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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

2023 Lexus RZ 450e Luxury AWD: Is the Brand’s First EV a Home Run or Swing and Miss?

When we first drove the 2023 Lexus RZ 450e in the spring of this year we thought that Premium trim was a very nice value, especially when compared to a similarly equipped Nissan Ariya. Now we get to spend a week with this Luxury trim to see if this first attempt at an EV by Toyota’s luxury brand is a home run or a swing and a miss.

I won’t lie when I saw the Lexus RZ pop up on my schedule, I was pleased, but not just overly giddy at the notion of driving this electric vehicle once more. The Premium trim we drove earlier this year was nice, but compared to some of the other EVs on the market, the specs of this Lexus RZ just seem to fall a little bit short. Take into account that it is also built on a shared platform with the Toyota bZ4X and the Subaru Solterra, both of which are slightly odd vehicles in their own right, and I had my hesitations about spending a week with the Lexus version. All of that changed when I saw this Luxury trim arrive at my house. This Ether blue paint job, the dark 20-inch polished wheels, and this denim blue Ultrasuede interior absolutely won me over in an instant, and the panoramic one-touch Dynamic Sky roof was absolutely the icing on the cake.

Compared to the other vehicles built on the same platform, I would say this Lexus is the most attractive. I feel like Lexus had the ultimate say in the design of the shared platform, and Toyota and Subaru simply had to adapt to what Lexus was doing. It works as a cohesive look for the brand with its angular styling, and the view of the rear of this EV is perhaps the best angle. Good thing that’s what a lot of people will be seeing.

Inside this Lexus is what absolutely won me over. The environment is so much of a step up in design and materials from the Toyota and Subaru versions that you would be forgiven if you didn’t know that they were on a shared platform. The dash, gauge cluster, and infotainment are far superior to the other offerings. Lastly, the seats wrapped in this blue Ultrasuede are perhaps the most attractive of any vehicle I have tested this year.

The Toyota and Subaru have a very odd gauge cluster borrowed from the Toyota Prius that basically necessitate you having the steering wheel in your lap to be able to see the gauge cluster pressed very far up against the windshield, almost in a Head-Up Display location. Here in this Lexus, we get a more traditional, albeit fully digital gauge cluster. The screen is on the small side and the anti-glare surface gives it a slightly fuzzy appearance but otherwise, all the information you need is there at a glance.

I hardly found myself looking at that screen as the RZ also employs a clear multicolor Head-Up Display. The display is configurable and is also the digital readout as to what the multifunctional buttons on the steering wheel are configured to do. In what is perhaps technological overreach, the steering wheel buttons respond to the touch of a finger, triggering the HUD to display exactly what each button is capable of doing, although doing it with a bit of a lag. I kept the left side of the steering wheel controls set to seek forward and back on my music, but simply reaching and tapping the track forward button was not enough to trigger the desired reaction. I first had to rest my thumb over the button and wait for the HUD to display the button’s configuration before I could skip to the next song. I like that Lexus is trying to reduce buttons while still giving physical controls, but I do not feel much was gained in this approach.

Gone is the Lexus trackpad in favor of a large, clear touchscreen running the brand’s latest infotainment complete with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Below the widescreen infotainment are the touchscreen controls for the climate which include automatic front heated and ventilated seats, automatic heated steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate. It all works well and is really snappy with little to no lag.

The cameras are clear and crisp as well, displaying a 360° field of view, clear forward and reverse cameras, and Lexus’ invisible car feature that makes the image of the vehicle itself disappear on the bird’s eye view as the cameras remember what they have passed over to fill the space normally occupied by the vehicle on the image. It’s practically magic.

The seats, along with being beautiful in their denim blue Ultrasuede, are very comfortable. Multi position power front seats with lumbar, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and three-person memory settings allow for multiple drivers. Riding to Dallas for a couple of hours did not produce fatigue, nor did the Ultrasuede seem like it made me hotter as the temps outside rose to triple-digits.

The climate all worked so well in this vehicle that at times I found myself too cold, a blessing while waiting in the school pick-up line at 3 pm. Between the automatic climate controls and the ventilated seats, I always felt very comfortable.

This Lexus also has a trick up its sleeve when compared to every other Toyota/Lexus product I have tested to date. Remote start does not get its own key fob button, but like other Toyota/Lexus vehicles, it is achieved by pressing the lock button twice, then holding it for 3 seconds. The RZ bests its other Lexus brethren by not turning off as soon as the doors are unlocked or open. I am not sure why the Toyota corporate legal team sees it necessary to disable the remote start function of their ICE vehicles when a door is open, but this Texas father is grateful I can turn the AC on while approaching the vehicle and have it running while I load my kid in the back and walk around to the driver’s seat.

Looking up, Lexus shows off their wizardry with the optional Dynamic Sky Panorama Glass Roof that transforms from clear to frosted white in an instant at the push of a button. It’s amazing the amount of heat it kept out in a Texas summer while still allowing some light in while opaque. The lack of roller shade meant headroom is not compromised either.

