Luxury Hybrid Pioneer Goes Electric
Lexus has been a pioneer of electrification in the luxury market. It introduced the first hybrid in the luxury SUV segment in 2005 with the RX450h, and now has hybrid versions available for almost all of the models in its lineup, combining smooth driving performance with the green credentials that today’s drivers want. But, until now, the company has not had a full-electric vehicle in its portfolio. All of that changes with the new RZ, the brand’s first full-electric vehicle, which will be available globally.
The new electric crossover marks Lexus' transition into a full electric brand. It is built on an all-new “e-TNGA” platform that has been designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle, with none of the packaging compromises required to accommodate a gasoline drivetrain. That means that it has a lightweight and highly rigid body, ideally-placed electric motors, and a low-set battery that contributes to excellent driving dynamics. Novel new technology in the RZ includes a new steer-by-wire electronic steering system, and Direct4 all-wheel drive system, both of which should contribute to a confident, exhilarating driving experience.
Lexus Look Inside and Out
The exterior design combines Lexus’ signature look with elements that express the smoothness and acceleration specific to BEVs. Lexus’ giant spindle grille is replaced by a new face which focuses on aerodynamic efficiency, as a BEV doesn’t require the same level of cooling and exhaust needs of an internal combustion engine. The profile is sleek and aerodynamic, with the razor-sharp slashes and rear window “kink” we’ve come to expect from Lexus SUVs. The rear has heavily-inclined rear glass, an integrated spoiler, a full-width set of LED lights, and vents in the bumper, hinting at the electric drivetrain.
Inside, the first big surprise is a “one motion grip” steering wheel that looks like Tesla’s yoke, which is enabled by the new “steer-by wire” electronic steering system – although a conventional round steering wheel is also available. Less controversial is the giant “Lexus Tazuna” digital cockpit, which has a compact digital instrument cluster and huge 14-inch touchscreen on the center console. As you would expect, there are premium materials throughout, stylish ambient lighting, and intricate patterns on the door panel trim. A giant panoramic sunroof is optional, and offers a self-dimming function to maximize the efficiency of the air conditioning; in colder weather, a radiant heating system keeps the driver and front passenger warm while reducing the load on the electrical system.
The Lexus RZ Offers Up to 280 Miles of Range
The RZ comes standard with two electric motors – one at each axle – producing a combined total of 309 hp and 321 lb-ft of torque, which should make for swift, effortless performance. Expect 0-60 times in the low-5 second range, and a top speed of about 100 mph, par for the course for electric crossovers. Of greater interest is the new Direct4 all-wheel drive system, which can alter the torque distribution from front to rear in a matter of milliseconds, and which should provide exceptional stability and confidence on rough roads or in poor weather conditions.
Lexus estimates that the 96-cell, 71.4-kwh lithium ion battery will offer a range of approximately 280 miles, at least on the Japanese testing cycle, which emphasizes city driving; expect an EPA-estimated range of somewhere around 250 miles, which would be similar to the Genesis GV60, the RZ’s main luxury rivals. Charging can be done at an impressive 150 kW on a public Level 3 DC fast charger, or at home on a Level 2 AC charger.
More Lexus EVs to Come
The RZ is the first of a series of full electric Lexus models. The brand has committed to offering a full lineup of battery-electric vehicles in all categories, and by 2035, it expects 100% of the vehicles it sells to be full EVs. Pricing for the new RZ starts at $52,000 before incentives and rebates.