Lexus RZ review: a refined but imperfect electric SUV
Refined, good to drive and with a plush interior, the Lexus RZ is a welcome addition to the electric SUV class
The Lexus RZ is a much-improved follow-up to the Japanese brand’s disappointing first electric car offering, the Lexus UX 300e. Based on a shared platform with Subaru and Toyota, the RZ is a premium offering priced above the Tesla Model Y and in line with the Audi Q8 e-tron and BMW iX3.
It doesn’t quite have the performance or range to beat the Model Y, nor can it charge as quickly. However, the RZ is a refined EV for those not looking to tackle long trips regularly, who want a well-made, well-finished interior, and value an industry-leading warranty package.
Our choice: Lexus RZ 450e Premium Plus Pack
About the Lexus RZ
Can you reinvent the steering wheel? That’s what the Lexus RZ is looking to do with its yoke steering wheel option to match the one offered by rival Tesla. It’s there to show that the Japanese brand can do anything the upstart American EV brand can do, including making a fully-fledged all-electric SUV.
Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota, and it’s no stranger to the world of batteries and electric motors, having spent decades sticking hybrid technology into its luxury vehicles to improve efficiency. The all-electric Lexus RZ is the premium take on the Subaru Solterra and Toyota bZ4X, both of which the RZ shares many underlying components with. These components include the same 309bhp dual-motor four-wheel drive set-up and 71.4kWh (64kWh useable) battery pack.
Car group tests
But the RZ benefits from having a better-finished interior that follows the brand’s hallmark of offering Toyota quality and dependability, with a material richness that wouldn’t look out of place in cars from traditionally aspirational German brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes. The RZ’s £64,500 to £74,000 price tag puts it in the realm of the Audi Q8 e-tron, BMW iX3, Mercedes EQC, Jaguar I-Pace the Tesla Model Y.
To tempt buyers away from such rivals, even the entry-level Premium Pack model comes stacked with toys, including a 14-inch touchscreen (with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto connectivity), full keyless go, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, wireless phone charging, a reversing camera with all-round parking sensors, a panoramic roof, a powered tailgate, dual-zone climate control, and lots of safety and driver-assistance tech.
Head further up the range to the Premium Plus Pack for ventilated front seats, driver memory, and a 360-degree camera system. Upgrading to Bi-Tone gives you a two-tone paint scheme while the range-topping Takumi trim level has fancier adaptive suspension, a self-parking system and multi-coloured ambient interior lighting.
For an alternative review of the Lexus RZ, visit our sister site drivingelectric.com
Electric motor, drive and performance
Spend a bit of time in the Lexus RZ and you’ll find it to be a highly refined electric car whether you’re pottering around town or cruising along at motorway speeds, plus it soaks up the worst impacts from bumps well when fitted with its smallest 18-inch wheels (the bigger 20-inch rims can transmit a little fidget into the interior). That doesn’t make it feel soft because the suspension is still taut enough to prevent the RZ from wallowing over undulations when travelling along a B road.
We’re yet to try the ‘One Motion Grip’ steering system (it replaces a regular round steering wheel with a yoke-style controller of the kind you’d usually find attached to a flight simulator), but the standard wheel is enjoyable to use with a good build-up in weight as you turn into a bend, so we doubt you’ll need the former. Backing this steering up is plenty of grip, which gives you the confidence to carry some speed into a corner.
Now, you’ll be aware of this car’s hefty 2,055kg kerb weight through quick direction changes, but given that most of that mass is located low down in the vehicle (the weighty battery pack is under the floor), there’s enough stability for the RZ to feel solid and reassuring.
You get plenty of power to counteract the RZ’s portliness, and the added traction benefit of four-wheel drive means it sets off the line smartly with very little fuss. There are faster electric cars out there, but the RZ still feels more than quick enough because, compared with a regular petrol or diesel car, there’s no lag between when you put your foot down and the car accelerating away.
The brakes are easy to modulate at low speeds, and we like the ability to choose the level of brake regeneration on the fly, thanks to paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
As we’ve already mentioned, the RZ uses the same dual-motor set-up as the Subaru Solterra and Toyota bZ4X siblings, combining a 201bhp front motor with a 107bhp unit at the rear, which is enough for a total of 309bhp and 435Nm of torque. That allows it to go from 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds. True, a Long Range Tesla Model Y is even faster, but the RZ is fast enough to beat most things away from the lights.
