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Long-term tests

Lexus RZ 450e long-term test: high quality at a high price

Final report: we bid farewell to our impressive electric crossover

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict 

We've enjoyed our time with the RZ, and while a proper cold snap would have allowed us to put its real-world range to a sterner test, it won us over with a stellar-quality, comfy cabin and easy cruising.

  • Mileage: 3,400 miles
  • Efficiency: 2.9 miles/kWh

In years gone by, as the nights drew in we would shut the curtains, stick on the heating and get cosy in front of the telly.  These days many of us work out how long we can go without touching the heating, when to switch on the slow cooker, and in my case, how much the change of season might affect our fully-electric Lexus RZ.

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In reality, though, if you can afford a £74k top-of-the-range RZ 450e Takumi, these issues might not concern you much. After all, the RZ is a fine-looking EV, packed with cutting-edge tech and high-quality trim. 

In fact, you can see clever design and upmarket materials throughout the safe and spacious electric SUV. It’s fine to drive too, with a rapid turn of speed if required, but more at home cruising silently along as I dab the accelerator and use the paddle shifts to adjust the regenerative braking to suit my route and preserve range.

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So what effect has the cooler weather had? In terms of the indicated range, not much – although our car hasn’t had to face much snow or frost this year. In simple terms, since October, the overall efficiency has dropped from 3.2kWh to 2.9kWh. So from 205 miles per charge of the car’s 71.4kWh battery to 186 miles – 19 miles less per charge. And I should point out that’s 66 miles below the official 252-mile WLTP combined figure.

The RZ cleverly protects its range by providing heat directly through the seats and steering wheel, and from a small radiator under the dashboard. Best of all, this doesn’t seem to knock down the car’s performance. However, if I stick on the air-con, the predicted range drops instantly.

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Driving alone, I’m fine with this heat, but there is no mini-radiator for Mrs Wilson. So when she comes along, the air-con goes on high. To be fair, we often need the climate control to demist the windscreen anyway, so that has had an effect on efficiency.

Another possible reason for the drop is a change in routes; the last month has seen lots of motorway miles rather than the usual urban runabouts. That seems to sap the car’s range, especially with the air-con turned up. I’ve tried driving at around 56-60mph to preserve range, but it’s really dull, and being overtaken by lorries is slightly humiliating. 

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I’ve only once had anything bordering on range anxiety. I probably had just enough in the battery to get home, but called at my mother’s house. Here I added 20 miles with the (included) three-pin mains charger and enjoyed a rare dinner with her, followed by a pleasant drive home without worry. 

If the RZ gets low on energy, it turns to ‘Range mode’ and switches off any power-sapping heating and so on. It also provides directions to nearby charge stations, although I know that lots (including the nearest to my home) are missing from the list. That sums up my frustration with the sat-nav. It will get you where you want to go with clear signals and instructions, but it’s stubborn and fixed in its route choices, and not especially smart in finding alternatives. 

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On the plus side, the front seats are comfortable, supportive and electrically adjustable. They’re also surprisingly thin, which gives rear passengers lots of room. As in most electric cars, the under-floor battery means passengers’ legs are raised up. So taller people like me sit with their legs bent slightly and there’s no space to slide feet under front seats. But, there’s enough room for it not to be a problem. The rear seats are heated too, with ventilation controls and USB-C charge points. Plus the panoramic roof makes it feel even more spacious.

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I’ve enjoyed my time with the RZ. It’s instantly impressive, but it has taken time for me to get used to the never-ending list of tech and all its beeps and warnings. I’ve learned what to switch off and keep on, but as futuristic as it is, in some ways it’s too clever for me. Anyone living in a busy city will know that on occasion you just need to dart out into a gap. The safety tech on the RZ takes a dim view of this and often brakes for no real reason – auto intelligence over common sense, experience and judgement.

Lexus RZ 450e: second report

Hi-tech features make this one of the safest cars ever – but why are they so noisy?

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  • Mileage: 2,212 miles
  • Efficiency: 3.2 miles/kWh

It’s safety first, second and third with Lexus. After three months behind the wheel of our all-electric RZ long-termer, I still can’t answer the £74,000 question: should I switch the tech on or off?

