This is the Lexus RZ 450e, the brand’s first made-to-measure electric car, and marks its first step towards becoming an entirely electric brand by 2030.
The RZ 450e realisation of the Lexus LF-Z concept first seen in 2021 that promised to focus on the driver, and at first glance, quite a lot of that has been retained for this RZ SUV – including a rather incongruous steering yoke for drivers that fancy something a bit different.
This being the first purpose-built electric Lexus, there have been a few changes to the styling to account for the lack of engine, most notably the change to the front grille, which has been reimagined as a new ‘Spindle body’ design.
It shares innards with the Toyota bZ4X, including a 71.4kWh Lithium-ion battery, but for the most part that is where the similarities end, as Lexus has added an extra layer of quality and technological flair. A large 14-inch screen dominates the cabin, and is angled in towards to the driver for ease of use, while the rest of the interior is relatively clutter-free.
The media system itself is Lexus’ new ‘Lexus Link’ software first seen in the new NX, featuring voice recognition, the “Hey Lexus” onboard assistant, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Despite the RZ 450e’s EV status, there is still a traditional ‘transmission’ tunnel running through the middle of the interior, housing a large rotary dial for the infotainment system and a pair of cupholders. Lexus has used the term “human-centred”, or in other words, it’s aimed at being comfortable and convenient.
Work has been done to improve temperature management and reduce reliance on air-conditioning. The windows are coated with a reflective material that reduces heat radiation, while the panoramic roof can be dimmed at the touch of a button. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel are to be expected, but Lexus has introduced new knee-level heaters designed to feel like “a warm blanket around the legs”.
In terms of driving, the RX 450e is powered by a pair of electric motors, one at the front producing 204PS (150kW) and one at the back delivering 109PS (80kW), in what Lexus calls the ‘Direct 4’ all-wheel-drive system. It works to balance the traction of all four wheels individually with a view to increasing stability and improving the drivers’ feel through the pedals.
Together the motors produce 313PS (230kW) and 435Nm (320lb ft) of torque. The whole shebang is good for 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and a limited top speed of 99mph. Range is touted by Lexus to be in excess of 250 miles.
We can’t finish without talking about that steering yoke. While it’s by no means compulsory – there is a standard steering wheel available if you want it – it feels a touch gimmicky. Sure, it’s new and interesting and some may consider it to be somewhat cool, but if a reinvention of the wheel was ever required, this isn’t it.
It incorporates a ‘steer-by-wire’ system which removes all mechanical connections between the ‘wheel’ and the wheels. It’s intended to offer a more direct response to driver input, and be less affected by wind or road imperfections. It also reduces the amount of steering required – full lock is covered by 300 degrees of steering angle, so if you’ve decided you’ve had enough of crossing over your hands on the wheel, this is what you’ve been waiting for.
We’ll wait to hear about prices for this new electric SUV, but we do know order books will be open from the 20th April, with first deliveries expected to arrive at the end of 2022.