Toyota BZ4X 2023 Experience: Bad name, decent electric car

The BZ4X’s most unusual parts are front-loaded, literally and figuratively, with the car becoming more and more natural as first impressions get past. The concave front fender gives the BZ4X a flying look (it catches a lot of bugs like birds too), while the unpainted fender bleeds all the way toward the front, like someone didn’t change the sensitivity of the Photoshop fill tool. It may look very strange in pictures, but it all looks really well in person.

The weirdness continues when the door is opened. The BZ4X’s interior is bold for Toyota, with the instrument cluster pushed into a HUD-like position, a tall cloth-filled instrument panel and a positively Brobdingnagian center console that rises to match a massive infotainment display. It is a very unconventional design for the driver, but it is not difficult to get used to it. Just take the steering wheel the size of a bumper car, point it at what looks like your belly button and Bob is your uncle.

I like the use of textured fabric on the dashboard, and the faux-leather seats feel comfortable, but there’s a tremendous amount of hard plastic throughout. The glossy black on the center console is annoying in direct sunlight as well, as it constantly tries to make a hole in the retina. Sunglasses should come with every purchase.

Glossy center console with shift dial

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Glossy center console with shift knob

If I run for public office, I will campaign on a promise to ban highly reflective materials from vehicle cabins.

Andrew Crook/CNET

As you might expect from a Toyota badge SUV, the BZ4X offers practicality in spades. The door pockets are deep and spacious, and the same can be said for the massive bottom compartment under the transmission. The wireless charger has its own dedicated space, which is a good thing, since storage under the center armrest is surprisingly limited. The rear seats provide solid headroom and excellent legroom. When moving to the rear, the 27.7-foot cargo area is decently large and free of burrs that get in the way of loading and unloading. While it’s enough storage space for a family, and more than what you get from the Hyundai Ioniq 5 (27.2 cubic feet) or Kia EV6 (24.4 cubic feet), Toyota lags behind the Ford Mustang Mach-E (29.7 cubic feet) and Volkswagen ID 4 ( 30.3 cubic feet).

Once the BZ4X hits the road, all that distraction fades into the background. With its low center of gravity, just the right amount of damping and the tire’s sidewall, the BZ4X’s ride is almost too smooth, as it’s up there with the Venza Hybrid crossover that’s also comfortable. Visibility is good, external noise is muffled but not completely eliminated. Sure, the steering is lifeless, but it’s responsive enough and the smaller wheel diameter doesn’t feel awkward. The throttle is easy to handle, and while I appreciate the ability to boost regenerative braking, I really wish there was a true single pedal position available. As it stands, getting rid of the last 5 miles per hour is up to your foot.

2023 Toyota BZ4X electric powered under the hood instead of the trunk

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2023 Toyota BZ4X electric powered under the hood instead of the trunk

I don’t know why people think that some kind of equipped car is given with electric vehicles. They still need a lot of components to work, and those parts have to go somewhere. Do you prefer dining in the cabin space?

Andrew Crook/CNET

In its most equipped form, the BZ4X offers all-wheel drive from two electric motors, one on each axle, that produce a net 214 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Although these numbers don’t quite jump off the page, Toyota’s instant electric torque means pass and other maneuvers are performed with ease. Switching to the EV’s eco mode reduces throttle response a bit, but since I’ve never found myself wanting more, it’s my preferred mode.

It’s essential to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of the battery, because the BZ4X’s electric core is compact. AWD models get a 72.8 kWh package, which translates to a paltry EPA-estimated range of 228 miles in the XLE and 222 miles in the Limited. A front-wheel drive single-engine configuration is available on both models, and while output is lower at 201 hp and 196 lb-ft, it boosts range to either 252 miles (XLE) or 242 (Limited).

Efficiency chart on the dashboard infotainment screen 2023 Toyota BZ4X

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Efficiency chart on the dashboard infotainment screen 2023 Toyota BZ4X

As with most other electric vehicles, Toyota offers a wealth of data related to charging and efficiency, which is stored directly in the infotainment system.

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From my time behind the wheel, I’d say the AWD ratings are equally beautiful. The onboard computer shows an overall efficiency of about 3.5 mpg/h, about what I achieved in the Hyundai Ioniq 5. EVs are clearly less efficient at higher speeds, where more consistent power is needed to fight the air, and my efforts on the road Rapid results in a reading of about 2.0 miles per kilowatt-hour. Again, that’s about what you got on the Ioniq 5, but Toyota’s small battery means a little more worry about range on long trips.

When it came time to charge, I was left again wishing for more oomph. The BZ4X’s AWD battery chemistry accepts fast charging at just 100 kilowatts, which is less than other competitors offer. Going to the FWD configuration changes the battery chemistry, and in this format the battery can run up to 150 kW. That’s closer to what you’ll find from a Ford or a Volkswagen, but it pales in comparison to the Hyundai and Kia’s fraternal twins, which both operate at 800 volts and push their maximum charge rate to 225 kW. If you’re charging at home with a level 2 wall box, expect it to go about 11 hours from empty to full – just plug it in when you get home from work, and by morning it’s all ready to go.

Forward Mounted Charging Port For Toyota BZ4X 2023

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Forward Mounted Charging Port For Toyota BZ4X 2023

The BZ4X may have all the ports needed for fast DC charging, but its architecture just can’t handle most of the ultra-fast speeds we see nowadays.

Andrew Crook/CNET

Fortunately, the cabin technology in the Toyota BZ4X looks a bit more advanced than the powertrain. Honkin’s 12.3-inch widescreen display powers the latest version of Toyota’s infotainment system, which was developed in-house and can also be found on the new Tundra pickup, as well as the new Lexus NX and RZ. It’s a great system, with smart layout and Google Maps integration, although the menu structure may take a while to get used to. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but they can still be powered via the single USB-A data port in the center console. Other than that, each row gets a pair of USB-C powered ports just to stay ahead. I thought the high-mount display might take a while to get used to, but since it’s just a hair lower than the usual HUD’s height, it’s easy to look at all the important parts without being distracted.

While the 2023 Toyota BZ4X may be in size between the RAV4 and the Highlander, its price starts a little higher than that. The base XLE with front-wheel drive will cost you $43,215, including $1,215 for destination, with a limited increase of $47,915. That’s with a single drive FWD, keep in mind; Adding a dual-motor AWD adds about $2,000 to either trim. My tester is well charged at $52,050 out the door, which includes $350 for the heated rear seats and heat pump, $580 for a JBL audio upgrade, and a $200 spoiler and $425 for the white paint. In fact, every color other than black costs more, which is stupid.

Don’t let an unconventional first impression mislead you. The 2023 Toyota BZ4X is so focused on practicality and comfort that the entire package looks like an electric car with the Toyota badge and is very similar to a Toyota with an electric motor. It feels just like you’d expect, which will go a long way for Toyota fanatics. I wish it had a battery that could go a long way as well.

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