Toyota bZ4X for the U.S. misses out on steering ‘joystick’ [Update]

The U.S.-spec production Toyota bZ4X has finally debuted. The American model has some changes compared to the Japanese version revealed in October 2021.

Visual changes on the U.S.-spec Toyota bZ4X don’t stop at orange marker lights. The interior of the American model has a conventional, round steering wheel. Internationally, a futuristic, yoke-style steering will be available optionally. We’ve explained this aspect in detail in the Features section of the story.

Toyota bZ4X at a glance

Here are the highlights of the Toyota electric car that is arriving on the U.S. market in 2022:

  • The size and proportions of the bZ4X EV are reminiscent of the Toyota RAV4. However, the bZ4X looks sharper and more aerodynamic. It was designed from the outset as an EV, and it’s not a conversion of the RAV4. The lower height and coupe-styled tail section give it a sporting character.
  • Thanks to a dedicated EV platform, the bZ4X has short overhangs and a long wheelbase. The interior space is comparable to that of a D-segment sedan (Toyota Camry).
  • The low position of the dashboard and the location of the fully digital instrument cluster enhances the sense of space inside the cabin while also improving road visibility.
  • The bZ4X has a new all-wheel drive system co-developed with Subaru.
  • Solar roof, which charges the battery pack when the vehicle is stationary, also omitted in the U.S.-spec model.
  • U.S.-spec model’s manufacturing will take place in Japan, with sales beginning in Spring 2022.

Specifications

Measuring 184.6 inches in length, 73.2 inches in width, and 64.9 inches in height (incl. antenna), the Toyota bZ4X is roughly the size of the RAV4. However, as Toyota designed the bZ4X as an EV from the ground up, it managed to achieve a significantly longer wheelbase of 112.2 inches. As for the interior dimensions, the cabin’s length, width, and height are 76.4 inches, 59.6 inches, and 45.0 inches, respectively.

While most bespoke compact EVs have an RWD drivetrain layout by default, the Toyota bZ4X is an FWD model. The base variant has a single, 150 kW (201 hp) motor propelling the front wheels. The top-end variant adds an 80 kW (120 hp) motor at the front and an 80 kW (120 hp) motor at the rear, and these motors offer a system power of 160 kW (214 hp). The driver can select the gear using a dial-type shifter, which is a first for Toyota.

The Toyota bZ4X FWD has a 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery, while the Toyota bZ4X AWD uses a slightly bigger, 72.8 kWh lithium-ion pack. However, both batteries have the same operating voltage – 355 V. Toyota expects the bZ4X FWD’s range to be up to 250 miles, but it hasn’t given an estimate for the bZ4X AWD. Fast-charging to 80% SoC takes less than one hour.

In Japan, where the 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is standard, Toyota expects the bZ4X to deliver a range (WLTC) of approximately 500 km (311 miles) in the FWD variant and around 460 km (286 miles) in the AWD variant. The maximum charging power is 6.6 kW on alternating current and 150 kW on direct current. Toyota says that fast-charging to 80% takes half an hour.

Toyota has fitted a heat pump for both heating and air-conditioning in the 2023 bZ4X. A heat pump-type climate control system reuses the battery pack’s waste heat to heat the cabin when required, reducing the impact on the range.

The U.S.-spec bZ4X features a new AWD system, presumably Subaru-developed like that of the Japanese-spec version, along with X-Mode and Grip-Control.

Toyota puts a lot of effort into making sure that the bZ4X is durable. It wants to make sure that the battery pack of the bZ4X will deliver up to 90% of its full range even after ten years of use. Masahiko Maeda, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, has said that this is one of the highest endurance performance targets in the world.

Preventing the formation of degraded materials on anode surfaces is a key to extending battery life. Toyota is taking measures in various aspects such as pack structure, material selection, and control system to prevent the development of these degraded materials. Keiji Kaita, the President of Toyota’s CN Advanced Engineering Development Center, has said that the battery cost will reduce by 40% compared to the C-HR/Izoa/UX EV when it launches the bZ4X. So, cheaper battery replacements could be another advantage of the bZ4X.

