2023 Lexus RZ First Look: Lexus’ First EV
The 2023 Lexus RZ is a fully electric SUV that will be Lexus’ first electric vehicle.
For as similar in look as the new Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra electric crossovers are, you might not realize that the Lexus RZ is the triplet of the two Toyota models. Toyota’s e-TNGA electric vehicle architecture is shared by all three SUVs, though the Toyota and Subie are easily distinguished by their shared body, interior, and nearly everything else. The Lexus RZ 2023, on the other hand, is distinguished by its less awkward styling and an entirely unique (and luxurious) interior.
To be completely honest, Lexus would probably prefer that we avoid drawing any parallels between the RZ and its mechanical siblings.
However, the reality is that a slew of upcoming electric vehicles from a variety of automakers will share a relatively small number of components (batteries, motors, platforms) under a flotilla of different cars, trucks, and SUVs spanning the mainstream and luxury segments. For the most part, don’t make too much of the Lexus’s ties to the “lesser” bZ4X and Solterra models.
At the very least, the Lexus is given a name that is relatively conventional, one that is roughly in keeping with the names of the luxury automaker’s previous models. Defeat to the Toyota Z4X with a Cat Walking Across the Keyboard!
A more straightforward electric SUV
An funny twist has been added to the RZ, as Lexus has taken the basic approachability of the bZ4X (and, by extension, the Solterra) that we noted during our initial drive of that EV and applied it to practically every other aspect of the vehicle. That means that, while the bZ4X provides a fairly normal in-car experience beneath its bizarre styling, without funky, Tesla-baiting tech weirdness or a plethora of nerd-rabbit-hole options for tracking various EV performance metrics as you might find in some competitors, the RZ provides the same experience but with a more conventional outward appearance as well.
As with Audi’s E-Tron, this is a luxury electric crossover designed to provide an electrified but otherwise completely conventional driving experience that won’t put off buyers who are transitioning from internal combustion vehicles. The most bizarre elements on the inside include touch-sensitive door openers, such as those seen on the NX, which require you to press a little button to exit the vehicle, and the available panoramic sunroof, which has dimmable glass.
Exterior styling is similar to Lexus’ current gas and hybrid NX compact crossovers, with sharp detailing and fewer intakes on the front end being the most noticeable differences. While you can see traces of the bZ4X and Solterra in the RZ’s arcing roof profile, it is the Lexus’s puffed-out fenders, dramatic hourglass nose, which mirrors Lexus’s distinctive grille design, and full-width taillamps that distinguish the Lexus from the competition. The RZ has also been slightly reshaped in terms of dimensions.
A 112.2-inch wheelbase is shared with the Toyota, but the Lexus is half an inch lower and 1.4 inches broader than the Toyota while also being 4.5 inches longer than it is wide. While we don’t yet have official interior details, it appears likely that the Lexus will be more spacious than its siblings. See Also https://quickautobrain.com/toyota-solid-state-battery-development/
The NX’s cockpit is similar in that it incorporates the new-generation 14.0-inch touchscreen interface—as well as, luckily, its volume and HVAC knobs—as well as a digital gauge cluster and steering wheel that are comparable to those found in the NX. In addition to the starter button, which is located high in the center of the steering wheel’s field of vision, there are standard control stalks springing from the column, window and mirror controls located where you’d expect them, and an exquisite rotary knob for selecting drive, park, and reverse.
This RZ’s interior is laid out in a completely traditional manner, similar to that of the Toyota and Subaru, confirming the assumption that it will be simple for non-EV enthusiasts to get into and drive without any kind of in-depth training.
Extra seals around the hood, acoustic glass front and back, and even an unique cross section built expressly for the RZ’s weatherstripping will help to quiet the cabin, according to Lexus.
This is especially important given the RZ’s lack of an engine; most electric vehicles must contend with wind and road noise in the absence of the white noise provided by internal combustion engines. Or maybe not; the RZ will have “expressive in-cabin sounds to represent the pleasure of driving,” according to the manufacturer. A stream of apparently fake sound will be fed into the cabin in time with the rotational speed of the drive motors, and it may be able to disguise some undesirable noises while also serving as a feedback loop for the driver.
Yoking is all you need!
Avoid taking this as a record scratch, but the RZ will offer a tool in the future that will allow you to erase this “nothing to see here” take at an undefined future period. A steer-by-wire system (in which there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and front wheels) will allow Lexus to introduce a steering yoke similar to the one it has already demonstrated and promised to RZ customers in China.
