Arriving at a party first can be awkward at times. The social festivities don’t often quite get into full swing until a good chunk of the invited guests put in an appearance. Therefore, sometimes it is best to be “fashionably late” as you can assess how the other guests are and then you can swoop in when said festivities are at their peak.
I can’t help but draw comparisons between this chain of events and one’s idea of what could have been the Lexus strategy for electric vehicle production. You get the impression the luxury Japanese brand were biding their time and concentrating their efforts to leaving their own unique stamp on a party in which the festivities really are now in full swing.
This brings us onto the electric Lexus you see here, the RZ450e. While not the first all-electric rodeo for Lexus as we got the UX300e, an EV variant of the UX urban SUV, last year. However, the RZ the first Lexus to be purpose built on a bespoke platform as a BEV. Lexus say the RZ is also the first of 10 new BEV platforms to be added to their family but 2029. The end goal is for Lexus to completely transition to a 100 per cent zero emission electric car fleet but 2035. So, this electric party goer needs to make a good first impression. Let’s get into it then.
The RZ range consists of one model but with two different trim levels. Buyers can choose from either the entry level Core at $141,600 or the flagship Dynamic at $151,600. The latter can also be optioned with a two-tone Bi-tonal paint package for an extra $2000. Both the Core and Dynamic nameplates will only be available on Lexus with a BEV drive train. My test car for around a week was the Core. At a snip over $140k, the RZ450e is up there pricewise, especially when you compare it to the likes of the Tesla Model Y Performance which sits at $100,900.
As mentioned previous, the RZ sits on bespoke EV underpinnings, the e-TNGA architecture to be exact. Comparing the RZ to the likes of its RX hybrid counterpart, it actually sports the same wheelbase of 2850mm. However, the RZ is more planted and much smaller looking than the RX with a shorter front overhang and a more streamlined look.
The now familiar spindle grill design has morphed into a spindle body as the need for a radiator has been removed for obvious reasons. I love details like the clean cut LED rear light cluster with full width light bar and LEXUS lettering logo and the Left-Right split upper rear spoiler. Also there are plenty of intakes and scoops to aid in aerodynamics. My inner geek also couldn’t help but draw certain comparisons between the look of my Graphite Black test car and a certain Lord Vader from a galaxy far, far away.
The RZ450e Core gets its electric juice from a 71.4kWh battery pack. Despite the weight of the batteries, the RZ actually tips the scales at 2640kg, 110kg less than the RX. Electric motors sit fore and aft, or 150kW/266Nm front and 80kW/168Nm rear, powering both front and rear wheels via a Direct4 AWD system. Combined power output sits at 230kW and an RZ under full acceleration will reach 100km/h in 5.3 seconds.
The Core is good, according to WTLP statistics, of 435kms of range. Naturally this depends on a variety of factors and if you use the heater, air con etc. However, if you use Range mode, the RZ will deactivate all features which allows you to make the most of that drive range.
The RZ is compatible with both AC and DC fast charging. A 16A AC plug will give you a full charge in 6.5 hours while a DC fast charger can bring you up to 80 per cent from empty in either 60 or 30 minutes, depending if the charger in question is 50kW or 150kW.
Inside you have quite roomy and refined surroundings. You have a number of storage bins and hidey holes, even though Lexus has done away with a glove box to increase front legroom. The heated leather seats are certainly very comfortable, plus I loved the Hazel colour for the trim.
Centre stage up front is the 14-inch touch screen infotainment system. This is still a far sight better than the old system with recalcitrant touchpad we got in Lexus of the last five years. It’s clear, concise and easy to fathom where everything is and how it works. It’s also easy to reach.
Standard kit? Well the Core gives you dual zone climate control with Lexus Climate Concierge, one touch door handles, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 4x USB C-ports, 18-inch dark grey alloy wheels, sat nav, and 530L of boot space.
Lexus Safety System+ is also on hand, giving you features like Pre Collision System with Auto Emergency Braking, Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Reduction, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Depature Warning, Active Cornering Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Intersection Turn Assist, Panoramic View Monitor with Reversing Camera and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Steering Assist and Driver Monitor to name but a few.
On the move, that Driver Monitor system would ding when you take your eyes off the road ahead for a matter of seconds. While this is dead handy to assist in keeping you focused on what lies in front of you, I found it rather annoying after a while and would find myself turning it off.
The RZ’s new shift by wire shifter set up is the first of its kind for Lexus. Simply press down swivel across to engage drive or reverse. You also have shift paddles which provide four different levels of regenerative braking. However, I do wish the gulf between each level was slightly wider as they felt very similar in how they were able to regenerate charge.
It is chapel quiet when you get moving and outside noise is very minimal. Lexus engineers have done well to leave you feeling cocooned in your own leather-clad pod of undisturbed commuting. Power delivery is strong and there is good blend of responsiveness from the steering and that Direct4 AWD system serves up plenty of grip.
Slide over to Sporty mode and you can make brisk silent progress. The ride is smooth and it does feel somewhat chuck able in the corners. Sure, you won’t be rearranging your fillings with grip and acceleration, but the RZ450e Core is a pleasant way of wafting around your favourite long route home.
The RZ is happiest on a motorway cruise. A trip to Lake Tekapo and back in this would be more than welcome. It might cost a bit, but the RZ450e is a solid first effort from Lexus as a premium, built from the ground-up, electric SUV. If this is the template which all future zero emission Lexus are derived from, then this party is probably worth attending.