Storage was good, not great. What Lexus adds in the center passthrough underneath the center console, it loses in its lack of a traditional glovebox. The passthrough was also slender, making it hard to slide the thick owner’s manual or anything larger than a thin book into it. It is, however, lined with Ultrasuede at the bottom, so whatever you put down there shouldn’t rattle as it rides in comfort just as you do.

Rear seat room is ample thanks to the EV platform’s ability to push the wheels to the corners, thus increasing passenger volume. I was able to sit comfortably behind myself at 5’10” and had plenty of headroom thanks to the aforementioned glass roof. The rear seats also recline ever so lightly for an improved riding experience. The seats all fold in a 60/40 fashion, allowing for more cargo space if needed.

The rear cargo area is also spacious and has hidden underfloor storage that is lined to reduce noise from items rattling around. With the seats up, the RZ has just under 24 cubic feet of space, seats folded allows for just over 55 cubic feet. These numbers fall just short of the main rival in the Genesis Electrified GV70 we also drove earlier this year.

The electric powertrain is perhaps the biggest miss for me. As this is the brand’s first EV, some can be forgiven, but the market is getting increasingly more competitive by the day. Under the passenger compartment lies the 71.4 kWh battery which supplies the juice to the dual electric motors. Power is plentiful at 308 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is EV-quick, but not fast at a 0-60 time estimated at 5 seconds flat. I remember when muscle cars were proud of that number and it is achieved now in a comfortable 5-seat luxury SUV. Others EVs are faster, but my time in this both around town and on the highway proved this to be just right for the comfortable nature of the RZ.

Range is the ultimate letdown, maxing out at an EPA-estimated 196 miles, we never saw more than 174. Charging is also slow as well, taking 10 hours to charge using our 48amp 240V at-home charging system. The Genesis Electrified GV70 could achieve the same in 7.9 hours.

With the range concerns of the RZ amplified by the larger 20-inch wheels of our Luxury trim tester, we see this vehicle as a city car more than anything. It could clearly do anything and everything I needed it to in my time with it. Acceleration was perfect for passing and merging without being breakneck in pace.

Price is a huge win. The Premium trim I tested in the spring aligned with the Nissan Ariya at the same drive event. This Luxury trim is $8,000 less than its rival in the Genesis Electrified GV70, though with 40 less miles of range. If you never plan on traveling long distances, or you’re ok stopping more frequently at charging stations, this Lexus RZ 450e Luxury could be for you.

I could see myself highly recommending this EV to friends and family, but it must be taken with caution knowing its limitations. It is a solid first attempt from a brand known for exceptional build quality and vehicle durability. While I can’t say it is a home run, it is a solid triple or RBI double for sure. If this is the future of the brand I can see a bright future, though I will lament the loss of their V8 we tested last fall in the gorgeous LC 500.

2023 Lexus RZ 450e Luxury AWD Specs:

  • 71.4 kWh Battery (77.4 in GV70)

  • Dual Electric Motors

  • 308 Horsepower (429/483 in GV70)

  • 320.7 lb-ft of Torque (516 in GV70)

  • Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive

  • Est. 5.0 second 0-60 mph Acceleration (3.8 in GV70)

  • Independent MacPherson Strut Front Suspension with Coil Springs, Shock Absorbers, and Stabilizer Bar

  • Multilink Rear Suspension

  • Electronically Controlled Braking System with Integrated Regenerative Braking

  • Electronic Power Steering

  • Five Driver-selectable Drive Modes

    • Normal

    • Eco

    • Sport

    • Range

    • Custom

  • Ultrasuede Seating for 5

  • Heated and Ventilated Front Seats

  • Heated Outboard Rear Seats

  • Reclining Rear Seats

  • 8-way Power Driver's Seat with 2-way Lumbar and 3-person Memory

  • 8-way Power Front Passenger Seat

  • Heated Steering Wheel

  • Dynamic Sky Panorama Glass Roof

  • Digital Gauge Cluster

  • 14-inch Infotainment with Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

  • 10-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound

  • 10-inch Color Head-Up Display

  • Dual-zone Automatic Climate Control

  • LED Headlights

  • LED Taillights

  • Customizable Ambient Interior Lighting

  • 20-inch Dark Premium Metallic Alloy Wheels

  • 255/45 R20 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx Tires

  • Power Liftgate

  • Lexus Safety System+ 3.0

  • Proximity Key with Push Button Start

  • Up to 23.74 Cubic Feet of Storage Behind the Rear Seats (29 in GV70)

  • Up to 55.57 Cubic Feet of Total Storage with All Seats Folded (57 in GV70)

  • Up to 196 miles of EPA-estimated Electric Range on a Single Charge (236 in GV70)

  • DC Fast Charging Capable

  • 240V 0-100% Charge Time of 10 Hours (7.9 in GV70)

  • EPA Fuel Economy 36 kWh/100mi

  • Starting Price: $65,150 (Premium) ($65,850 GV70)

  • Price As Tested: $67,170 ($75,275 GV70)


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