While Lexus entered the electric vehicle realm relatively late, Lexus has committed to offering an exclusive lineup of battery-powered automobiles by 2035. The introduction of the RZ marks the initial phase of this transition. Turning our attention to the RZ, it excels in certain aspects while falling short in others.
Built upon Toyota’s e-TNGA platform, the RZ is currently available in a single variant: the RZ 450e. In comparison to the bZ4X, which it shares its platform with, the RZ maintains the same 112.2-inch wheelbase but extends about five inches in length, with a slightly lower and wider stance. Positioned between the NX and RX in Lexus’s SUV lineup, the RZ’s interior offers superior spaciousness despite being slightly smaller than the RX. There’s plenty of space in the RZ, but we do wish that it offered a frunk.
Externally, a conspicuous departure is the absence of Lexus’s signature “spindle” grille, which characterizes the rest of the brand’s models. In its place, the RZ showcases a “spindle body,” a design motif resembling the spindle grille but enclosed and more understated, as it no longer serves the function of cooling an engine under the hood.
The RZ 450e is driven by a dual-motor powertrain that surpasses the output of the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra. This setup incorporates an all-wheel-drive system dubbed Direct4 by Lexus. The combined power output registers at 308 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, a substantial increase over the bZ4X’s 214 horsepower. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is estimated at 5.0 seconds. While comparable to the dual-motor versions of the Audi Q4 e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQB, the RZ falls short of the more potent models like the Tesla Model Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Cadillac Lyriq.
Propelled by a 71.4-kWh lithium-ion battery (with an estimated usable capacity of 63.4 kWh), the RZ’s electric motors exhibit ample power, propelling it adeptly through twisty backroads. Reflecting Lexus’s signature refinement, the RZ offers a serene and comfortable ride despite some noticeable body roll. The vehicle features four regenerative braking modes controlled by paddle shifters, though these settings, even at their highest, lack the one-pedal driving capability found in other electric vehicles.
An area for potential enhancement, and one that might deter some EV enthusiasts, is the driving range. The RZ boasts an estimated range of 220 miles for the Premium variant with 18-inch wheels and 196 miles for the Luxury trim with 20-inch wheels. These figures are a bit underwhelming, especially given the emergence of EVs with ranges exceeding 300 miles.
Charging capabilities are also somewhat limited, with the onboard charger rated at 6.6 kW, as opposed to 10.9 kW in the Genesis GV60 and 11.0 kW in the Audi Q4 e-tron. Achieving a full charge using a Level 2 charger takes 9.5 hours, and the maximum charging rate is 150 kW, enabling an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes via a DC fast charger. Notably, other models like the Genesis GV60, Tesla Model Y, and Cadillac Lyriq can recharge at a faster rate.
If you do need to take a longer road trip, Lexus offers the Lexus Reserve program, granting owners up to 30 days of complimentary Lexus rental cars during the initial three years.
An unexpected standout feature is the Steer by Wire system, contributing to a more engaging driving experience with an airplane-like yoke steering wheel. While highly responsive, it requires some acclimatization due to its missing upper rim. The system facilitates quick direction changes with minimal input. Lexus has not announced when the yoke steering wheel will be available. Another notable feature is the Traffic Jam Assist system, allowing hands-free driving at speeds under 25 mph on highways.
Within the cabin, a 14-inch touchscreen governs the latest infotainment system, while optional features include a 10-inch head-up display and a Mark Levinson 13-speaker audio setup. Radiant panel heating, emanating warmth from the lower dashboard, enhances efficiency more effectively than traditional HVAC heat pumps.
The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e starts at $59,650 for the Premium trim and $65,150 for the Luxury trim. Initial sales targets encompass around 5,000 units for the first year, a goal within reach considering the vehicle’s alignment with Lexus’s hallmark comfort and style. As an appealing choice for existing Lexus owners transitioning to EVs, the RZ may encounter challenges enticing buyers from Genesis, Tesla, or Cadillac, primarily due to its comparatively modest driving range.