Lexus RZ (RZ 450e) confirmed to reach U.S. dealers in early 2023

  • First Lexus BEV in the U.S. expected to be priced from under USD 60,000
  • Could deliver an EPA-est. range of up to 225 miles; Does 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds
  • Competes with the Audi Q4 e-tron, Genesis GV60 & Tesla Model Y
  • Will ship from Japan & reach U.S. dealerships in early 2023

Update: ‘U.S.’ sub-section of ‘Price & Release Date’ section updated and ‘TopElectricSUV says’ section added.

Lexus is on a path toward carbon neutrality. Toyota’s luxury brand has taken its first significant step towards its goal with the Lexus RZ, the Japanese carmaker’s first all-electric SUV. At first glance, the Lexus RZ 450e may be reminiscent of the RX, but look closely, and it’s evident that the RZ is closer in spirit to its platform cousins, the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra.

The models have been ideated and developed at the Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama (TTCS), also Lexus’ new base for operations. Lexus aims to offer BEVs in all segments where the brand has a presence by 2030, and by 2035, the Japanese carmaker will sell BEVs only. The RZ 450e is the brand’s first significant step toward its goals. Here’s everything we know about the future Lexus electric car:

Design

BEV Spindle Body

The Lexus RZ 450e’s design concept is called ‘Seamless E-Motion.’ The electric SUV gets a new iteration of the brand’s signature spindle grille with active shutters. Lexus calls the new adaptation as the ‘BEV Spindle Body.’ The flaps open when there’s a need to channel airflow to the battery and close to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics.

The previous iterations of the spindle grille were in-your-face and blingy. The new grille design is comparatively minimalistic and rather pleasant to look at. The grille appears striking and at the bottom is a large horizontal air inlet to cool the battery. Unlike other Lexus models, there’s no splashing of excessive chrome and that’s what makes this grille appear so classy.

Sharp cuts and creases

From the side profile, a complex design pattern can be seen. The Lexus RZ gets pull-type door handles instead of flush-fit, pop-out handles, and standard ORVMs instead of camera-based mirrors. The amplified wheel arches flow into a character line that ends under the rear window line, and the cuts and creases make the RZ 450e appear like it has been carved using a Japanese samurai knife. In typical Lexus fashion, it’s sharp and seems like an arrow from the side profile.

At the rear, there’s a full-width LED bar with Lexus lettering positioned centrally. The EV gets a highly raked rear windscreen, a shark-fin antenna, and horizontal reflectors in the bumper. Even though the RZ is a high-riding SUV, it’s comparatively more aerodynamic than traditional two-box SUVs with barely any aerodynamic characteristics. The Lexus RZ features a duck-tail-styled rear spoiler that reduces drag and improves downforce.

Lexus has also flattened the underbody to enable smooth airflow from underneath the EV, which would help reduce wind resistance and improve overall range. Moreover, Lexus says mindfully sourced materials have been used on the EV’s exterior and interior, in line with the brand’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).

Interior & Features

‘Tazuna’ and ‘Omotenashi’ concepts

The door trims and seats are covered with suede, while the upper wood-grain console creates what Lexus calls ‘omotenashi,’ which means ‘anticipatory hospitality and space.’ The Ultrasuede used on the seats contains 30% bio-based and sustainable materials. There are more traditional Japanese inspirations in the interior. The cockpit is based on the ‘tazuna’ concept representing the reins riders use to tame horses. Overall, Lexus seems to have used top-quality materials in the cabin to give its first-ever electric vehicle a genuine upmarket feel.

Infotainment system

The 14-inch HD touchscreen infotainment isn’t all new. The North American-developed unit also features the latest iterations of the Lexus NX and the Lexus LX. The interior isn’t bereft of physical buttons. The rotary drive selector is positioned on the center console, while temperature control knobs are positioned under the touchscreen. The traction control button, e-parking brake, and auto hold buttons are also placed on the center console. The central screen and the controls underneath are tilted towards the driver, making the set-up seem driver-centric.

One Motion Grip ‘yoke’ steering wheel

The RZ 450e is not just Lexus’ first but the world’s first model to combine a steering yoke – called One Motion Grip – with a steer-by-wire system. This is the most futuristic piece of technology in the RZ 450e, both aesthetically and functionally. Unlike Tesla’s steering yoke, One Motion Grip doesn’t have a mechanical link and a traditional steering column. The connection that sends inputs between the steering and the wheels is electrical.

Lexus says that drivers will observe there’s less swaying over rough roads and stable control and correction in strong crosswinds with the steer-by-wire system. The company claims that straight-line performance on angled surfaces will be excellent. Plus, the driver gets a better, unobstructed view of the instrument cluster and the road ahead.

Driving in the city should be effortless, thanks to a low steering angle of 150 degrees. There’s no need for hand-over-hand turns. As Maciej Pawelec points out in his review (watch on YouTube channel 1001cars), the Lexus RZ 450e equipped with the One Motion Grip yoke and the steer-by-wire system has a really high steering ratio at low speeds. Small steering movements give high-angle turns. Moreover, steer-by-wire blocks unnecessary feedback from the tires and brakes, giving a more comfortable driving experience.