This will allow not only computerized variations in steering behavior, but also sharper control for the onboard driver assists such as lane-centering and (someday) evasive maneuvers.
That yoke, which is devoid of a full steering wheel rim, looks a lot like the device that Tesla recently installed on the Model S and Model X, with one notable exception: it is made of aluminum.
Because of the steer-by-wire functionality, RZ drivers will no longer be required to fumble around with hand-over-hand steering inputs. Lexus claims that RZs equipped with the function will have a steering range of 150 degrees, but does not define whether this means the yoke will only turn 150 degrees in either direction, or whether it means the yoke will turn 150 degrees lock-to-lock (so, 75 degrees in each direction).
The system, according to Lexus, is capable of practically wrist-flick U-turns at low speeds and steadiness at greater speeds, eliminating the need to use both hands to steer the vehicle.
So, what’s under the hood… or, more specifically, where have the motors gone?
It is the dual electric motors from the Toyota bZ4X that serve as the underpinnings for all of the Lexus bling on the outside of the RZ. As a result, Lexus only displays their outputs in kilowatts (kW), with the front motor producing 150 kW and the rear motor producing 80 kW. Those values are the same as those provided for the Toyota, and they translate to 201 and 107 horsepower, respectively.
The front motor should produce 196 lb-ft of torque, while the rear motor should produce 124 lb-ft, for a total system output of 214 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Because the motors are not mechanically connected, the front-to-rear power distribution can be adjusted to any percentage between zero and one hundred percent. Lexus calls this AWD configuration “Direct4”.
Having said that, those are merely estimations, considering the fact that Lexus has only disclosed a battery capacity for a RZ prototype in a foreign country. Interestingly, the battery’s capacity is listed as 71.4 kWh, which is the same as the battery in the front-wheel-drive bZ4X (no front-wheel-drive RZ will be offered, at least not at launch); the battery in the all-wheel-drive bZ4X is higher-capacity at 72.8 kWh. The RZ uses the smaller of the Toyota’s two batteries, which is unusual considering the vehicle’s available high-power demand AWD system.
When we inquired about this, Lexus responded that the batteries are still undergoing testing and could change before the RZ goes on sale later this year. Don’t be shocked if the RZ ends up with the larger battery pack, especially given Lexus’s claim that its EV will have a range of 225 miles, which is a few miles more than the AWD bZ4X manages, at least when paired with the smaller of the two tire sizes available (18-inchers instead of 20s). It is believed that this gain in range is due in part to a higher-efficiency rear inverter, which employs “silicon-carbide power semiconductor elements” in a Toyota/Lexus first, according to the company.
Small improvements like this will be required for the RZ to differentiate itself from the competition because, unless Lexus manages to cram a significantly greater number of battery cells into the RZ’s floor than Toyota did in the bZ4X, performance and range will be comparable to the Toyota, regardless of the final specifications of the vehicle.
While the RZ is equipped with frequency reactive dampers, a sort of shock that tightens up as the force of a wheel hit increases (and softens for less aggressive movements), the suspension’s movement at the limits of its travel may be more comfortable. In layman’s terms, this means that even if you bottom out the suspension, the dampers will have firmed up as the event approached, reducing the amount of thud.
The included Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 active safety suite, which includes collision warning, automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane keep assist, and a slew of driver monitors, can help you escape even bigger thuds. While employing the self-steering and adaptive cruise capabilities, those monitors can detect if the driver is drowsy or experiencing an emergency of some sort (or just stops paying attention), in which case the Emergency Driving Stop System will safely slow and stop the vehicle in its lane. https://www.lexus.co.uk/electric-cars/
Is It Enough to Make a Difference?
Lexus hopes to have a complete array of electric vehicles available for purchase by 2030, and five years after that, it hopes to have converted its whole lineup to EV-only vehicles. The RZ450e is the tip of that spear, and it comes at an inopportune time as well. Not exactly a spectacular, attention-getting, envy-inducing electric luxury SUV, but it does the job anyway.
In terms of range and power, it is outclassed by a wide range of other electric SUVs, not just high-end models such as Tesla’s Model Y. For its part, if the RZ proves to be reasonably priced while also providing the customary Lexus experience of simple operation, a quiet and smooth ride, and supreme refinement, it may well pave the way for additional electric Lexuses to follow in its footsteps. When it goes on sale later this year, we’ll be able to find out.