The electric future is here, and…it’s a mixed bag if I’m honest. I’ve driven all kinds of EVs, more than I can even self-promotingly link here, and unfortunately one of my least favorite was the Toyota B-zed-Four-X-ray. The bZ4X has a terrible name that is hard to remember, and I found the drive uninspiring, the range too low, and the styling much too fussy. It came in a distant last in my comparison that pitted it against the Mach-E and the Ioniq 5. So, when Lexus sent me their version of the same car, I tried to keep an open mind.
2023 Lexus RZ450e Overview
The new compact Lexus RZ is built on Toyota’s latest e-TNGA platform that is shared with the aforementioned bZ4X, the Subaru Solterra, as well as the bZ3 (Bz means “beyond Zero” btw) for the Chinese market. The RZ450e only comes in dual-motor AWD guise, where the bZ is available in FWD with only one motor, or with a dual-motor AWD setup.
You can choose from two main specs, the Premium or the Luxury, both of which sound like they could be the top trim. In this case it’s the Luxury (I started to type “Premium”) which adds comfort and convenience stuff like:
- Synthetic suede upholstery
- Radiant front knee heating
- Heated rear outboard seats
- Acoustic insulation for the windows
- Interior ambient lighting (color adjustable)
- 13-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio
- Larger (20″-inch”) wheels
Our tester had a few upgrades:
- Cold Area Package: $200
- Illuminated Front Badge: $200
- Dynamic SkyTM Panorama Glass Roof: $550
- Bi-Tone Paint: $1,200
Add the ole “Dealer, Processing and Handling Fee (DPH)” ($1,150) and you’re all in at an estimated MSRP as Equipped of $67,300. Let’s see how it stacks up to it sticker.
2023 Lexus RZ450e Luxury Inside & Out
The RZ is a lot better looking than the bZ, from front to back it’s a better design. It will look right at home on the Lexus lot, with plenty of brand recognition compared to other Lexus SUVs. Plus, while the trapezoidal grill still exists, it’s much more toned down than in other Lexus models. Well, it works best on darker colors. Take a trip through the Lexus build site and you’ll find that lighter colors don’t wear the design quite as well.
Or you can opt for the pretty blue “Ether” color, but with a black hood, which is a bit better but still highlights some awkwardness up front. Still, it’s a good shape, the rear gets the taillight-to-taillight light treatment that’s been pretty popular lately across brands. The split spoke wheels look classy, it’s nice to see something other than black.
While the exterior was just OK, the interior upholstery is fantastic. Just look at that blue, it’s gorgeous! It’s called “Thunderstorm and Macadamia Ultrasuede”. I assume the blue bits are Thunderstorm, and it’s such a cool color. The grey wood tones match quite well, and I would have liked to have seen more of it. Unfortunately the beige bits, likely the Macadamia, are so light that I expect them to show a lot of dirt. I know this car gets handed around across a bunch of filthy journalist-types like me, but it was already showing signs of dirt on the center console. Still, overall it’s a great look and the seats were fantastic, with just the right amount of bolster for a luxury SUV.
I like the big screen, it actually looks integrated vs. tacked on as an afterthought, plus there are actual dials. I did like that the screen is mounted lower and easy to reach, a far cry from the touchpad-controlled Lexus screens set as far away as possible. I also like that the screen and controls are all part of the same panel. Though the black radio volume dial blends in a bit too much and is hard to see. It also suffers from a lack of real buttons, they are just flat spots on a black screen. I know its a thing with EVs, for some reason, but I found them hard to find when driving. I have to remind myself that a buyer would likely get used to it, but just remember to think through whether you’re on board with this new flat-button trend on a test drive.
From a space perspective, the RZ is wider and longer than competitors like the Tesla Model Y, Audi Q4 e-tron, and Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pure Electric. That means it has more cargo space (car still go road) with 34.9 cu. ft. of room for your stuff. That’s significantly more than the Audi and Volvo, though the Tesla is close with 34.3 cu. ft. of space.
The rear seat in the RZ gets you 37.5-inches of legroom, which is again is better than the Audi or Volvo, but the Model Y comes in a decent bit higher at 40.5-inches. Overall the compact RZ would make for a fine daily driver, with good room for five and plenty of cargo room.
2023 Lexus RZ450e Luxury On The Road
Out on the road, the RZ is quick, the dual-motor AWD system gets you to 60 mph in under five seconds. Sure, there are quicker EVs out there, but that’s plenty for a daily driver. It felt way faster than the bZ, because it is, bringing another 100 horsepower to the table over the Toyota version. It’s the range that’s the issue. Much like the bZ, the RZ won’t go all that far on one charge. The Premium with 18-inch wheels gets a max of 220 miles, while the Luxury rolling on 20s like our tester is down to 196 miles.
The technology could be a little obtrusive at times, the “driver monitor” function would shut off when I put my hand in the wrong spot on the wheel, obscuring the camera that was watching me and my level of attention. Ironically that would beep and pop up a notification, distracting me from driving. Sometimes it would just randomly beep a dozen times after I walked away and locked it, still not sure what that was about.
Still, it’s a comfortable EV out on city and highway driving, and it even makes a really fun futuristic beep when you lock and unlock it.
In the end, this vehicle will appeal to buyers who already like the Toyota and Lexus brand and want a full-EV, but don’t need a long range or a larger vehicle. Most of the time I spent with my 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, which had a similarly low range, was fine. We used it for the school run, trips around town, and similarly short excursions. During $5/gallon gas it was a lifesaver, so if that fits your profile, and you are are cool with spending just over $67,000 on a compact luxury EV, definitely check out the RZ450e. It was more good than bad, and it might be worth it just for that blue interior.