mReview: Lexus RZ450e - In The Relaxation Zone
Relaxing while driving reaches a new level of zen with the electric RZ450e, the Lexus that really relaxes.
Ironically enough, though, Lexus’ own journey from petrol-electric hybrids to a fully-electric car has been wracked with anxiety, it seems.
It was natural for the automaker to feel a little anxious. After engineering and establishing a comprehensive range of electrified hybrid models, Lexus was compelled to ponder the introduction of its initial battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) to consumers who are continually driven to distraction by a bevy of cutting-edge EVs from Tesla, BYD and the German luxury brands.
This anxiety was almost imperial in nature for the luxury division of Toyota. After all, in the petrol-electric segment pioneered and then popularised by the Japanese, Lexus is an emperor seated on a dominant throne.
The marque has three sizes of hybrid sedans - compact IS300h, mid-size ES300h and flagship LS500h. It has enough hybrid SUVs to fill a special issue of National Geographic dedicated to green motoring - UX250h, NX350h/450h and RX350h/450h/500h, with F Sport upgrades if available. Lexus also has a fancy hybrid coupe in the LC500h and, most recently, the ultra-comfortable mother of MPVs in the LM, yet another hybrid.
But Lexus’ first attempt at a fully-electric car, the UX300e, was tentative, being an existing petrol model repurposed into a BEV and hampered by an electrical setup based around the mainly-Japan CHAdeMO socket for fast charging, instead of the far more common CCS2 standard.
Lexus’ second attempt at a fully-electric car, the RZ450e, is a much better BEV than the UX300e. The newer crossover is also bigger, flashier, and costlier by at least $100k.
As suggested by the model prefix RZ, the electricaLexus is positioned alongside the RX in today’s model range and almost the same size too - about 8 centimetres shorter from bumper to bumper, 6 centimetres lower and 2.5 centimetres less wide. The RZ also has the same 2.85-metre wheelbase as the RX.
The two Lexuses look like they came from the same drawing board, with a similar sharpness in their body lines, familial variations of the signature “spindle” grille, and striking exterior lights.
The RZ design is a bit more futuristic, with bespoke details such as sculptured front fenders, a pair of pointed winglets at the outer edges of the roof spoiler, and 20-inch aluminium wheels with staggered tyre sizes (235/50 R20 front & 255/45 R20 rear) which enhance the stance.
The RZ could be described as a radical version of the 2023 RX teleported back to this time and place from the year 2033, when more of the science in science-fiction has become reality on the road.
Automotive reality in the here and now, however, required the RZ to be developed in parallel with the Toyota bZ4X, which in turn was co-developed with Subaru whose version is Solterra. In other words, Toyota’s first proper BEV project has spawned three different vehicles, each with its own mission and character.
The Lexus is the indulgent one, so its electric powertrain has the bells and whistles. It is a dual-motor system with 230 kW of energy (equivalent to over 300 horsepower), 435 Nm of torque, and Direct4 all-wheel-drive. The battery pack is covered by the eight-year, bumper-to-bumper warranty which applies to the RZ.
The AWD system can push up to 80 percent of the drive force to the rear eAxle, if the sensors and computers deem this necessary to make the car go where the driver wants it to, probably in a hurry.
That strong, instant torque turns the RZ450e into the fastest-accelerating Lexus SUV, able to dispatch the 0-100 km/h sprint in just over 5 seconds. Of course, if you keep doing these quick sprints, you will see quick dips in the theoretical maximum range (up to 440 kilometres, but closer to 340 km in my time with the demo RZ450e).
The RZ is also pretty fast and reassuringly stable on its Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 060s when braking or cornering, although the sensations while doing so are quite detached, like I’m a co-driver playing along with the car instead of playing together.
The suspension includes reactive dampers, which are said to improve the overall handling without worsening the ride comfort.
Actually, the good handling characteristics of the RZ are just a bonus, because this is the first Lexus to really leverage the mechanical refinement of pure electric propulsion to quieten every journey like never before.
Even the most refined Lexus hybrids have to run their combustion engines at some point, which would interrupt the otherwise peaceful hybrid-electric drive.
There is a question mark over the RZ’s Active Noise Control (ASC). According to Lexus, “our engineers created expressive in-cabin sounds that convey the exhilaration of driving and enhance the dialogue between car and driver.”
This is quite a contradiction in the RZ context - why would any driver want an artificially noisier driving environment when silence is golden in this electric Lexus? Thankfully, the RZ ASC can be switched off, but people who prefer more “engine noise” to disrupt the electric quietude can select ASC Low, Medium or High.
Peace and quiet, all the way, are the hallmarks of the fully-electric RZ, especially when it’s just cruising in a zenic zone. The electric motors work in the background, the tyres roll unobtrusively underneath (for their size and profile), and even the indicators sound courteous.
The cabin is also comfortably insulated against the noises and stressors of the outside world, beyond the acoustic glass windows and the dimmable panoramic roof panes.
No cows were skinned in the RZ’s pursuit of upscale upholstery. Instead, Lexus uses synthetic leathers in here, with the seats’ material, Ultrasuede, partially made from plant-derived biomass.
Rich folks used to traditional lushness might wonder whether the leather is lush enough for them, but the interior light show should be able to divert their attention.
Each door panel trim has so-called shadowy illumination, which varies as the door opens or closes. Eye-catching, too, is the instrument panel’s multi-colour illumination, with 14 core colours inspired by interesting natural phenomena, plus a 50-colour selectable palette which would delight art directors like their favourite Pantone chart.
Delighting everyone is the RZ’s generous cabin/boot space, excellent air-conditioning (or Climate Concierge in classy Lexus language), multiple USB-C ports, and a wireless charging spot. Not universally delightful, however, are the electronically-controlled door latches, which feel rather gadgety.
There is no glovebox in the dashboard, but the storage points elsewhere are adequate, including the integral shelf under the centre console.
The 13-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, complete with a subwoofer in the trunk, provides an onboard concert with front-row seats and plays all music genres with audio gusto, from light instrumentals to heavy metal.
The rest of the infotainment is centered on a well-integrated 14-inch touchscreen, with a logical combination of digital icons and physical soft-touch buttons. The colour head-up display is legible, but the “touch tracing” controls on the steering wheel might be fiddly for drivers who tend to be all thumbs.
Even the clumsiest or most careless drivers can drive safely with the RZ assisting. Its most advanced safety feature is Lexus Safety Sense+ 3, a helpful bundle of driving aids/acronyms - DRCC (Dynamic Radar Cruise Control), LTA (Lane Tracing Assist, not Land Transport Authority), LCA (Lane Change Assist), and multi-scenario PCS (Pre-Collision System).
The RZ can even park itself if the driver so chooses. If he or she would rather practise their own parking, the RZ is ready to assist with its Panoramic View Monitor, Parking Support Brake and clearance sonar guidance.
In conclusion, with the RZ450e, driving in the relaxation zone defined by Lexus is an expensive pleasure worth pursuing if you can afford to.
|Price (at time of publishing): $434,800 including COE
|VES Band: A1
Permanent magnet synchronous
150 kW DC, 11 kW AC
Power & Torque:
230 kW (308 bhp)
& 435 Nm
Dimensions (L x W x H):
4,805 mm x 1,895 mm
x 1,635 mm
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