Flash Drive: 2023 Lexus RZ 450e EV
Breaking Into the EV World
Lexus has offered hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric models for many years, but never one that is powered only by electricity. Those days are over with the introduction of the all-new, all-electric 2023 Lexus RZ 450e compact SUV.
This Flash Drive review highlights the RZ 450e; Clean Fleet Report will write a more detailed Road Test review in the coming months when we can spend more time with the vehicle. Here are those highlights:
- Standard all-wheel drive (AWD)
- Built on a dedicated battery electric vehicle (BEV) platform (shared with Toyota and Subaru models)
- Globally available
- Two trim levels: Premium and Luxury
- Five solid, and two bi-tone exterior colors
- Two solid, and one bi-tone interior colors
- Optional steer-by-wire available at a future date, but not on launch
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Wireless phone charging
Power and Range
- Dual motors: 150 kilowatt (kW) front and 80 kW rear
- 313 total system horsepower
- Pound-feet of torque (lb.-ft.): 196.4 front and 124.3 rear
- 0-60 mph: 5.0 seconds
- 71.4 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery
- 6.6 kW onboard charger
- 150 kW maximum DC charging
- 4,564-4,619 curb weight
- All Electric Driving Range: 196-220 miles
Hitting the Road
The immediate thought when sliding behind the wheel is the RZ 450e has a high level of fit and finish; once underway, you notice a substantial road feel. The standard Direct4 AWD system works to optimize the RZ 450e’s drive force and traction, utilizing separate rear and front eAxles. It had solid traction around corners when pushed over the posted speed limit, with little body roll or lack of road confidence. The RZ 450e has no transmission or gasoline engine, meaning the driving is smooth without a sensation anything is going on under the hood. Lexus has added driver-controllable artificial sounds, for those that don’t like driving in silence.
Lexus was clear that while the RZ 450e has AWD, it is not designed to go off-road. The 7.87-inch ground clearance is high enough for gravel roads and negotiating sloppy pavement, but as Jeff Kitzens, general manager, Lexus marketing, told us, “We are not positioning it as an off-road vehicle.”
Where the Lexus RZ 450e shines is in town and on the open road. Acceleration is more than adequate for entering freeways and passing big rigs, and the smooth operation is what makes driving an electric vehicle so wonderful. The RZ 450e is designed for commuting and running family errands, plus the occasional local trip and outing. Having driven the Toyota BZ4X and the Subaru Solterra, both of which share a platform with the Lexus RZ 450e, the RZ 450e has the best road feel and comfort.
There are five drive modes—Normal (default), Eco, Sport, Range and Custom. The amount of regeneration that replenishes the battery, by converting kinetic energy into electricity when braking or coasting, can be controlled with paddles on the steering wheel, but I would have liked the option to set the regeneration one click higher. The RZ 450e does not have full one-pedal driving, where the car will come to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal.
Handling was solid with a low center of gravity as the batteries are placed under the floor. 18-inch all-season tires are standard on the Premium, with 20-inchers on the Luxury. Brakes are ventilated front and rear discs, with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear suspension.
Charging times are:
- Level 1 – 120V – 50 hours (0-100%)
- Level 2 – 240V – 9.5 hours (0-100%)
- Level 3 – 150 kW DC Fast Charging – 30 minutes (0-80%)
It is important to note that temperature extremes can affect the charging time and driving range. The RZ 450e is available with a heat pump that will warm the battery to a temperature that will take a faster and higher charge.
The spindle grille found on Lexus models has been replaced with a spindle body that has been designed to improve aerodynamic flows. Specifically, Lexus has incorporated vortex generators that direct air down the deeply sloped rear window. Doing so has eliminated the need for a rear wiper. With no engine to be cooled, the front end has a low hood and incorporates grille shutters to improve aerodynamics. The flat nose curves at the corners where the narrow multi-LED projector headlights and daytime running lights reside. The smooth sides, with short front and rear overhangs, have a high belt line.
The foot-activated power lift gate has an interesting dual-wing top spoiler with a more conventional lip spoiler at the bottom of the steeply sloped glass. Narrow LED tail lights, with a connecting light strip, take-up little space, revealing a modern design.
Driver visibility is very good with thin A-pillars, a sloping hood, and tall windows. Our time in the RZ 450e was limited, but the front seats are supportive with power adjustments for both occupants, with the driver getting memory for the seats and exterior mirror settings. The rear seat holds three with ample shoulder, head and leg room. The 23.74 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats is useable, but increases to 55.57 cubic feet when the 60/40 second-row split seat is laid flat.
The Premium’s seats are covered in NuLuxe, an artificial leather, while the Luxury trim gets seats covered in Ultrasuede, an ultra-microfiber fabric made with recycled polyester and plant-based polyester. The heated front seats are complemented with radiant heat coming from under the dash that softly warms the feet of the front passengers.
Standard on both Premium and Luxury is a multimedia system with a 14-inch touchscreen and the available 13-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio system. SiriusXM/AM/FM radio with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are accompanied by USB-C ports and Wi-Fi Connect that allows for 4G connectivity for up to five devices and to stream Apple Music and Amazon Music. Wireless phone charging is standard as is a 10-inch head-up display on the Luxury. When you want to use voice commands, just say “Hey, Lexus!” to operate such features as the radio channels, navigation and the climate control.
A panorama glass roof is standard, with the Dynamic Sky option instantly dimming the roof glass to reduce the amount of light entering the cabin.
Active and passive advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) cover multiple airbags and the Lexus Safety System 3.0technology, including lane trace assist and lane departure alert with steering assist, pre-collision and pedestrian detection, and all-speed adaptive cruise control.
The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e comes in three trim levels; all come standard with all-wheel drive. These base prices include the $1,150 delivery processing and handling fee.
- Premium (18-inch wheels) – $60,800
- Premium (20-inch wheels) – $62,040
- Luxury (20-inch wheels) – $66,300
Observations: 2023 Lexus RZ 450e
Lexus is counting on its current owners being intrigued with the 2023 RZ 450e. Many Lexus owners got into the brand as their first luxury car and Lexus hopes many of them will remain loyal and have the RZ 450e as their first electric vehicle. Lexus has been known to say they are where “luxury goes green,” which is fair and accurate.
There also is the respected Lexus dealer experience—from shopping, purchase and service—where customers are referred to as “guests.” If you have never shopped for a premium or luxury car, it is different. Lexus will tell you it is the owner experience that begins at the dealership and continues through many years of driving one of the Lexus cars. Speak to a Lexus owner, they will tell you all about how they are treated.
Lexus is playing catch-up in the world of electric vehicles, and the importance of the 2023 Lexus RZ 450e cannot be overstated. Consumers are aware Lexus is an environmentally friendly company, with leadership in hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology from its Toyota parent. This first step needs to be quickly followed-up with more electric vehicles of different sizes for different uses.
The RZ 450e is sold in all 50 states and is available at dealers now. The first year is limited to 4,900 units coming from the Motomachi Plant in Japan, so don’t hesitate to get to your Lexus dealer to check it out.
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Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Lexus.
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