Lexus RZ 450e Luxury

A terrific new Lexus SUV
— if it just wasn't an EV

By Jim Prueter

(July 2, 2023) Lexus has been in the gas-electric hybrid business for almost two decades and now for 2023 the first pure-electric vehicle the RX has arrived. It's built on the same platform as the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra twins introduced last year, and the my eye they look quite similar, that is until a good look at the window sticker where the Lexus is a near $20,000 bumping price.

Other than the upmarket Lexus' luxury appointments and accouterments, a hefty amount of up charge comes with the dual-motor configuration that's standard on the RZ

The dual motor configuration consists of a permanent-magnet synchronous AC 201-horsepower front motor, and a 107-horsepower rear motor for a combined 308 horsepower. Lexus says the RZ will scramble from 0-to-60 mph in 5.0 seconds, and an EPA-estimated driving range of up to 220 miles when equipped with 18-inch wheels. The range drops to 196 miles with utilizing 20-inch wheels.

This driving range is disappointingly short especially for a first effort from a luxury car brand and well behind driving range from key competitors such as the Tesla Model Y, Genesis GV60 and Audi Q4 E-Tron.

What's worse is that our test RZ 450e Luxury model with the 20" wheels didn't get anywhere near 196 miles of range. On a full charge we drove just 128 miles before needing a recharge when we were down to just 12% of battery life remaining. We did all of our driving in Arizona summer heat where the outside temperature reached a high of 109-degrees requiring non-stop air conditioning.

I suspect that may have been the culprit working against the driving range. Also know, these drive range numbers are with the car in Normal drive mode. There's also Sport, Eco and Range modes with the latter two extending the range. However, when using Range it disables the air conditioner, changes the steering effort and accelerator mapping.

Along with the disappointing driving range, we recharged twice during our weeklong testing at an Electrify America public charging station using their Peak DC Fast-Charge rate of 150 kW. The recharge from 12% to 89% took an hour and 48 minutes. Dreadfully slow considering the on-screen estimate on the instrument panel indicated just 139-miles remaining. We paid $26.40 for what amounts to about 110 miles of additional range. That just isn't going to cut it when compared to competitor vehicles in this class.

We also found the driver-attention monitor that rang out an audible warning if we took our eyes off the road for what seemed even the briefest amount of time when checking for cross traffic or reading a roadside sign. An excess speed caution warning was also annoying that emits an audible triple-ping should you exceed the posted speed limit. Thankfully both of these can be switched off, however it defaults to the "on" position with each restart, and it's a multi-step process.

But, there is lots to like about the RZ beginning with the fact it's "all Lexus," meaning visually the car is unmistakably Lexus except for the fact the "love-it-or-hate-it" Lexus "spindle" is absent, in favor of a body colored panel that does little to make it an attractive front end. Our RZ did include the optional illuminated Lexus logo ($200) in the middle of the panel for a modicum of bling. For the most part, we thought the RZ was an attractive design that mimicked the looks of the Lexus RX but a bit more subtle. The rear of the vehicle is especially attractive with chiseled features that worked quite well.

Inside, the cabin takes on a somewhat minimalism look but in a classy way. Leather seating is not offered, rather it's upholstered in faux NuLuxe synthetic leather in the RX Premium while our top-shelf Luxury trim tester gets a classy looking Ultrasuede. There's radiant heating under the dash for warming occupants legs and feet in cold weather that's standard on the Luxury. There isn't a glovebox however a large open bin/tray under the center console serves duty for owners manuals, paperwork, and miscellaneous items.

The RZ offers three interior color options, our RZ came in a gorgeous Ether exterior color (metallic blue-silver) with thunderstorm and macadamia Ultrasuede interior color with charcoal trim. There's ambient illumination - a gentle indirect cabin lighting that compliments the interior with a thematic multi-color that's standard on our Luxury, optional on Premium, that gives users a choice of 50 colors and 14 themes.

 A dual-pane panoramic sunroof is standard on all models, while our Luxury came with the optional Dynamic Sky version ($550) that electronically dims the glass that goes from transparent to opaque. A sliding sun shade is eliminated with the Dynamic Sky option.There's a dial shifter for both trim levels along with digital instrumentation and a 14-inch touchscreen that operates most climate control functions, including a touch slider for the fan speed. We were pleased to see a volume knob and some operating control buttons on the center dash and console.

What didn't change with the new RZ is how the car drives — just like a Lexus and that's a good thing. The ride and drive is incredibly smooth and quiet with a cosseting interior that takes on more of an Armani look and style rather than a sequined, glitzy bling True Religion look and feel. We sense our Luxury's 20" wheels  transmitted more road imperfections and harshness than the Premium's standard 18s but it wasn't annoying. As with some competitors the RZ doesn't come with one-pedal driving but there is a degree of coasting regeneration selectable via the steering-wheel paddles.

Overall, it's apparent Lexus has put a significant amount of effort into the brand's first pure EV product but we'd be remiss if we didn't emphasize our disappointment with both the trifling driving range and the prolonged recharging time. On the positive side, there's much to like about the RZ and would score notable kudos from us if it a plug-in hybrid or hybrid rather than an EV. Hopefully Lexus will correct those things we find objectionable in their next go at an EV.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $65,150
Price as Tested: $67,090
Powertrain: 71.4 kWh Battery powered, 308 combined horsepower dual electric motor with an EPA-estimated 196-mile driving range, all-wheel drive with a single direct-drive transmission
EPA  Fuel Economy: 95/102/87 MPGe Combined/City/Highway
Seating: 5
Where Built: Aichi, Japan

Competes With:
Audi Q4 e-tron
Cadillac Lyric
Genesis GV60
Jaguar I-Pace
Mercedes EQB
Tesla Model Y
Volvo XC40 Recharge

Armani-like interior
Loaded with advanced driver assist features
Drives and rides like a Lexus

Competitors have better driving range and recharging speed
Annoying excess speed alert and driver distraction chirping
RZ doesn't qualify for $7,500 Federal Tax Credit