2023 Lexus RZ450e Is a Good Lexus but a Just-Okay EV


“Electrification” can be a general term for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. If you think in terms of hybrids, Lexus is a longtime leader in electrification, as its RX hybrid dates back to 2005, making it the first hybrid from a luxury brand. But if you think of electrification as the move to EVs, the picture changes. Lexus has just introduced its first EV, the RZ450e, in the US, and its underwhelming statistics betray the fact that Lexus—and parent company Toyota—has been an unenthusiastic conscript in the march to battery power.

As you might expect, the RZ is based on the e-TNGA architecture of the recently launched Toyota bZ4X. It shares the Toyota’s 112.2-inch wheelbase, but the Lexus is about five inches longer and a fraction lower and wider. Within the Lexus family, the RZ is a few inches shorter in length and lower than the RX, while sitting on the same wheelbase. Looking at competing EVs, the Lexus casts a larger shadow than the Audi Q4 e-tron, Genesis GV60, Mercedes-Benz EQB and Volvo XC40 Recharge, which is roughly the same size as the Tesla Model Y, and takes ‘ a little less garage up. space than the Cadillac Lyriq.

RZ450e Design

With no need to feed air to a large radiator, the eye-popping Lexus “spindle” grille is absent, although the shape is mimicked in the front end sculpting. A small air intake underneath is sufficient for the RZ’s cooling needs, and it includes grille shutters. An optional illuminated Lexus logo ($200) in the nose of the car makes up for some of the missing bling factor. A blacked-out C-pillar is standard, and buyers can also opt for a more extensive two-tone treatment that also has the roof, hood center section and front grille space in gloss black ($1200) . The styling overall is recognisably Lexus, with detailing that is more subtle than that of its showroom peers. The trailing edge of the roofline, which juts out to the rear and juts out from the body, forms the biggest design flourish, but that quirk is only noticeable from the rear.

Inside we find a comfortable, welcoming space for five. The rear seat boasts plenty of knee room and a flat floor. Narrow A-pillars and decently large windows ensure good visibility. The RZ cabin offers minimal decoration, luxurious materials and typically impressive Lexus build quality. In keeping with the green theme, there’s no leather upholstery option: The Premium version features the brand’s NuLuxe synthetic leather, while the Luxury model gets a rich-looking Ultrasuede. Like the bZ4X, the Lexus offers radiant heating elements in the lower dash to warm front-seat occupants’ legs (the feature is optional on the Premium, standard on the Luxury). As a result, there is no glovebox, but there is a cube under the center console along with the usual covered bin and front tray. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof is standard across the board, while the Luxury’s optional Dynamic Sky version gets electronically dimmed glass that goes from clear to opaque.

2023 lexus rz450e


The driver stands in front of a padded three-spoke steering wheel or, optionally, a steering yoke (more on this in a bit). The latter gets a repositioned instrument cluster that is slightly higher and further away; all versions have digital instrumentation. The RZ also introduces a rotary switch. The 14.0-inch touchscreen that’s optional in the RX is standard here, and it houses most of the climate controls, including a touch slider for fan speed (there are buttons for temperature and buttons for the front and rear defrosters). You also select driving modes on the screen. There is, thankfully, a volume knob, along with a smattering of buttons on the center dash and console. Smartphone mirroring is wireless.

“Hey Lexus” invokes voice recognition to operate the infotainment, navigation and climate controls – provided the car has an active Drive Connect subscription. Smartphone-as-key functionality is another subscription-based feature, this one requires Remote Connect, which also offers the ability to remotely start/stop/monitor charging, lock/unlock the doors, start the car and the climate control to adjust.

Disappointing EV stats

Initially, the RZ450e will only be offered in dual-motor, all-wheel-drive form. (A single-motor, front-wheel-drive version will likely join later.) Compared to its twin-motor Toyota sibling, the Lexus gets a more muscular front motor, upping total output to 308 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. . That’s a healthy increase over the Toyota’s weak-sauce 214 horses, and it compares favorably with twin-motor versions of the EQB, Q4, and the (base) GV60. But it falls well short of more performance-oriented dual-motor EVs like the Model Y, the Jaguar I-Pace, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the higher-trim GV60, and the Lyriq.

The RZ’s battery pack is lifted directly from the bZ, and it’s modestly sized with an estimated usable capacity of 63.4 kWh. As a result, the RZ’s EPA-estimated range is just 196 miles for the Luxury trim with 20-inch wheels and 220 miles for the entry-level Premium version on 18s. Could Lexus introduce a larger capacity battery? Unfortunately, we’re told the e-TNGA platform can’t accommodate a larger pack unless the wheelbase is stretched.

However, note that the RZ’s EPA numbers are with the car in Normal drive mode. There are also Sport, Eco and Range modes, and the latter two should wring more miles out of a charge. The extra range is highly situational, but as an example, on our drive with the battery showing three-quarters of a charge, the display estimated 117 miles in Normal mode, 123 miles in Eco mode and 158 miles in Range mode. A major difference between the modes is that Range disables the air conditioner; other changes include steering effort and throttle mapping.