Lexus shows a traditionally operating three-spoke steering wheel in the marketing materials of the 2023 RZ 450e in the U.S. However, the One Motion Grip yoke with a steer-by-wire system will be available optionally. A unit put up on display at the Lexus Experience Center in Newport Beach, California, does have this feature, as seen in a walkaround video from the YouTube channel The Bronco Adventure embedded below:

Video Source: YouTube/The Bronco Adventures

A suite of ADAS features

The Lexus RZ 450e comes with Lexus Safety Systems+ 3.0, which offers advanced driver assistance features (ADAS). The ADAS suite includes standard features like radar-based Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and Pre-Collision System (PCS), and Emergency Driving Stop System (EDSS). The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) automatically detects the vehicle’s speed ahead.

The DRCC maintains a safe distance while the PCS detects driver behavior and alerts them if they sense drowsiness or distraction. The LDA, on the other hand, works with PCS to detect driver drowsiness and applies steering inputs to ensure that the RZ stays in the lane in case it swerves close to the lane markers.

The EDSS and Lane Trace Assist (LTA) work in conjunction to determine if the driver can continue driving. If it senses an emergency, the vehicle will stop in its lane gradually until the EV comes to a complete stop while flashing the lamps to alert other vehicles. And lastly, the Lexus RZ also supports remote parallel park assist.

Interior colors

Additionally, customers will be able to choose between Thunderstorm, Palomino, and Dapple Gray/Black interior color options. Lexus also has some innovations on the RZ. There’s the world’s first shadowy illumination that changes the light color projected onto the door trim ornament during ingress and egress. A Lexus-first feature is the new ‘radiant heater’ that warms passengers’ knees while functioning with the air-con without consuming excessive battery. The vents for ‘radiant heater’ are positioned below the bottom of the steering column and at the bottom of the passenger instrument panel.

NVH and sounds

Lexus has stated that the RZ 450e comes with exceptional NVH levels. The brand has used acoustic glass, and the hood openings are sealed to eliminate turbulent airflow. What’s more, Lexus has focused on driving sensations: the engineers have piped in artificial sounds into the cabin, which amplifies when the driver floors the throttle and drives enthusiastically. Expect the Lexus to make interesting sounds, unique from what other EVs sound like. Lastly, the electric SUV also gets a posh two-part panoramic sunroof that let’s natural light in, making the cabin feel airy and roomy.

Compared to its Toyota and Subaru siblings, expect the Lexus to offer better overall quality in the interior and a more comprehensive equipment list justifying its premium positioning and Lexus’ brand image as a maker of luxury vehicles.

Lexus RZ 450e specifications

Lexus RZ 450e side profile static
The Lexus electric SUV is marginally longer and wider than the Toyota bZ4X and is over half an inch lower. It uses the same e-TNGA platform. Image: Lexus

Size

The Lexus electric SUV measures 189 inches long, 74.6 inches wide, and 64.4 inches tall. The EV has a wheelbase of 112.2 inches. For perspective, the Lexus is 4.4 inches longer than its platform sharing cousins, the Toyota bZ4X and the Subaru Solterra, which measure 184.6-inches long. The Lexus 450e rides on 18-inch machine-cut alloys as standard, but the wheels can be upgraded to 20-inch units.

Based on the e-TNGA

The RZ is the first Lexus vehicle based on TMC’s electric-Toyota New Global Architecture (e-TNGA). Like most other BEV-specific platforms, e-TNGA also allows the battery modules to be fitted between the axles, enabling an improved center of gravity and enhancing handling traits. The RZ’s body shell has been strengthened by reinforcing the radiator area and including a V-shaped brace to counter the lateral forces while cornering.

Battery & Motor

The U.S.-spec Lexus RZ 450e will come with a 71.4 kWh battery which Lexus claims would allow up to 225 miles of range. That’s an odd choice because the DIRECT4 AWD variants of the Toyota bZ4X use a slightly larger 72.8 kWh battery. Additionally, the front and rear eAxles integrate the motor, transaxle, and invertor in a compact package to aid range and expand the interior room.

The dual-motor Lexus RZ will be the brand’s first model available, with its new Direct4 AWD system independently controlling the four wheels. Using the electric motors’ instant responsiveness, the new torque distribution technology controls the EV’s four wheels to provide the drive system that best suits the prevailing driving situation.

The RZ 450e model uses a more robust front motor than Toyota’s bZ4X AWD, which employs 107 hp motors at both ends. The front motor in the Lexus makes 150 kW (201 hp), while the rear motor is tuned for 80 kW (107 hp). The combined power output is 312 hp. Lexus has not mentioned the torque figures, but we suspect the electric SUV will have around 300 lb-ft on tap. Lexus is estimating a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 5.2 seconds.