Range, charging and running costs
Just like the Subaru Soltera and Toyota bZ4X upon which the Lexus RZ is based, the 450e comes with 71.4kWh (useable) battery, which is also where some of the car’s problems begin. Lexus claims up to 271 miles of range on a full charge – a decent figure, but hardly class-leading against other four-wheel-drive equipped EVs of this size.
That includes things like the 298-mile Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 314-mile Kia EV6, let alone the cheaper Tesla Model Y Long Range. Not only is the Tesla faster, as we mentioned in the previous section, but it also has an official range of 331 miles.
Overall range is important, but so too is efficiency. On that front, the RZ could really do with taking some lessons from Hyundai, Kia and Tesla. In mixed driving over various types of roads on a mild 15-degree day, the RZ we tested achieved a disappointing 2.3 miles per kilowatt hour.
You’ll struggle to get more than 164 miles between charges at that rating – significantly less than the official range. Motorway miles seemed to harm it the most; at 70mph, even 2.0mi/kWh was only just achievable.
With 150kW charging, Lexus says it should take around 30 minutes to reach 80 per cent capacity from empty – a fairly standard figure that matches BMW’s iX3. However, on a range of rapid chargers, we rarely saw anywhere near that figure, and above 80 per cent, the charge tailed off far more dramatically than we see in other rivals – including the Tesla.
There isn’t much difference in insurance groups since every RZ has the same power output. It starts at group 44 for the entry-level premium, rising to 45 for the range-topping Takumi.
That’s better than the group 48 rating of a Long Range Tesla Model Y, although, with that car’s extra performance, this is hardly surprising.
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Resale values of the RZ, according to our data, look to be on a par with rivals such as the Long Range Model Y, with the best-performing model being the entry-level Premium Pack at 58 per cent over a typical ownership period of three years and 36,000 miles.
That’s good by class standards, but if you want an EV for a similar price with even better residual values and can live without the four-wheel drive, look at the Volkswagen ID. Buzz, because that looks set to retain 67 per cent of its original value.
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Interior, design & technology
There are six exterior shades to choose from. The complimentary colours are black, or a rather smart-looking Aether Blue – although the fetching Sonic Copper is a mere £250 extra. You can pick between three interior colours: black, grey, or hazel. This choice of interior colours is a step up from the Subaru Soltera and Toyota bZ4X upon which the RZ is based, because both are only available in a gloomy black hue.
The dash design doesn’t quite have the wow factor of the latest Lexus NX or Lexus RX hybrid SUVs. However, it improves upon the usability of the Solterra and bZ4X because its more conventional layout allows you to look through the wheel, rather than above it, to see the driver’s instrument cluster. The RZ also retains physical dials for temperature and stereo volume controls that are easy to use while on the move.
You can’t fault the material quality in the RZ because all the surfaces you regularly look at and touch are soft. The digital dash could be a little more sophisticated because it doesn’t have the customisation of the Virtual Cockpit found in the Audi Q8 e-tron, and it makes the head-up display from the Premium Plus Pack version worth having. Going for that version also adds the natty infrared heaters behind the lower portion of the dash in front of the driver and front passenger knees. It’s a low-energy consumption alternative to cranking up the heating on a cold day, and it feels like putting a blanket over your legs.
Practicality, comfort & boot space
On the positive side, you’ll find the front seats of the Lexus RZ to be wonderfully comfortable and supportive thanks to standard electric adjustment, including driver’s lumbar support. You sit high enough to give you the impression you’re driving an SUV, and there’s enough head, leg and shoulder room for a pair of six-footers up front.
The downside is that cubby spaces in the front are merely okay, though. The clever central bin is hinged on both sides, so either front occupant can get inside easily, and there’s a large shelf below the main part of the centre console. However, the door bins are fairly shallow, and there’s no glovebox to store odds and ends.
