-extender TX costs around £150 per week less to run than its diesel predecessor. Still, this is not an inexpensive car to buy (as you might expect of a relatively low-volume model with an all-aluminium chassis). Prices start at £66,400 for the Icon, but 95% of orders are for higher-grade Vista spec. This is largely because every TX is eligible for the £7500 Plug-in Taxi Grant, which reduces the price to £66,859 even when the car is fitted with the Comfort Plus pack. 

The standard warranty runs for three years or 120,000 miles, and servicing is generally less expensive than for similarly priced private passenger cars. LEVC also has numerous licenced repair shops dotted about London, and these can turn around a damaged bumper in a matter of hours. Of course, operating the TX as intended is not simply a matter of affordability; you will also need to have passed The Knowledge and have an intimate understanding of London and its 25,000 or so streets.

The top-spec TX comes with carpet, but nearly all cabbies opt for vinyl, for obvious reasons. Black paint has also always been traditional for taxis because it’s cheap, but white, blue, dark purple and red are options.

In our experience the petrol engine generator ran at around 22mpg. On battery power alone, you can expect around 60 miles in the summer, but this will undoubtedly fall in the winter. With a 36-litre fuel tank, total real-world range is around 258 miles.


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LEVC isn’t the only company making a licensable black cab, but it is the only one currently doing so with conviction.

Since 2018, all hackney carriages have been required to have zero-emission capability, and the Geely subsidiary has chosen range-extender technology. This approach has been shunned by the passenger- car industry but suits the taxi use case well, blending electric-only running with all-important dependability in all conditions. Efficiency could be improved, mind.  

The TX is not the most refined vehicle, chiefly due to its snicketty combustion engine. But overall this is an impressive bit of engineering, and the result is even quite satisfying to drive once you settle into its rhythm. Perceived quality is of the functional variety but nonetheless good. In practical terms the TX wants for little, and only a wholesale shrinking of the body would make it better suited to central London. Passengers also enjoy the huge rear glasshouse and relative privacy that normal saloons lack. When used as intended, this is a black cab that doesn’t pollute anything like as much as the old diesels do yet doesn’t inflict inconvenience on its driver.