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13 Mar 2023

What We Dislike
It doesn't come with soft-door closing despite being a premium electric SUV

The Lexus RZ450e is an all-electric premium SUV that impresses on all fronts.

In a bid to contribute to the realisation of a carbon-neutral society by offering a full lineup of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in all categories by 2030, Lexus has expanded its portfolio by unveiling its very first globally available battery electric vehicle - the Lexus RZ.

This car that you see here on this page is essentially the full-electric version of the ever-popular Lexus RX SUV, a model that was first launched back in 1998. More relevantly, the Lexus RZ was showcased at the recently concluded 2023 Singapore Motor Show, which is rather timely, since the luxury Japanese carmaker aims to sell only BEVs globally by 2035.

Wait, it's only 2023!

The Lexus RZ450e is the carmaker's first globally available BEV
While many of you will think that it's far too early to launch a fully-electric vehicle, Lexus would beg to differ. The Japanese luxury carmaker intends to have 30 electric vehicle models by 2030, with a targeted sales of 3.5 million cars. From the Lexus BEV Sport to the Lexus BEV Sedan, Lexus will also go through a transition to become a fully-electric brand with a full lineup of EVs for all segments by then.

But for now, it's the Lexus RZ450e - the carmaker's first model to be developed as a BEV from the onset.

It remains to be pleasurable

The new all-electric Lexus is based on the new e-TNGA platform
For starters, this all-electric SUV retains everything Lexus sets out to be - luxurious, comfortable, spacious and pleasurable to drive. This has largely to do with the fact that the car is based on the new and dedicated e-TNGA electric vehicle platform, which allows the car to possess excellent body rigidity, a low centre of gravity and a long wheelbase for added space at the back.

More decisively, it's also because of this said platform that the car responds according to your intentions. It tackles long and winding roads as well as short and sharp turns with a rather high level of confidence. A moot point, of course, in Singapore, since I suspect very little owners of the Lexus RZ will be man-handling the car the way I did in Marseille, France, but it's always good to know that the car you're driving has the ability to handle the different kind of roads thrown to it.

The RZ450e moves with aplomb and confidence
Needless to say, there is no fighting the forces of physics when you throw the car around with reckless abandon as body roll remains to be naturally inevitable here. The regular steering that was tested is a tad vague as speeds increase, but it never causes you to doubt. It is still accurate and direct, which always helps when you're going from one corner to the next.

The new steer-by-wire steering design that adopts a butterfly-shaped yoke was also tested during my time in Marseille. It's an impressive work of art, this steering. Not only is it accurate and direct, but it's also every bit communicative and natural, allowing you to have a good feel of everything on the tarmac.

Cabin of the RZ, whether it's with the new steering yoke (left) or the regular one, is a beauty
More notably, with this new steering, there is no need to do or move a lot for the car to make directional changes or for you to perform a u-turn. Steering lock to lock is about 150 degrees, give or take, which means there isn't even a need for your hands to cross one another at any point in time and at any given situation.

In that sense, it's very easy to enjoy the drive with the Lexus RZ, more so when you can easily gun the car from one traffic light to another before hitting the highway and leaving the pack behind in the wind - all without having to worry about the range, or lack thereof.

The car is fast, completing the century sprint in just 5.3 seconds flat
With the 71.4kWh battery pack (similar to the Toyota bZ4X) that allows for over 400km of range and a maximum power output of 308bhp (230kW), with torque figures of 266Nm and 168Nm being sent to the front and rear respectively, the 2.6-tonne Lexus RZ450e crosses the 100km/h mark from a standstill in just a scant 5.3 seconds.

And the best part of all is that the Lexus doesn't just dispense the speed in a neck-breaking manner, like how other electric vehicles do. Instead, there's a level of finesse and grandeur to the way it fetches you from point to point that it's hard not to leave a competent impression here.

It remains to be opulent

The Lexus RZ comes with a dimmable panoramic sunroof, which makes the cabin airy and spacious
More than just a competent impression is the cabin of the electric SUV. Instead of trying to be futuristic, the interior of the RZ is one that's familiar yet exceptional. A word like 'exceptional' is used here not just because of the carmaker's known luxury and perfect fit and finish, but rather because of the minimalistic layout that doesn't compromise on ergonomics.

From the new steering yoke design that resembles a Formula One steering wheel to the new 14-inch infotainment touchscreen system that first made its debut on the new Lexus NX, everything in here is made to impress. For instance, run your fingers around the cabin and you won't find anything that's made out of tacky materials nor will you find anything that's out of place. Also, like the Toyota Harrier, the Lexus RZ comes with a dimmable panoramic sunroof, where the glass can transform from nearly clear to a semi-opaque frost at the touch of a button.

522 litres of boot space is readily available for you
Expectedly, the Lexus RZ also comes packed with useable features that make it a whole lot easier to live with in Singapore, such as ventilated seats and rear air-con vents, which do help greatly in cooling the car down on a sunny day. Unfortunately, during my time with the car, I realised the electric SUV does not have soft-closing doors - a feature befitting of a luxury vehicle.

Space wise, you get 522 litres of useable luggage capacity with all seats in place. Knock the rear seats down and the space will increase a couple of notches to 1,451 litres.

It remains to be captivating

From the back, the RZ450e is instantly recognisable as a Lexus
In terms of the car's design, the sheet metal appears to be coherent in this pint-sized writer's eyes. Being an electric vehicle, the RZ gets an angular and sharp frontal fascia, with a covered grille that's unabashedly massive that comes across as three-dimensional. It's certainly expressive, but in a manner that's more matured and modish.

It's a tad simpler at the back, where you'll get the full-width rear light bar housing a new Lexus badge with huge spacing between its characters. It's such a unique yet simple look that there's no way of mistaking this car for something else when you see it on the road.

It remains to be top on our list

Ample space is to be had with the Lexus RZ
I reckon Lexus has created an all electric car that isn't hard to get used to. The transition from the regular Lexus RX SUV to this RZ450e that you see here is genuinely as seamless as it can get. Yes, there is that new steering yoke and a new gear rotary knob but, honestly, everything else remains to be typical Lexus fanfare, which is always a good thing.

So if you're in the market looking for an electric SUV that's good-looking, spacious, luxurious and pleasurable to drive, keep a lookout for this one. It should be ready to go on sale in the next couple of months.

Find out more about the Lexus RZ as we take a leisurely drive through the roads of France here!

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