To be clear, the RZ is probably the safest car I’ve ever driven. It has so many clever features and alerts, you would have to be driving like a fool to cause an accident – or perhaps have switched it all off. There is such an abundance of icons that they don’t even fit on one screen of the 14-inch infotainment system. The RZ has all the usual bells and whistles you might expect on a premium SUV: blind-spot monitor, lane-departure alerts, a pre-collision system and parking assist. 

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Yet there’s a lot more than that within the Lexus Safety Sense+ system. Front cross traffic stops me pulling out at junctions, if I’ve missed an approaching bike or vehicle. Safe-exit assist prevents me opening the door if a car, bicycle or pedestrian is passing. It’s all very clever, and as a lapsed, now-occasional cyclist, I’m a fan.

The rear camera detection does the same at the back, alerting me if people or vehicles are passing behind the Lexus. It’s ideal when leaving supermarket car park spaces.

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The parking-assist sensor helps me avoid other cars while manoeuvring, thanks to a truly futuristic overhead display featuring a ‘transparent’ RZ. The ‘support brake’ tech stops me hitting anything, period. It kicks in with the force of an emergency stop. 

This sounds great, but there are downsides. All these alerts mean navigating tight spaces can be a noisy business, and if the autobrake kicks in, I can get stuck until it unlocks, allowing me to proceed at a snail’s pace. The proactive driver assist puts the RZ in a virtual bubble. It can aid me in gently braking when approaching stationary traffic, but it can also brake quite hard when I’m calmly driving past cars parked at the side of the road. Living in London, this can be frequent and tiresome, because the RZ loses power when coasting and I need to accelerate again. 

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Another gripe is the numerous warnings when I’m stuck in traffic. Getting too close to the vehicle in front elicits a loud noise. If I’m on a multi-lane road and the cars to the side are too close, yes, more warning sounds – and the same is true should I be first in the traffic-light queue with people crossing the road or even walking by. This driving experience is far from peaceful and relaxing.

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Then there is the ever-watchful driver monitor. If I take my eyes off the road to fiddle with the touchscreen or speak with the grandkids in the back, it reprimands me for not looking ahead. It’s right to do so, but in all honesty this can be like driving with a nervous elderly relative. Do this, don’t do that, eyes on the road and check your mirror. All good advice – but on every single journey?

Obviously I can turn all the warnings off for some peace and quiet, although keeping them on, I feel comfortable in the knowledge that my family and I are very safe in this futuristic, expensive car. So with some trial and error, and watching online Lexus videos, I’ve been navigating the infotainment and turning down some volumes and switching off the occasional settings. It should make for more relaxing urban driving. 

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Out of town, the Lexus has been fun. Surprisingly for a car that makes so much noise, it’s virtually silent inside even at speed. Sport mode is quite rapid, and I’ve enjoyed driving back and forth on a regular 80-mile round trip to see my mother. The handling and suspension are great. I do get some sway when I drive over speed bumps or large potholes, but nothing major.

Most of my mileage to date has been urban ‘dad taxi’ lifts with my adult children and grandchildren. We travel at a gentle pace, and I switch to the paddleshifters on the steering column, which can reduce the level of regenerative braking. That way I can accelerate then coast along without the car slowing. I’m currently getting efficiency of 3.2 miles/kWh, which translates to 228 miles per charge of the 71.4kWh battery.

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That’s below the Lexus’ claimed 252 miles, but the car is delivering what it says it will once charged up. Most of that top-up is done at home, often overnight through a home wallbox. I have the benefit of living on a narrow road where on-street parking is both legal and required, making charging simple despite my lack of driveway. I’ve planned a couple of long trips in October, so I’ll be able to report back on fast-charger timings and the RZ’s efficiency over motorway mileage – as well as the cold-weather range drop-off.

Lexus RZ 450e: first report

We’re ready for lift-off as we take delivery of a luxury electric SUV with, quite literally, all the bells and whistles

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  • Mileage: 512 miles
  • Efficiency: 3.2 miles/kWh

A little bit of Lexus luxury has landed in south London and been promptly renamed ‘the rocket car’ by my grandson Zachary. It hasn’t come from outer space, but the new, all-electric RZ certainly possesses futuristic looks, sounds and tech touches that I might not have thought were possible in a car just a decade ago.

