With the introduction of the Toyota BZ4x, it was only a matter of time before Toyota would provide an upscale version of the electric SUV. In comes the 2023 Lexus RZ 450e as Lexus’ first foray into the electric vehicle world. But how does it stack up against the competition?In typical Lexus fashion, the styling of the RZ 450e are done with a deliberate amount of edge, without going overboard. The Lexus design language features plenty of sharp body creases and pointed lights and body panels. Following the design trends of the recently redesigned RX-series, the RZ 450e looks almost identical to the gasoline powered cousin. A more thorough look will betray the active aerodynamic components within the grille that close when extra cooling isn’t needed. The rear of the RZ departs from the RX and is designed closer to the BZ4x with a much higher upward angle that really gives the rear light bar presence.
Overall the design of the RZ 450e is not groundbreaking, and it seems like Lexus doesn’t want a radical departure from its current offerings. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
The interior shadows the BZ4x’s design but of course has been massively upscaled in terms of quality and features a more prominent tilt towards the driver. The center console is dominated by a gigantic 14-inch touchscreen that handles infotainment.
The interior however, features Lexus’s biggest departure when it comes to transitioning towards the EV world. Available at later time in the US, the RZ 450e can be had with a racing-inspire yoke steering wheel akin to the one found in the updated Model S. Along with the wheel, the system gets rid of any mechanical linkage to the front wheels, now relying solely on electronic impulses to transmit road feel to your hands. Additionally, the gauge cluster is placed further back and higher up to “minimize line-of-sight movement.” This system allows for variable steering, meaning at low speeds you won’t need to turn your wheel as much to accomplish a turn or a u-turn.
It’s strange how much race-car dynamics (such as making sure you can keep your eyes straight at all times thanks to the repositioned gauge cluster) in a non-performance electric SUV. This isn’t the first time variable steering has bee devised, as BMW has had an active steering system. Though when it first came out, some did not like the feeling that they couldn’t 100% predict the amount of movement needed to make a turn. I anticipate that Lexus has made the system easy to use. Still, with a yoke steering wheel a system like this almost seems mandatory if you want to avoid any awkward hand-over-hand steering maneuvers.
But what about the specs? Well, they aren’t setting the world on fire.
Aboard the Lexus sits a 71.4 kWh battery with a front and rear motor to produce an all-wheel drive layout. The rear motor is a 150 kW while the front is 80 kW, good enough for 308 horsepower. With 18-inch wheels, the RZ 450e is expected to reach 220 miles of range, while an upgrade to the 20-inch wheels will see that range drop down to 196 miles. The 0-60 mph time is expected to be a respectable 5.0 seconds.
In regards to charging, is capable of hitting an 80% charge in half an hour at a DC fast charger.
The Lexus RZ 450e will be available in two trims with the cheapest starting at just under $60,000.
|RZ 450e Trims||MSRP + Delivery Processing and Handling|
|Premium AWD w/ 18″ wheels||$59,650|
|Premium AWD w/ 20″ wheels||$60,890|
Looking strictly at the specifications, the RZ 450e looks like it may have come a year or two too late. With 300 miles becoming the de facto range for essentially every new EV, it really stings when we receive a sub-250 mile ranged EV. No ultra fast charging further hurts the range number. Combine all that with a starting price of $60,000 and have the car compete in one of the hottest vehicle segments going up against the Tesla Model Y, Mustang Mach-E, Audi Q4 e-tron, Volvo’s Recharge SUVs, the Hyundai IONIQ 5 (even though I disagree with the SUV designation), and more; it’s a tough sell.
However, Lexus has honed their craft and become one of the most respected luxury brands in the world and has proven itself over the decades as a wonderful choice, earning itself a seemingly endless amount of owners past and present who only sing their praises about the cars. But while their fit and finish can overcome any possible shortcomings in the spec sheet for their gasoline cars, EV buyers, especially those that are hesitant about switching, will most likely prioritize the numbers on the sheet more than whatever comfort and tactile appeal the RZ 450e can provide.
All of this speculation is of course moot if Toyota doesn’t build this vehicle in any meaningful quantity.
How do you guys feel about the Lexus RZ 450e?