Lexus likely to be an EV leader; just not yet
By Isaac Bouchard
Lexus, as Toyota’s luxury arm, has been a leader in electrification, which makes it a shame that their first full electric vehicle is not a competitive entry in its segment.
Dubbed RX450e, it shares a platform with the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra. Its styling is dynamic and fits well with the current Lexus lineup, and it even looks quite sporty in Luxury spec, due to its wide 20-inch wheels—which dramatically affect range, as on most EVs. Inside, the styling is dramatic, and quite pleasing to the eye when finished in some of the two-tone color schemes. However, material quality is well below competitors, and certainly not premium enough for the price point or Lexus brand. Many plastic moldings are downright cheap and the steering wheel’s synthetic cowhide is incredibly off-putting. The supportive seats and door panels, covered in a synthetic suede, are better, as is some of the cool ambient lighting that makes itself known once the sun goes down.
The RZ450e drives well, with a good chassis calibration that provides excellent absorption of the kind of broken pavement, sunken manhole covers and transverse ridges that blight urban Colorado roads. This Lexus also handles adroitly and the steering conveys some info about what the front tires are up to—not something that can be said of everything in this electrified space. Note that there is an optional “Yoke”-style helm for the RZ as well, which has a radically different steering ratio. It can take a bit to get used to, but confers some real advantages.
The BZ450e’s 308hp and “Direct4” AWD means it launches hard and can hit 60 in 4.6 seconds. But its relatively small 63.4kWh battery—rated at 196 miles of range by the EPA—and 400-volt electric architecture limit the Lexus’ usefulness. Real-world range on the Luxury model’s 21-inch wheels rarely exceeds 120 miles, as it takes 25-40 minutes to bring its battery’s charge back up to 80 percent charge. A Genesis GV60 or GV70 Electrified does it in half the time and has another 80-100 miles of range to boot. No doubt Lexus’ next EV will be much more competitive in these regards. The company is a leader in the charge towards solid-state batteries and one cannot imagine their future EVs not have competitive real-world range.
The RZ has the kind of refinement one expects of a Lexus, with low levels of wind and road noise. That is, except for the incessant, infernal beeps from its driver-attention system, which admonish the pilot every time she or he looks away from the straight ahead for more than a second or two. The RZ450e also emits various electronic remonstrances for many other common driving actions, all of which create massive frustration. For now, the best use case for the RZ450e is for those who love how Lexus dealers pamper customers, and how reliable their vehicles generally are, but don’t need to drive far on a daily basis. The company seems to recognize this; Lexus Reserve grants RZ owners and lessees 30 days in other Lexus vehicles over three years. For anyone else thinking of going electric and wanting a Lexus, the NX and RX plugin hybrids are a much better bet.
EPA Rated Range: 196 miles
Price as tested: $67,095
Rating: 2 Stars
Here is what Lexus has to say.
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