The Lexus rolled up last month on the same day that I waved goodbye to the excellent Citroen C5 X. The spec sheet was accessible via a QR code on the keyfob and I was gobsmacked to see the price tag. At £74,000, our new RZ is more than twice the price of the £34k Citroen

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As far as first impressions go, it didn’t disappoint. One press of the power button and the RZ moves the electric front seat forward and the steering wheel out to meet you. A neat trick, which always impresses passengers – but after some time with the car, I’m smitten, too.

Zack and his baby sister, Hope, are transfixed by the big 14-inch touchscreen display that welcomes us to the RZ when
it’s powered on, with a swirl of lines that become the Lexus logo before disappearing again. And we all love showing off the sunroof, which goes from an opaque white to transparent and back again at the touch of a button; you just can’t help doing it a few times. It’s the kind of glass you see fitted to million-pound houses on Channel 4’s Grand Designs.

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The whole interior has a luxurious feel. At first glance, the air-con control dials stand out. They have a beautifully subtle illuminated colour fade (cool to warm) inside black, textured knobs, making adjustment simple. They match the textured chrome drive selector, and at night the insides of the doors light up with a subtle display that appears to mimic the pattern.

I’m a massive music fan, so the absolutely fantastic Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system is getting plenty of use. There is also a button on the dash for the 360-degree camera, which gives a view of where the RZ is parked in relation to kerbs, trees, cars and people before setting off. It kicks in for an overhead and semi-transparent view of the car when parking. It’s all very clever.

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It’s not just the inside that impresses. The RZ has genuine head-turning looks, attracting glances so frequently that I
am becoming accustomed to people’s reactions. Pedestrians usually double-take. First they look at the car, then they look at the nose for a badge to confirm the manufacturer. Finally they look at me, wondering who drives a car like this!

I’ve had waves, thumbs up and, I kid you not, someone has even danced for me. So I’d say job done to the Lexus design team. The bold Sonic Copper body colour and black wheelarch mouldings help, as does the sharp, shark nose front with yet more textured and black body panels.

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Most of the 500 miles that I’ve covered so far have been urban dad-taxi runs to date. I haven’t done too many longer journeys yet.

But on the occasions that I have been out on motorways, the RZ has proven plenty of fun. The swift acceleration is another reason to justify the ‘rocket car’ tag, with the RZ’s dual motor set-up delivering 309bhp and 435Nm of torque. It’s effortless, which means nipping out of side streets around my south London home is about as easy as any car I’ve driven around this busy area. Refinement is superb, too.

It’s not all great, though. I mentioned the substantially cheaper Citroen C5 X, and in a few key places it ticks boxes that the Lexus doesn’t. For example, the RZ doesn’t appear to lock itself when you walk away. I have to press the fob and sometimes it locks silently, but other times it gives off several loud beeps, which I’m sure my neighbours love.

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There are also no quick-release buttons to drop the rear seats from the 522-litre boot. And the RZ’s big sat-nav display shows roads as very narrow, spindly lines; there’s no indication of real-time traffic hotspots on the map, either. As someone who has to negotiate the congested streets of the capital on a daily basis, that’s a real frustration.

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The other elephant in the room is range. The RZ was delivered with a modest 186 miles left until empty, but I was a bit shocked and disappointed to see the charge indicator at 85 per cent. The best I’ve managed to get into it is 230 miles on a full overnight charge from my home wallbox. The official claim is 252 miles, but let’s be honest, it’s summer and it’s warm, so I doubt it will get much better. As with all EVs, if I use the air-con that range instantly drops, in this case to below 200 miles from a full battery.

One other issue is the infuriating amount of noise the RZ makes via an array of safety alerts. I’ve had this to a lesser degree on other cars. It’s almost like I’m asking for trouble by switching the systems off. I have a suspicion that some might have to go. Watch this space!

Model:Lexus RZ 450e Takumi
On fleet since:July 2023
Price new:£74,000
Powertrain:71.4kWh battery, 2x e-motors, 309bhp
Options:Sonic Copper metallic paint (£250)
Insurance*:Group: 45 Quote: £969
MIleage:3,400 miles
Range:230 miles (as tested)
Efficiency:2.9 miles/kWh (as tested)
Charge time:10-80% 30 mins (150kW)
Any problems?None so far

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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Creative director

As Creative director, Darren predominantly looks after the Auto Express magazine; whilst consulting for LRM, Evo and Enzo. He manages everything from photography briefs to layout and logo design. Darren has worked in the motoring industry for over 25 years and loves it.  e-mail: darren_wilson@dennis.co.uk

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