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Lexus Enters EV Waters with RZ Crossover

2023 Lexus RZ | Photo: Lexus
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Derek Boshouwers
Meet the Toyota bZ4X’s high-falutin’ new cousin
2023 Lexus RZ, profile
2023 Lexus RZ, profile | Photo: Lexus

This morning we were introduced to the first concrete result of the Lexus Electrified vision laid out by the Japanese luxury automaker. The Lexus RZ is the brand’s first global all-electric model, and it is also, as you can tell from the looks of it and from any other number of clues, a close cousin to the recently introduced Toyota bZ4X.

“The RZ has been developed with the aim of creating a uniquely Lexus BEV that feels secure to ride in, is pleasing to the touch, and is exhilarating to drive. DIRECT4, the core technology of ‘Lexus Electrified,’ is (an) all-wheel-drive system that achieves quick and linear response according to driver input. We will continue to take on the challenge of providing customers with new experiences and a uniquely Lexus BEV driving experience.”

- Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer, ‘Lexus Electrified’, Lexus International

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2023 Lexus RZ, front
2023 Lexus RZ, front | Photo: Lexus

Built on the BEV-specific e-TNGA platform, the RZ was designed with optimal weight distribution in mind when placing the battery pack and motors. The crossover also features that DIRECT4 AWD system, as well as a new steering control and (available) Steer by Wire system, the latter only coming to Canadian models a little further down the road after launch.

On the outside, that massive Lexus front grille we’ve seen dominate recent models from the brand has been replaced with what the company calls a BEV Spindle Body, designed to optimize aerodynamics and proportions. The absence of the need to cool the engine and lead exhaust out opens the door to new styling elements as well. Lexus promises we’ll see many of those elements on future EVs from the brand. Like the bZ4X, the RZ has a long wheelbase (2850 mm) and a wide stance, which should make for a roomy, flat-floored second row.

The interior is thus advertised as minimalist and spacious, probably quite similar if not identical in size to the cabin of the bZ4X. An available panoramic roof will make it a brightly lit affair as well (though there will also be, in a Lexus-first, a dimming feature for that roof). Also for the first time, a Lexus model features a radiant heater to help maximize comfort. The RZ gets the North American-developed Lexus Interface multimedia system recently introduced with the latest NX and LX editions. The system is accessible via voice commands and a 14-inch touchscreen.

2023 Lexus RZ, interior
2023 Lexus RZ, interior | Photo: Lexus

Lexus took pains as well to make the cabin a very quiet place, which an electric powertrain makes quite a bit easier to achieve. Engineers included in-cabin sounds to deliver a livelier driving sound overall – we’ll wait to see how convincing that is in real-world driving – while the battery pack in the floor serves as a sound barrier in its own right. Even the entire perimeter of the hood opening is sealed to eliminate noisy airflow, and the glass is acoustic in both rows.

Lexus says the DIRECT4 AWD system will make the driving experience dynamic as well as quiet and road-gripping, as it uses wheel vehicle speed, acceleration, and steering angle sensor information to control front-to-rear drive force ratio distribution between 100:0 and 0:100. The result, improved start-up acceleration, handling stability and low power consumption. Torque is increased to the front wheels when entering a corner and switches more to the rear wheels when exiting, for example. The RZ also features a new pressurization unit enables coordinated front and rear regenerative braking through independent front and rear hydraulic control. Combined output from the two electric motors is 230 kW (150 up front, 80 in the rear).

2023 Lexus RZ, three-quarters rear
2023 Lexus RZ, three-quarters rear | Photo: Lexus

We could go on about the technical aspects of the new RZ’s design that make it more aerodynamic, quieter, energy-efficient, comfortable and all the rest, but the proof will be in the pudding – that is to say, when we get the model on the road.

In the meantime, we also await many of the salient details that potential buyers will want to know, such as range (for now, the manufacturer gives an estimate of “up to” 360 km from the 71.4-kWh battery), charging times and, of course, pricing. We expect those details to be announced in the coming weeks or months. The 2023 Lexus RZ450e is expected to go on sale towards the end of 2022.

2023 Lexus RZ,  from above
2023 Lexus RZ, from above | Photo: Lexus
2023 Lexus RZ, three-quarters front
2023 Lexus RZ, three-quarters front | Photo: Lexus
2023 Lexus RZ, steering wheel, dashboard
2023 Lexus RZ, steering wheel, dashboard | Photo: Lexus
2023 Lexus RZ pictures
Derek Boshouwers
Derek Boshouwers
Automotive expert
  • Over 5 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 50 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 30 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists