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First drive: 2023 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.

First drive: 2023 Lexus RZ 450e
Despite all its hybrid know-how, Lexus is only now launching its second electric car. But is the RZ set to become the premium SUV of choice?

   



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Lexus RZ 450e

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Lexus has become well known for its reliable, luxurious hybrid cars, but the Japanese company has not exactly spearheaded electric motoring. This, the new RZ, is only the brand's second electric car, and it's based on the same platform as the existing (and terribly named) Toyota bZ4X. So is the new Lexus worth your hard-earned cash, and can it compete with its growing list of premium rivals?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Lexus RZ 450e Takumi
Price: RZ from £62,600, 450e Takumi from £72,100
Engine: two electric motors
Battery: 71.4kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 313hp
Torque: 435Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 252 miles
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 99mph
Boot space: 522 litres

Styling

Lexus has based the RZ on the same platform as sister company Toyota's bZ4X SUV, and that's immediately apparent from the front-end design. But that's no slight on the Lexus, because it's a striking-looking thing in that very Lexus-ish way. The sharp creases and angles mean it's unmistakable, even though the 'spindle' grille of some other Lexus models has been eschewed. Nevertheless, it's a looker, and it feels at home alongside other premium SUVs.

Interior

Lexusí quality has never been in doubt, but the on-board technology has historically been a weak point for the brand. Not anymore, thanks to the latest-generation touchscreen infotainment system, which also features in the new RZ. It isnít perfect Ė some pretty important features are hidden in touchscreen menus and the icons on the screen arenít always that clear Ė but itís a huge step forward for the brand and itís on a par with the screens fitted to other electric cars. And weíre fans of the little dials in the bottom corners that you use to adjust the temperature.

Adjusting the temperature also introduces passengers to a new form of heating housed in the dashboard of high-end RZ models. Working like a radiator, itís designed to provide the feeling of a ďwarm blanket over your kneesĒ, which is probably over-egging the pudding slightly, but the system definitely provides some warmth. Even if it means you canít have a glove box.

And, as usual, all this comes with Lexusí usual fastidious build quality. Everything feels solid and premium and posh, but when youíre spending well over £60,000, thatís probably for the best.

Practicality

Although the RZ doesnít have a glove box Ė itís been dropped to make room for the knee heaters Ė itís quite a spacious cabin. Thereís quite a bit of storage space, and passenger space is plentiful too. Even with the sloping rear window, the rear headroom is pretty good and thereís more than enough legroom for even the tallest passengers. Boot space is also pretty good, with 522 litres of luggage capacity, although the figures suggest rivals such as the VW ID.5 are more spacious.

Performance

While the RZ may be based on the same underpinnings as the bZ4X, it has a few key differences Ė including the propulsion system. Like high-end bZ4Xs, it has a two-motor all-wheel-drive system with a battery between the axles, but thatís where the similarities end. With 313hp, itís more powerful than the bZ4X, with the sprint from 0-62mph taking just 5.3 seconds. Thatís a hot hatchback turn of pace.

But range is the more important thing, and there the RZ struggles slightly. Officially, the 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery will take you 252 miles on a single charge, but we found 200 miles a struggle, even on relatively battery-sympathetic roads. On a motorway, you might struggle to top 175 miles. Admittedly, we tested the car in winter without the aid of warm sunshine to keep the battery in its optimum temperature range, but the figures were still disappointing. Lexus does have the ability to update the car remotely, so weíre hoping it will become more efficient or the batteryís usable capacity will grow in the coming months and years. For now, though, itís a bit underwhelming.

Ride & Handling

The RZ might look striking, and it certainly has plenty of power, but it isn't what you'd call sporty. Thanks to the battery's position under the floor, it doesn't roll too much, and there's ample grip, but what lean there is happens quickly, giving it a slight lurchiness in corners that puts you off changing direction too rapidly. Thankfully, the RZ is better around town, where the steering is quite light.

Or at least it is with the conventional steering set-up. From 2025, Lexus will offer the RZ with a plane-style yoke with 'steer-by-wire' tech. That means there's no mechanical link between the steering wheel and the front axle, and a variable-ratio system means you need never move your hands from the classic quarter-to-three position. We tried a prototype of the so-called One Motion Grip system, and found it clearly unfinished. It takes quite a bit of getting used to, and smoothness is key, but it's still very twitchy at low speeds and a steering wheel is much more intuitive. Lexus is aware of the issues, though, and is aiming to improve things before the system goes on sale.

But the company probably ought to do some work on ride comfort, too. The RZ isn't too bad on 18-inch alloys that come as standard, although the weight of the battery is still evident, but the 20-inch rims of more upmarket models leave something to be desired, thudding into potholes and bumps.

Value

RZ prices start at a substantial £62,600, which means the Lexus costs slightly less than the BMW iX3 and much less than the Mercedes-Benz EQC. And you get plenty for your money, including synthetic leather upholstery, heated seats and a heated steering wheel, not to mention front and rear parking sensors, a panoramic roof, and wireless phone charging. You probably don't need to, but if you want, you can upgrade to the Premium Plus Pack with larger alloys, seat ventilation and a head-up display, or the range-topping Takumi with a posh sound system and Ultrasuede upholstery. Do that, and prices quickly rise above £70,000.

Verdict

For all its luxury and refinement, the RZ feels a tad unfinished. The cabin is great and the driving experience is fine, but it feels as though Lexus has been a little too conservative with the battery to make the RZ a standout performer. Given a little more range, though, the Lexus could easily become one of the best in its class.



James Fossdyke - 13 Mar 2023



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2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.

2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus RZ 450e. Image by Lexus.








 

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