Features

The 2023 Toyota bZ4X will be available in at least two trim levels: XLE and Limited. The XLE grade in the FWD configuration will offer the highest possible range (Toyota-est.) of up to 250 miles.

In addition to the heat pump-type climate control system, Toyota has confirmed seat and steering wheel heating, front-seat radiant foot-and-leg heater (a Toyota-first), digital key, OTA software updates, and Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 (TSS 3.0) safety package for the 2023 bZ4X.

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 includes a millimeter-wave radar and a monocular camera with an expanded detection range. Toyota has improved the performance of each function of Toyota Safety Sense for v3.0. Moreover, it has added new functions to assist in normal driving conditions. For example, the Pre-Collision System now offers Daytime Motorcyclist Detection, Low-Light Cyclist Detection, and Guardrail Detection. Another example is Lane Recognition, which provides improved functionality in Lane Tracing Assist mode.

A steer-by-wire system will be available internationally, but not in the U.S. market. The steering wheel and tires have no mechanical connection, so unwanted vibrations from the maneuvers don’t make it to the driver’s palms. Toyota has set the lock-to-lock at around 150 degrees, making U-turns and parking simpler, as there is no need to change grips. The U.S.-spec bZ4X misses out on the yoke steering and solar roof options as well.

The U.S.-spec 2021 Tesla Model X is available with a yoke steering, and so, it’s not as if the NHTSA bars Toyota from using the aircraft-inspired design. Perhaps, the Japanese automaker is playing it safe, sensing backlash from customers. Notice that the wiper and turn indicator stalks also have a simpler, rounded design in the U.S.-spec version.

Price & Release Date

The Toyota bZ4X will go on sale in the U.S. in Spring 2022. It is unlikely to be a strong VW ID.4 rival, at least not in terms of price. Toyota officials have stated time and again that the bZ4X will be an expensive model. On the world premiere day, Toyota New Zealand CEO Neeraj Lala said that “it will not be an affordable BEV for all kiwi households and business” because of the significant R&D costs involved. Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s Vice President – Sales, Marketing and Franchise Operations, said it would be “expensive” the same way as the original Prius, carexpert.com.au reported.

Given Toyota officials’ statements about the bZ4X’s pricing, we expect the EV to slot above the RAV4 Prime, which costs USD 38,350. Expect the base bZ4X to cost well over USD 40,000 in the U.S. market. Volkswagen plans to slash the ID.4’s starting price from USD 39,995 to approximately USD 35,000 (before subsidy) by localizing it in the summer of 2022. Toyota could begin deliveries of the bZ4X in the U.S. just before the launch.

Toyota to launch 6 more bZ EVs after the bZ4X

Toyota has half a dozen BZ EVs in the pipeline by 2025, following the Toyota BZ4X. bZ at Toyota is the condensed form of ‘Beyond Zero’ branding dedicated to its electric car series. Toyota may apply the alphanumeric branding with an ‘X’ for crossovers, while the hatch, sedan, or MPV names could end with the number connoting their place in the ladder.

Toyota filed more than ten trademark applications at EUIPO last year, and it would use a few of them in the upcoming bZ models:

  • Toyota BZ
  • Toyota BZ Series
  • Toyota BZ1
  • Toyota BZ1X
  • Toyota BZ2
  • Toyota BZ2X
  • Toyota BZ3
  • Toyota BZ3X
  • Toyota BZ4
  • Toyota BZ4X
  • Toyota BZ4X Concept
  • Toyota BZ5
  • Toyota BZ5X
Toyota BZ EV logo
The Toyota BZ EV range will include seven models by 2025, the company has announced. Image Source: EUIPO/Toyota

In June 2019, Toyota announced its electrification plan, revealing two strategies: one aimed at the ultra-compact (twin-seater) EV market and the second aimed at global deployment. The ultra-compact EVs are intended primarily for the Japanese market. However, with the latter, we will see mass-market Toyota electric cars in the United States, Europe, and China, which the company classifies as high-demand markets.

