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A great Lexus, but a bad EV

Toyota – and by extension, Lexus – is an interesting company. Sure, it’s not known for necessarily building the coolest or most visceral cars on the road, but Toyota is interesting because it’s rarely the first to do anything. Why is it so exciting to be third or fourth to launch a feature or a car in a new segment? Because that means Toyota has to learn from the failures of other brands and make things better. Frequent.

A great example of a time when “normal” is no more is coming 2023RZ450e. This is Lexus’ first all-electric production vehicle, and like Toyota BZ4X on which it is based, the results are not great.

Full disclosure: Lexus wanted me to drive the new RZ 450e, and the company invited me to San Diego and put me in a luxury hotel with a bunch of other journalists there to test out Lexus’ first EV.

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Range, Or Lack Thereof

The electric drive unit for the 2023 Lexus RZ 450e

Photo: Lexus

The headline figure for the RZ 450e is its range – or lack of it. The EPA rates the base RZ at 220 miles, but if you get a model with 20-inch wheels, that drops to just 196 miles. While that frankly laughable range isn’t the entire story, it will be a fact many buyers in the U.S. struggle to get past. Is there a chance the RZ will do better in the real world? It’s not impossible, but I won’t hold out hope.

RZ 450e shares its platform with Toyota BZ4X and Subaru Solterra, and is available only in a dual-engine, all-wheel drive layout. The front electric motor generates 150 kW (201 hp) and the rear motor generates 80 kW (107 hp). While more than 300 hp combined doesn’t sound like much, it’s a perfect match for the RZ, thanks to its instantaneous electric torque.

There are three levels of regenerative braking, but sadly there’s no single-pedal driving mode. The brakes are consistent and there are no jarring transitions between regenerative and mechanical stopping forces.

Navigate into uncharted waters

The strangely shaped steering shackles of the Lexus RZ 450e 2023

Thankfully, this half-steering wheel will be optional.
Photo: Lexus

The RZ’s suspension tuning is excellent and is mostly about comfort. The body feel is well controlled, even when going through big bends, and the steering is extremely supple. The RZ’s standard electric power steering is direct and not too heavy, which is nice. The steering wheel itself is wrapped in an almost neoprene-like material, which feels odd at first, but I’ve grown to like it.

Lexus will sell RZ with drive-by-wire system, but the feature won’t be available at launch in the US and likely won’t be until 2024. The feature is incredibly weird to use and inconvenient at low speeds in situations where you might. requires a lot of steering, but is acceptable in normal traffic. Lexus is touting it as a mobility solution, but other than someone who might lose an arm, I don’t know who it’s really for. Add to that the system is paired with an odd yoke instead of a normal steering wheel, and it’s hard to say “no” around.

Read Jalopnik’s review of a prototype Lexus RZ 450e equipped with a wire-driven steering system here.

Palomino interior on Lexus RZ 450e 2023

Photo: Lexus

While the exterior styling is certainly divisive – although for my money it looks better than a Toyota or a Subaru – the RZ’s interior should be nothing. It’s very similar to the current-generation Lexus RX and NX models, but even cleaner than those. Available in two seating surfaces, Lexus ‘ Nuluxe or Ultrasuede artificial leather. Both are good, but Nuluxe would be my pick as I doubt it will last longer in the long run.

The RZ’s front seats are comfortable, if not overly supportive, and the passenger room is excellent with just 40 inches of front and rear headroom, as well as 42 inches and 37.5 inches of legroom, respectively. . Like the Solterra and BZ4X, the RZ doesn’t have a trunk, and its sloping rear glass limits cargo space somewhat, but 23.7 cubic feet of space should be enough for most people most of the time.

A nice place to be

Black interior of Lexus RZ 450e 2023

Photo: Lexus

Interestingly, Lexus is using the RZ to roll out a few new tech features for interior comfort. The first feature — and also the one that Lexus seems to be most proud of — is radiant heating. This is made possible by a heated cloth-wrapped instrument panel below the glovebox area if it exists, as well as on the underside of the steering column. The idea was that it was supposed to reduce reliance on traditional climate control and thus help with range tuning in cold weather, but during my test drive I struggled to get a feel for it. much difference through my jeans unless I almost touch the panel. It’s a good idea, but I think it needs to be more powerful to get a lot of work done, although that will probably affect scope.

Another feature that Lexus boasts is the shade-free glass roof. This is a terrible, quasi-unilateral idea, especially on electric cars that means you have to run your HVAC system more often, eating into your car’s range. The glass roof helps add headroom, which is great, but as always with these roofs, the colors aren’t dark enough to prevent the cabin from turning into an oven on a hot day. There’s an optional electrochromic feature that dims the glass, but it’s hard to say how effective it will be in midsummer Southern California.

As a modern Lexus, the RZ has a suite of technologies to match both entertainment and safety. The standard 14-inch horizontally oriented touchscreen is great, and although the icons may seem a bit small when you try to use them while driving, the system is responsive and easy to use overall. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and a Mark Levinson stereo system is optional.

The very powerful Lexus Safety System Plus 3.0 is standard on both RZ trim levels and includes adaptive cruise control, active lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and sea assist. Traffic alert and active steering assist will automatically brake for you when it needs to detect upcoming corners. Traffic jam assist is an optional extra and will keep you hands-free at speeds up to 25 mph.

An electric Lexus for Lexus owners

A silver and blue RZ 450e parked in front of the dunes.

Photo: Lexus

Beyond the range issue, Lexus has created a number of other roadblocks for itself with the RZ. For example, the basic RZ Premium starts at $59,650 including a $1,150 destination fee, and that doesn’t get you most of the more compelling tech features, although it does give you good range. best of the bunch, at 220 miles. The top-end Luxury version has 20-inch wheels as standard and is therefore the worst range, and starts at $65,150. Add to that the fact that these models are made in Japan and therefore do not qualify for the federal electric vehicle tax credit and things just don’t look right.

But please wait a moment. Lexus hopes to turn many of its RX and NX owners into RZ buyers. This makes sense in theory, because a large number of Lexus customers are repeat buyers. But the company doesn’t offer any form of charging support with the RZ, which is odd – Toyota is giving BZ4X buyers a year of free EVGo DC fast charging. Lexus has a partnership with Chargepoint, but that just means RZ owners and renters can pay for charging in the Chargepoint network through their Lexus app. This looks like a mistake if you’re targeting first-time EV buyers, even if you’re only expecting to sell 5,000 units in the US within the first year.

Standard 14-inch touch screen on the Lexus RZ 450e 2023

Photo: Lexus

Lexus is offering an offer to new EV owners: the chance to borrow an internal combustion vehicle from their dealer’s loan fleet for up to 30 days per year for three years. That means RZ owners can borrow one RX, Ls, LX, etc.. for use on longer trips. Is it a great solution? No, and it’s not even the only one – Mazda does something similar for MX-30 such as buyers – but it may be enough to convince some people who are at the fence.

After all, the RZ is a great Lexus crossover, but a lousy EV. It’s comfortable and luxurious enough to make most people happy, but it’s far from competing with vehicles like the Hyundai ioniq 5 or Genesis GV60I have to wonder why you would buy this Lexus over anything else.

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