When it comes time to recharge, the RZ is once again behind its rivals. Its onboard charger, also lifted from the bZ4X, is rated at just 6.6kW—compared with 9.6kW for the EQB, 10.9kW for the GV60, 11.0kW for the Q4 and XC40, and 19.2 kW for the Lyriq. A full recharge with a Level 2 source should take 9.5 hours. The RZ’s maximum charging rate is 150kW, and Lexus says a DC fast charger will take a completely depleted battery to 80 percent in 30 minutes. As a solution to the RZ’s range limitations, a program called Lexus Reserve offers owners 30 days of free Lexus rental cars over the course of three years.

Drive Like a Lexus

The RZ may not be a powerhouse, but with a claimed curb weight of 4,564 to 4,619 pounds—relatively svelte for its peer group—the electric Lexus walks briskly, whether it’s taking off from a standstill, driving on two tracks , or merge onto the highway. The RZ doesn’t deliver the muscle-car straight-line speed of some electric vehicles, but with a factory-estimated 60 mph time of 5.0 seconds, it should be quick enough for its intended audience.

That audience is expected to include a large number of brand loyalists, and the RZ driving experience seems to be catered to them. Although brake-based torque vectoring is on hand to help the RZ carve corners, there’s a fair bit of body roll, and we don’t think this car will sell on its handling prowess. The smooth ride is more likely to be a calling card. The suspension (struts front, multilink rear) is adept at absorbing all the pavement imperfections we could find – although the mild climate of southern France, where our ride took place, doesn’t offer the same challenge as the mean streets back at home. Between the two models, the Luxury’s 20-inch wheels imparted a little more road firmness than the Premium’s soft 18s, but only a little. There’s a bit of head roll, and body motion isn’t aggressively damped, though the plush overall experience seems right on target for a Lexus.

The RZ’s quietness is similarly trademarked. There is an almost total absence of space-like EV drive noise—only in Sport mode can it be slightly heard. The degree of lift regen is selectable via steering wheel paddles, and although short of one-pedal driving, the compound brakes are commendably linear and easy to modulate. The standard steering is fairly light in Normal mode—though most Lexus owners probably won’t mind; Sport mode adds just a little weight. For a completely different steering experience there is the yoke.

Yoke: It’s a real thing

No matter what vehicle you end up with, the available Steer by Wire system and its steering yoke take some getting used to. This optional system (which will be exclusive to the luxury trim when it becomes available sometime after launch) is the kind of novelty that motoring journalists love, but it will be interesting to see how real customers take it. The SBW system feels normal around the straight ahead, but becomes harder to predict the further you move from the centre. The yoke rotates a little past 90 degrees in each direction, and the last bit of steering brings what can be a surprising amount of response. It is very easy to oversteer for a 90-degree turn, especially when starting from a stop or when attempting a K-turn.

The system does avoid the need for hand-over-hand steering maneuvers, such as when parking. And the missing upper wheel rim offers a slightly better view of the instruments, which are placed slightly higher and further away (moving them closer to the driver’s line of sight). Still, Steer by Wire seems like a lot of tweaks for not much gain—unless you just think the video game aesthetic is cool.

If you’d rather not steer at all, Traffic Jam Assist allows hands-free operation on major highways at speeds below 25 mph. Exclusive to the deluxe version, this is another subscription-based feature, which requires a current Drive Connect account.

A full phalanx of conventional automated helpers is also on hand, and a few of them may stray into nagging territory. We call out the driver attention monitor, which chirped at us when we watched for traffic coming away from the left and again when we operated the touch screen. Another annoyance is the Excessive Speed ​​Warning, which emits a triple beep whenever you stray above the posted limit. Both can be turned off, but one has to do it with every restart, and it’s a multi-step process.

Lexus prices the RZ450e at $59,650 for the Premium trim and $65,150 for the Luxury version. That price range at least partially overlaps many of the aforementioned EVs and is (at this point) just above the Model Y. Seen as a Lexus, the RZ450e offers a lot to like. Considered an EV, the 450e is a tougher sell. Both Lexus and Toyota will have to try harder if they are to regain the mantle of leadership for this next phase of electrification.

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2023 Lexus RZ450e
Vehicle type: front and rear motor, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

Premium w/18-inch wheels, $59,650; Premium w/20-inch wheels, $60,890; Luxury, $65,150

Front motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 201 hp, 196 lb-ft
Rear motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 107 hp, 124 lb-ft
Combined power: 308 hp
Combined torque: 320 lb-ft
Battery pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 63.4 kWh
On-board charger: 6.6 kW
Peak DC fast charging rate: 150 kW
Transmissions: direct-drive

Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 189.2 inches
Width: 74.6 inches
Height: 64.4 inches
Passenger volume, L/H: 55/47 ft3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 48/35 ft3
Combat weight (C/D east): 4600-4650 lbs.

60 mph: 4.8 sec
1/4-mile: 13.0 sec
Top speed: 99 mph

Combined/City/Highway: 95-107/102-115/87-98 MPGe
Range: 196-220 miles

Header from Joe Lorio

Deputy Editor, Reviews and Features

Joe Lorio has been obsessed with cars since his Matchbox days, getting his first subscription to Car and Driver at age 11. Joe began his career at Automobile Magazine under David E. Davis Jr. startup, and his work has also appeared on websites including Amazon Autos, Autoblog, AutoTrader, Hagerty, Hemmings, KBB, and TrueCar.