Toyota global electric vehicles range
Toyota electric cars based on the e-TNGA can have front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive variants with varying battery sizes and motor specifications. Image: Toyota

A total of seven Toyota EVs are planned for global deployment by 2025, and a few of them are of the SUV/crossover body style. The plan includes a large SUV, a medium crossover, and a medium SUV. Toyota has jointly developed the bZ4X with Subaru. A Subaru electric car from this project will be launched as the Solterra by mid-2022.

All models would be based on the e-TNGA, given their appeal and the necessary compliance to American and European standards. The medium crossover and SUV would be 5-seat Toyota electric cars, and the large SUV could be a 7-seat model.

e-TNGA at the core of the Toyota bZ line

e-TNGA is Toyota’s brand-new dedicated EV platform, and it has a basic architecture principle where some main elements are fixed while others can be varied, such as the wheelbase, length, width, and height. Besides, Toyota engineers can vary the layout (AWD, FWD, or RWD) and the motor and battery capacities to suit user demands. Many different types of cars can be planned on a single platform.

Toyota has spoken about its modular e-TNGA platform and how it can be varied to accommodate different body styles and shapes. In the e-TNGA, “the position of the front and rear electric motors, the layout under the hood, the driver position relative to the front wheels, the width of the battery are fixed, while the wheelbase, number of batteries installed, overhangs, and other elements can be changed,” Toyota said.

The e-TNGA platform can take battery capacities ranging from 50 kWh to 100 kWh with range possibilities from 300 km to 600 km, with modular options for front-, rear, or all-wheel drive. Each axle can handle an electric motor with outputs from 80 kW to 150 kW, which means the most potent Toyota electric car on the e-TNGA would have 300 kW maximum power.

Future Toyota bZ models likely to be autonomous driving-capable

The Toyota bZ EV models should feature several new driving assistant systems, some of which may allow autonomous driving. Toyota has chosen ZF and Mobileye, an Intel company, to develop advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) for its future models.

ZF and Mobileye will work together to produce advanced camera technology integrated with the latter’s radar technology for use in the ADAS of future Toyota models. Mobileye’s EyeQ4 SoC and ZF’s Gen 21 mid-range radar technology together will be used to interpret the surrounding environment to prevent and mitigate collisions.

Gen 21 is a 77 GHz front radar that enables L2/L2 + autonomous driving functions. It has been designed to meet 2022+ Euro NCAP 5-star safety ratings. It can be used at low speeds to assist in pedestrian detection to AEB and other support systems and at high speeds for systems like adaptive cruise control.

Toyota electrification efforts in the U.S.

Toyota hasn’t announced EV manufacturing in the U.S. but is preparing the building blocks for it in the not too distant future. The company plans to invest approximately USD 3.4 billion by 2030 to develop and locally produce batteries, including those for fully battery-powered EVs or BEVs.

2023 Toyota bZ4X front three quarters
The Toyota bZ4X will go on sale in the U.S. by the middle of 2022, but it will come from the Japanese plant. Image Source: Toyota

A new company (TBA) and a new battery plant built together with Toyota Tsusho in the U.S. will support Toyota Motor North America’s ZEV transformation. Toyota aims to begin manufacturing batteries in the U.S. by 2025. The company will invest approximately USD 1.29 billion in this project until 2031. The new company’s initial focus will be making HEV batteries, though, not BEV batteries.

By 2030, Toyota expects to sell 1.5-1.8 million electrified vehicles in the U.S. and increase their share in sales to nearly 70%.

Toyota bZ4X FAQs

What is the Toyota bZ4X release date?

Toyota plans to begin sales of the bZ4X in the U.S. in the Spring of 2022.

What will be the Toyota bZ4X price in the U.S.?

The base bZ4X variant could cost well above USD 40,000.

Which EVs will be the Toyota bZ4X rivals?

The bZ4X will compete with the VW ID.4, Nissan Ariya and the Ford Mustang Mach-E in the United States.

Featured Image Source: Toyota