by Karl Furlong
It's taken a while but Lexus finally has an EV for the USA. Although it shares the e-TNGA platform with the Toyota bZ4X, the RZ wears a sharper suit, is larger, and has a more upscale interior. With over 300 horsepower from two electric motors, the RZ will also be a lot more powerful than its Toyota sibling when it arrives, but it will need to be to compete with rivals like the Audi Q4 e-tron. By 2035, Lexus has a goal of selling only battery-electric models around the world, and the new RZ is the first major step towards making that happen.
See trim levels and configurations:
|RZ 450e DIRECT4||
The first-generation Lexus RZ's release date in the USA is scheduled for late in 2022. It will be coming out after several other electric luxury SUVs like the Audi e-tron and pricier Jaguar I-Pace.
As an obviously more premium vehicle than the bZ4X, we expect the Lexus RZ's price to start at around $50,000. The Toyota begins at $8,000 less than that, and the Audi Q4 e-tron - a definite RZ rival - will cost $53,300 in base form. Lexus loves to dress up its models in F Sport trim, so a version of the RZ like this could go for about $55,000 MSRP.
While there are hints of the Toyota bZ4X in the Lexus RZ's exterior design, the two vehicles are sufficiently different from each other. This is a good thing for Lexus' brand identity. The car's design is characterized by sharp lines and a closed-off BEV Spindle Body that mimics the basic shape of the brand's Spindle grille. In modern crossover style, the black wheel arch surrounds impart a hint of ruggedness, but we can't imagine anyone would want to take the new Lexus RZ SUV off-road. The rear features a full-width light bar and the Lexus lettering.
The Lexus RZ's colors include the option of a bi-tone livery, and the car looks good in dark grey. In total, Lexus says there will be five paint colors. Wheel sizes range from 18 to 20 inches.
The Lexus RZ's dimensions make for an overall larger crossover than the bZ4X. At 189 inches in length, the RZ is 4.4 inches longer than the Toyota despite both sharing a 112.2-inch wheelbase. The 2023 RZ is 74.6 inches wide and has a height of 64.4 inches.
Dual electric motors will power the Lexus RZ 450e. Lexus only supplied outputs of 150 kW for the front motor and 80 kW for the one at the back. Together, that translates to 308 hp. With all-wheel drive, we expect the RZ to go from 0-60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. A single-speed transmission will direct the power to all four corners.
The Lexus RZ has an available steer-by-wire system for the "electronic exchange of steering and road surface information between the steering wheel and tires via electric signals." Without a mechanical linkage, it remains to be seen if this system can provide the same feel to the driver.
The Direct4 AWD system can change the front-to-rear drive force ratio distribution from anywhere between 100:0 and 0:100. For example, the ratio switches from between 50:50 and 20:80 when exiting a corner, pushing more torque to the rear wheels to boost traction.
A 71.4 kWh battery will give the full-electric Lexus RZ 450e a range on a full charge of up to 225 miles with 18-inch tires, but MPGe specs from the EPA will need to confirm this. That maximum range is surpassed by several other electric crossovers, and information about charging capabilities must still be shared by Lexus.
The 2023 Lexus RZ's interior is clad in smart materials but has a more high-tech feel than the average Lexus. Taking up most of the space on the central dashboard is a large 14-inch touchscreen that forms part of the Lexus Interface multimedia system. It should be a huge improvement over the brand's clumsy touchpad. Steering wheel switches can be used to control information displayed on the head-up display.
The Lexus RZ's seats are finished in two material types, including Ultrasuede made from 30%-bio-based sustainable materials. Together with an upper wood-grain console and the natural light that flows through the standard panoramic roof, the inside of the RZ is quite inviting, and Lexus claims that second-row headroom is especially ample. Interior colors will include Thunderstorm, Palomino, and Dapple Gray/Black.
The Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 bundles together a host of driver aids like dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, pre-collision alert, and lane trace assist.
As for the Lexus RZ's cargo space, we don't know what the volume of this space is, but the automaker says that the low-profile layout of the rear eAxle has freed up a generous amount of room.