Lexus has pulled the wraps off the new RZ 450e, its first dedicated global BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle).
Like the majority of current Lexus volume models, the new RZ 450e shares much of its structure and mechanical hardware with a more pedestrian Toyota model, in this case, the recently released Toyota bZ4X. This instance is rather unique, however, as the bZ4X was co-developed with Subaru, which sells its version as the new Solterra. (The pair previously collaborated on the Toyota FRS and Subaru BRZ sports cars.)
The shared platform for all three vehicles is dubbed e-TNGA or Toyota New Global Platform; the “e” suffix denotes electrified. As a Lexus however, the RZ 450e version needs to possess interior appointments, technology and features befitting of the luxury brand’s legacy regardless of its core assembly.
The RZ 450e’s exterior styling is a conservative interpretation of the LF-Z EV concept that circulated last year. A version of the brand’s trademark spindle grille design is alluded to, but the center section is solid in what Lexus calls a BEV “Spindle Body.” The lack of air intakes allows for optimizing the front for aerodynamics in a move that will inform subsequent Lexus electrics. A bold sculpted profile culminates in full-width taillamps—one of the LF-Z EV concept’s key design elements—and an integrated spoiler.
The powertrain consists of a pair of electric motors, a 150-kW unit in front and a 90-kW motor in the rear teamed with a 71.4 kWh battery pack. Lexus revealed no traditional horsepower and torque numbers, but simple napkin math indicates a total output nearing the 300-horsepower mark, significantly more than the 215-horsepower of the bZX4 and Solterra but not as much as rivals like the Audi e-tron.
Powertrain components are positioned to aid balance, and Lexus’ newly developed Direct4 powertrain control system conducts the interactions. Unlike the Toyota bZ4X, which is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive, the RZ 450e is an all-wheel drive-only affair. Range is manufacturer-estimated at 225 miles. No details regarding charging speed or compatibility have been announced.
The fully integrated motor, transaxle and inverter unit, dubbed eAxle by Lexus, is designed to aid packaging efficiency, vehicle balance and maximize range. The Direct4 distribution control system collects data including vehicle speed, acceleration and steering angle sensor information to improve all aspects of response including step off, acceleration, handling and power consumption.
Capable of directing 100% of available torque to the front or rear axle, the system is constantly variable to provide the best dynamics. For example, distribution between 60:40 and 40:60 front/rear is utilized during launch and straight-line acceleration to minimize vehicle pitch; when turning, drive force is biased to the front wheels distributing drive force between 75:25 front/rear for quick response and improved feel. It’s worth noting that both the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra have similar systems.
True to form for the Lexus brand, the interior is tailored to appeal to those with refined tastes and who are willing to pay to satisfy them. The design is a simple one, however, devoid of any extraneous gimmickry and instead emphasizes a “space pursuing functional essence,” and “an airy feeling and intuitive controls specifically oriented around the driver.” In other words, simple, but not simplistic.
Infotainment and vehicle setting options are handled by the North American-developed Lexus Interface multimedia system recently launched on the NX and LX. A 14-inch touchscreen is augmented by voice command capability.
The RZ450e includes the latest Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 set of driving aids, including standard Pre-Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Emergency Driving Stop System.
Lexus says the 2023 RZ 450e will go on sale in 2022. Pricing has not been revealed but given the bZ4X’s $43,215 to $49,995 price range, the Lexus RZ 450e is likely to start above the $50,000 mark.