The Lexus RZ is the first foray for Toyota’s luxury brand into the world of EV motoring, and it comes to us at a time when Toyota/Lexus is making strides to add 30 battery EV (BEV) models by 2030. In the case of the RZ, that means it gets a fully-electrified powertrain anchored by a 150 kw EV motor on the front axle, and an 80 kw example on the rear for a total power output of 308 horsepower, which is quite the jump from the 204 hp the Toyota BZ4X
makes and with which the RZ shares its e-TNGA platform. It comes in three trims for the Canadian market: 450e Signature ($64,950), 450e Luxury ($73,550) and 450e Executive ($80,950).
All trims, meanwhile, get a 71.4 kWh battery (64 kWh usable). Charge rates can be as high as 150 kw, for a 30 minute 0-80% charge time. If you’re gong to charge at home expect a 9.5-hour charge time as on-board charging only goes as high as 6.6 kw—lower than I’d like to see when you consider the competition. Range, meanwhile, is rated at 354 km with the 18-inch wheels (Signature only) and 315 km with the 20” option.
Lexus has made some waves with their hourglass-shaped “spindle” grille, not all of which are positive as some found it a little too aggressive. Personally, I’ve found it to be just aggressive enough to differentiate Lexus from both its competition and its former self. Being an EV, the RZ doesn’t need a grille, but there is a paint-matched insert in an hourglass shape. They’ve kept some of the “spindles” along either side of the insert to tie it a little tighter to the other models.
Those seeking something more unique will appreciate the wheel designs, dual-tone paintjobs and bright colour options such as the two-tone Ether and black seen here. ‘Round back, we find more Lexus touches including a full-width light bar and large “Lexus” scripting. Not 100 per cent sure on the standard contrast colour fenders and rocker panels, though. It fits well with the two-tone paintjob, but is a little too BZ4X otherwise.
Inside, the styling situation and even the ambiance depends heavily on whether or not the RZ is specced with a traditional steering system – one with a physical connection to the wheels – or a steer-by-wire system set to be available later on. Since the new system offers adaptive ratios, you don’t have to turn the wheel as much and don’t need to make use of the traditional hand-over-hand technique when navigating tight spots or parking. As a result, Lexus has provided a yoke instead of wheel. It looks like something you might find in an F1 car and it forces you to keep your hands at the 9- and 3 o’clock positions while providing a better view of the digital gauge cluster ahead.
Other eye-catching interior bits include an optional full-length moonroof that gets an optional dimming feature (the change happens immediately with the press of a button) as well as a standard 14” touchscreen display with Lexus Interface infotainment. It’s a slick, good-looking and fast system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as “Hey, Lexus” voice activation that can do everything from setting your climate control to directing you to the nearest sushi joint. Audio duties, meanwhile, are handled by either a 10-speaker system, or crisp and bass-heavy 13-speaker Mark Levinson system.
Size-wise, the RZ sits between the NX
in the line-up, but actually offers more front and rear headroom and more front legroom than the RX, which is larger overall. As a result, RZ occupants both front and rear are well catered to. The battery being mounted so low in the chassis means the RZ gets a higher roofline for more headroom without compromising the centre of gravity.
A long time ago, you turned a key to start a car; with the RZ, you press a button to start and turn a dial to select drive or reverse, or press a button for park. It’s a low-clutter affair that does well to go with the rest of the dash; it features only a select few buttons and dials but thankfully, they’re the ones used most. The way the climate control knobs are integrated into the display, meanwhile, is a great touch.
Setting off in the RZ, you feel that power right away. One of the benefits of BEVs like this is instant throttle response and acceleration and the RZ is no different. You’ll be at around town speeds in no time and at highway speeds not long after that. Even when cruising, there’s enough there that you’re not left hanging. Select Sport mode, meanwhile – others include Normal, Eco and Range, the last of which sends torque to the rear wheels only in low-load situations -- and it gets more responsive still. The speed is great, but how quietly it goes about its business is the real takeaway. Lexus has made use of aluminum and high-tensile steel to reduce body creaks and rattles and it’s worked a charm. Even the rear dampers have been specially tuned to keep from transmitting road noise into the cabin.
Which brings us to the steer-by-wire system. The faster you’re travelling, the less the front wheels turn as you add steering lock. You can change lanes on the highway with just a twitch of the wheel – which only turns 150-degrees, lock-to-lock – while driving slowly over a winding driveway, for example, increases the ratio so the same turn of the wheel returns that much more steering angle. It’s odd at first, but uncanny once you get the hang of it. The lack of a steering column, meanwhile, means reverberations are greatly reduced.
With traditional power steering, the RZ returns fine turning response, although I appreciated the extra weight felt in Sport mode more here than I typically do in vehicles of this type.
Overall, the RZ experience is one punctuated by fantastic ride quality, a well-equipped interior and that steer-by-wire system, delayed as it may be, is incredible.
Those range figures are going to be a bit of a problem, however, when the likes of the Cadillac Lyriq or BMW iX are cresting 500 km. So it does get eclipsed there but I’m not convinced range is the be all end all when it comes to EVs. I don’t doubt its importance, but the RZ’s strengths will do well to draw buyers’ attention.
2023 Lexus RZ 450e
Five-door luxury crossover
front and rear EV motors, all-wheel drive
dual permanent magnet synchronous EV motors, 308 hp
WEBSITE: Lexus RZ