Visibility out of the front and side is decent, but we wish the rear screen had a wiper like the BMW iX3 to clear it when it is dirty. Standard LED headlights with auto high beam assistance should make driving at night easier. The range-topping Takumi adds fancier adaptive LED headlights that manipulate the main beam pattern to avoid dazzling approaching cars at night. All models come with front and rear parking sensors, plus a reversing camera to help when parking, while the Premium Plus Pack upgrades this to a 360-degree camera system.
The RZ is 1,635mm tall, 4,805mm long, and 1,895mm wide, making it a little longer and taller than a Tesla Model Y, but not quite as wide.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
One area where the Lexus RZ truly excels is rear knee room. Even with the driver’s seat as far back as possible, there’s still plenty of space for passengers over six feet tall to stretch out. Comfort levels are spoiled slightly by the fact that there’s no space beneath those front seats for feet, unlike in the Tesla Model Y. The floor is flat across the breadth of the cabin, so the middle passenger won’t have to straddle a central tunnel. They may struggle for headroom due to the central seat being set quite high, though.
All this knee room should mean plenty of room for a child seat in the back using the two ISOFIX points on the outer positions.
Most people will find that the RZ provides enough space for their needs. The reasonably wide opening and lack of loading lip allow you to load items in the boot easily.
Some clever packaging decisions (such as moving the sound system’s subwoofer into the boot door) have resulted in a generous 522 litres of cargo carrying capacity – more than a Genesis GV60 or Nissan Ariya.
There’s a well below the boot floor to give you enough space to store the charging cables securely, or if you need more space, the rear seat back folds down almost flat to take the total volume to 1,451 litres. However, a Tesla Model Y has an even deeper underfloor storage area, plus the benefit of even more storage under the bonnet, making it the more practical option.
The low 750kg maximum braked towing limit of the RZ means that any EV driver wishing to tow a decent-sized caravan will need to consider the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, or four-wheel drive Nissan Ariya because all pull greater weights.
Reliability & safety
Safety experts Euro NCAP are yet to put the Lexus RZ through a crash test, but they have tested the very similar Toyota bZ4X upon which the RZ is based, so we anticipate this Lexus will score an identical five-star rating as that car. That should mean it’ll outperform the Nissan Ariya in adult protection and safety assistance tech, but it’ll likely fall short in all disciplines compared with the Tesla Model Y.
Every version of RZ has lots of standard safety tech, including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assistance, front and rear cross-traffic alert (it warns you of vehicles that’ll cross your path), and traffic sign recognition. Like the Subaru Soltera and bZ4X, the RZ has a driver monitor system to ensure you’re paying attention to the road. If it thinks you are falling asleep or your attention wanders, it’ll ping up a warning.
Lexus builds some of the best interiors in the business, and the quality of the RZ certainly feels right up to the standards we’ve come to expect from the brand.
While this is a new car for Lexus (and, as such, isn’t in the latest Driver Power survey), we expect reliability to live up to the brand’s usual heights. Lexus as a brand usually scores well, as the eighth place finish out of 32 best car manufacturers in this year’s survey will attest.
Like a Toyota, the Lexus RZ has a standard manufacturer’s warranty of three years/60,000 miles, which seems rather stingy next to the five-year/100,000 miles policy provided by Hyundai, or the Kia warranty of seven years/100,000 miles. However, you can extend this up to 10 years/100,000 miles if your Lexus is serviced annually at a franchised dealer.
The battery warranty of eight years/100,000 can be extended to ten years or 600,000 miles, which is unmatched in the EV world. Three years’ roadside assistance is also included in this generous package.
The servicing schedule for the Lexus RZ is relatively short for an electric car. You need to book it for a check-up annually or every 10,000 miles, whereas many rivals – including the Kia EV6 – only require servicing bi-annually.
The upside is that you can preserve the ten-year warranty mentioned in the previous selection if you stick to this service regime.
Lexus RZ 450e Takumi long-term test
Our creative director, Darren Wilson, has been living with the Lexus RZ 450e Takumi as part of our long-term test fleet. Although the price of this range-topper is rather steep at £74,000, Darren feels that the RZ’s quality definitely reflects the price.
This all-electric luxury SUV has fared well in wintery conditions, too, with the real-world battery range only decreasing by 19 miles down from the 205 miles that Darren achieved in much fairer and warmer weather. It’s important to note, though, that this was still 66 miles below the RZ’s WLTP combined range.