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Radiant EV in the NZ – Lexus RZ 450e review

The all-new Lexus RZ is an all-electric model spawned from the RX nameplate. According to Lexus it stands for ‘Radiant Z-axis/Zero’ which signifies being both ‘shining’ and ‘the axis along which values of z are measured’. But as baffling as this may sound, all you need to know is that it’s Lexus’s first electric vehicle to be developed from the ground up and it’s full of innovative and unique treats – Thanks to Lexus NZ we took a closer look.

I got my first taste of the RZ a few weeks ago at the local launch of the RX. Sure it was only a quick drive along the Kawarau river near Queenstown but enough to whet the whistle and have me waiting more.

The observant among you will know that Lexus have another BEV model on the market and that comes with a UX preface, however, unlike the new RZ, the UX is more of an adaption of an ICE to EV model, which is why the ground up creation of the RZ is so important.

Lexus RZ review NZ

The RZ is built on a new e-TNGA platform, which gives Lexus the flexibility to create a range of vehicles with different motor sizes, battery types and drive systems. There are currently two RZ’s in the NZ market, the Core and the Dynamic, my review model was the latter with a couple of dozen more features than the core including 20-inch black and machined-face alloy wheels (18-inch on the Core), a very cool power dimming panoramic roof (I’ll get to that later, adaptive high-beam headlights, Ultrasuede seat fabric and a head-up display. Mine also had the optional $2000 dual colour scheme to be extra special.

Both models come with a 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery, a clever Direct4 AWD system and an even cleverer e-Axle, so plenty of EVness and tech to give you an involved drive. While on the matter of its drive, the RZ comes with two motors allowing 266.3 Nm of torque to the front, 168.5 Nm to the rear and a combined 230kW of power to play with – which means that zero to 100km/h can be achieved in 5.3 seconds, that’s hot hatch territory!

Lexus RZ review NZ

Back to the RZ’s unique design. The brand’s signature ‘spindle grille’ is more closed off and integrated into the bodywork, while the headlights are sleeker and more aero-dynamic, this in turn should enable the RZ to slip through the air with ease and increase range, however, range is an area that the RZ could improve on, it boasts upto 470km NEDC – I had to shuffle off and recharge with only the mid 300km’s travelled (admittedly I wasn’t feathering the throttle).

Lexus RZ review NZ

Dimensionally, the RZ’s 4.8 m length and 1.64 m height means that it’s very Mall friendly, and it’s profile is rather low slung looking for a compact-sized SUV, which does give it a more sporty appearance – especially sitting on the aforementioned 20s. While the rear comes with roofline spoiler ‘fangs’, LED lights and light bar, RZ 450e and the Direct4 badging and a tailgate that opens up to 522 L of luggage space.

Lexus RZ review NZ

But the big talking point for the dynamic is the power dimming panoramic roof, at the touch of a button it goes from a frosted opaque, to a light-filled cabin and comes with all the oohs and aahs you’d expect.

Lexus RZ review NZ

The interior is Lexus chic with lavish materials, Alcantara, leather, shag pile carpet and Japanese craftsmanship. Lexus stalwarts can rejoice at the fact that the double-hinged central storage box and Mark Levison tunes remain, but from there on it, it’s all new, modern and hip.

Lexus RZ review NZ

The door handles are e-latched so open with more of a push of a button, while the infotainment comes via a 14-inch HD Colour Touchscreen (along with all the apps and aids you’ll ever need). It really is a well-laid out and well-crafted cabin and yet everything seems intuitively placed so as not to overwhelm.

Lexus RZ review NZ

Push button start/stop and the turn of a dial on the centre console has you on the move in an instant and as I mentioned before, quicker than many hot hatches. There are 4 preset driving modes and being as it’s a Lexus, of course you can individualise a mode too. 

The digital instrument cluster comes with a one dial display that offers up most of what you need, such as power, range and speed information, and although there was talk of a funky new steering wheel, we got the standard round one, but it is leather clad, and has toggle buttons that change the like of radio station and adaptive cruise control – but cleverly only displays this on the head up display screen.

Lexus RZ review NZ

The ride itself is Lexus smooth, and ultra quiet too. You get the sensation of driving in a much bigger vehicle as it glides over most of the rough NZ road terrain below. I’m not saying that you’re totally removed from the drive, but there is an emphasis on having a more luxurious ride rather than a sporty one – even when in sport. In short, it takes a lot to unsettle the RZ.

Visibility is good and there’s ample space for those in the rear, meaning that handling chores and day to day stuff is very easy in the RZ. 

Lexus RZ review NZ

The paddles behind the steering wheel are for varying the regenerative braking levels, I believe there are four, but aside from the most abrupt level enabling the brake lights, the RZ doesn’t ‘one-pedal drive’ so you do still have to use the brake pedal. 

The three screens offer up more than enough information about your drive and what the SUV is consuming in terms of power, and the suite of safety features even has the RZ watching you to ensure you’re not getting drowsy, it’s the complete package.

Lexus RZ review NZ

The RZ may be touted as Lexus’ first BEV but it’s plain to see that it’s already accomplished a lot. Yes the range is an issue but I’m sure this will be corrected (even now it’s more than enough for those that stay local), and when it comes to luxury and refinement, this BEV SUV is satisfyingly Lexus all the way.

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