Leading the charge for Lexus into the electric vehicle revolution is their new mid-size crossover SUV, the 2023 RZ 450E. Now available nationwide, the new model starts at about $60,000 and ranges up from there, our Luxury AWD tester ringing in at $67,090 with options.
The new all-electric crossover SUV is based on the same Toyota corporate EV platform architecture as the Toyota BZ4X and the Subaru Solterra. Called e-TNGA, the RZ 450E shares the same 112-inch wheelbase as the others but has a 189-inch length.
This places the Lexus RZ 450E between the Lexus NX and RX in size – some 7-inches longer than the NX but 3-inches shorter than the RX. The RZ is less tall however than both by approximately 3-inches with a total height of 64-inches.
In spite of sharing its chassis and underlying mechanicals with the Toyota and Subaru, the Lexus RZ 450E shares not a square-inch of sheet-metal with either, presenting its own brand styling with the fashion and art of its trademark Spindle Grille facial features, minus the actual grille.
The interior of our tester was very traditional Lexus with rich slate blue ultra-suede and high quality materials combined with a level of technological features expected in a luxury car. With a minimalist modern design theme, the ultra-suede material spans seating and door panels.
It’s long wheelbase and completely flat floor and lots of space both front and rear. It’s optioned Dynamic Sky panoramic roof can be switched from clear to opaque at the flick of a switch to change the mood. Like most contemporary Lexus models a fully features 14-inch touchscreen multimedia user interface and here a Mark Levinson audio system.
Under the floor is a large flat 71.4 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack that powers an electric motor at the front and rear axles for AWD traction – a system Lexus calls DIRECT4. Together the total system horsepower is 313 and torque 320 pound-feet
Power delivery is of course seamless and quiet. Acceleration of 0-60 came for us in 5.2 seconds, which is close to the 5.0 second time Lexus claims.
Range on our Luxury AWD tester is 196 miles, would be 219 if not for the larger 20-inch wheels on the trim grade. This is a range that is well below most of its immediate competitors some of which offer numbers closer to 300 miles of range.
Worse, the actual range of the vehicle is reduced by as much as 70 miles the moment you switch on the HVAC system. We got this rude awakening the morning after a full charge and when we started off were shown only a range of 130 or so miles.
In our week with it, we saw an observed battery efficiency of 2.2 miles per kWh. The EPA quotes 2.7, so our own experience was quite a bit less. Either way, these are the lowest efficiency figures of any electric car we have ever tested. Most range between 3-4 miles per kWh so not so impressive.
As if this story could not get less attractive, that air-conditioning that saps so much power from your battery also really doesn’t work all that well. In our Phoenix, AZ summer with temperatures over 100 degrees, the air-conditioning was hopeless and virtually useless to keep up. It just kept cycling on and off and never really was able to blow consistently cold air.
While the Lexus RZ 450E is a pleasing car from a driving and handling perspective, has a wonderful and well designed interior for comfort and for the most part offers the “Lexus Experience”, it really disappoints as a practical EV. Low range, low performance, and low efficiency all conspire to leave us with the perception that the competition really offers better choices.