Lexus RZ 450e specificationsValue
Length189 inches
Width74.6 inches
Height64.4 inches
Wheelbase112.2 inches
Drivetrain LayoutDual motor AWD
Front motor150 kW (201 hp)
Rear motor80 kW (107 hp)
Total Power312 hp
Torque (unofficial estimate)300 lb-ft
0-60 mph Acceleration Time (company estimate)5.2 seconds
Battery71.4 kWh
Range (company estimate)225 miles (18-inch wheels)/220 miles (20-inch wheels)
These are U.S. specs of the Lexus RZ 450e. The torque figure is a TES estimate, while the range is a preliminary figure provided by Lexus.

Moreover, ‘Lexus Driving Signature,’ the brand’s term for the driving experiences its cars deliver, is enhanced by regenerative braking. The brake-recuperation system features a new pressurization unit to provide controlled braking and improve brake energy recuperation to maximize driving range.

DIRECT4 with variable torque distribution

The AWD system on the Lexus RZ 450e, christened DIRECT4 (TMC registered trademark), is highly sophisticated. Lexus says torque distribution between the front and rear axles can be between 100:0 or 0:100. The system can have a drive force distribution of 60:40 to counter inertia during the launch. Amidst straight-line acceleration, the torque distribution is 40:60.

The system also optimizes grip during spirited driving. For instance, when the steering wheel is turned to enter a corner, torque distribution is front-axle biased, ranging between 75:25 and 50:50, allowing the nose of the RZ to bite the tarmac during turn-in, minimizing the possibility of understeer. While exiting the corner, torque distribution is rear-axle biased, and the torque split ratio ranges between 50:50 and 20:80. The system sling-shots the EV out of the corner and onto the next one.

Driving Pleasure

A report from Autocar suggests that the upcoming Lexus SUV, though packing heavy batteries, would not compromise on driving pleasure.

Pascal Ruch, Vice President – Value Chain, Lexus (Europe), talked about future Lexus electric car models with the British publication stating that electrification and driving pleasure “can go hand in hand.” Ruch tried clearing the notion that electrification can affect driving dynamics because of additional weight. He said that Koji Sato, the brand’s President and the chief engineer of the Lexus LC, and Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota, will never allow the production of a boring Lexus model in terms of design or design driving experience.

Price & Release Date

According to the information stated on lexus.com, the Lexus RZ 450e will be available at U.S. dealers from early 2023. Expect the electric SUV to cost a decent premium over the Toyota bZ4X, which is currently offered in the U.S. with an FWD powertrain with prices ranging between USD 42,000 and USD 48,780. We’re expecting the RZ 450e to cost under USD 60,000.

Lexus is conducting marketing activities for the RZ 450e in the U.S. ahead of launch. The company displayed the electric car at the 2022 Electrify Expo in Long Beach (June 3-5), Seattle (July 23-24), and Long Island (August 27-28). The 2022 Electrify Expo heads to Miami next (October 8-9), followed by Austin (November 11-13), and Lexus will display the RZ 450e at these locations as well. The NX 450h+ (NX PHEV) is accompanying the electric SUV at this event.

20% of Lexus sales in the U.S. are electrified

In the first three quarters of 2022, Lexus sold 198,612 vehicles in the U.S., and 20.2% (40,112) of them were electrified (includes hybrids and plug-in hybrids). Compared to the first three quarters of 2021, total vehicle sales were 16.8% lower, while electric vehicle sales were 6.4% lower.

With the all-electric RZ joining the line-up, the sales of the brand’s electrified vehicles should continue growing. Lexus targets to go fully electric in North America, Europe, and China and sell a million EVs by 2030. Including the RZ, there are potentially seven Lexus EV models awaiting launch this decade.

Canada

Customers in Canada can expect to purchase the Lexus RZ 450e at the end of 2022. The Japanese carmaker has built up a decent presence in the land of the maple leaf, with 39 dealers. The brand offers as many as 12 models from its global portfolio in the Canadian market, of which 6 are hybrids; the RZ 450e will be the 13th offering. Moreover, the Lexus NX and the Lexus RX are assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada’s Cambridge South plant.

TopElectricSUV says

The design of the RZ will make it feel right at home at a Lexus dealership, but it promises a whole new driving experience with its pure electric powertrain and steer-by-wire system. With an est. 0-60 mph sprint time of 5.2 seconds and an est. range of 225 miles, it isn’t the most exciting launch in the crowding electric SUV segment. However, for Lexus loyalists and EV enthusiasts, it marks the beginning of exciting times as Japan has finally thrown its hat into the ring!

Lexus RZ FAQs

What is the Lexus RZ release date?

The Lexus RZ will begin reaching U.S. dealers in early 2023.

What will be the Lexus RZ price?

The basic Lexus RZ 450e variant may cost just under USD 60,000. The company is yet to announce prices.

Which models are chief competitors to the Lexus RZ?

The primary challengers are the Genesis GV60, Tesla Model Y, and the Audi Q4 e-tron.

Featured Image Source: Lexus Media