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Car reviews - Lexus - RZ450e


We like
Quiet, quick, beautifully built, lots of features, Lexus customer benefits
Room for improvement
Pricey, no spare wheel, yesterday’s infotainment system, range could be better

Lexus confirms its EV aspirations with second battery-electric vehicle

25 May 2023



LEXUS has confirmed its EV aspirations with its second battery-electric vehicle, a five-seat SUV enriched with luxury features to tantalise potential buyers and, in a way, preoccupy them with clever infotainment, silent running and baubles that pamper while distracting them from the raw enjoyment of motoring.


Well, not quite... The emergence of EVs brings a new world of quietness and a sense of detachment from the art of motoring. Given the condition of the roads and the suspect actions of many fellow motorists, that is probably a good thing.


Buyers of the Lexus RZ,450e, which follows last year’s release of the smaller UX 300e, will undoubtedly be impressed with the offerings inside the cabin and the ease at which the car glides its occupants to their destination.


Perhaps less so with the $123,000 (plus on-road costs) starting price; although it has loads of features that are helped along by some very attractive ownership experience programs and lots of customer-centric assistance.


Perhaps also, the proof is in the on-road experience.


Driving impressions


So, what is it like to drive?


Actually, it is much like a top-tier SUV but without much of the ambient noise. Quiet? Certainly. Relaxing? Definitely. Enjoyable? Yes; even though purists may criticise the RZ – and indeed most EVs – for their remoteness, even when pushed hard.


For many motorists, it is exactly what they have hankered for.


There is no doubt the RZ’s two electric motors give it plenty of performance appeal. The 0-100km/h dash of 5.3 seconds is impressive and hard to beat by all its internal-combustion engined (ICE) peers.


The fact that this power, all plunging headlong through a sophisticated computerised drive system to each of the four wheels, is wonderfully linear, which makes the whole exercise even more delightful. The way it seamlessly works takes away all the fear, trepidation that some drivers new to EVs may feel.


It drives and reacts differently to any ICE vehicle because the 230kW/435Nm (combined motor power) arrives without lag, without noise and without any fluctuation in delivery.


It is hot from idle right through to the driver’s limits of fear. Even cruising at 50km/h and finding an open road, pressure on the accelerator pedal brings instant oohs and aahs and seamless and immediate transportation towards the speed limit.


The electric range is claimed at 400km, but it is likely to be closer to 350km. Much of that depends on the driving style and road conditions, of course, but the RZ is a lovely ride and it is easy to drain the battery quicker than expected.


It really is hard not to be impressed with any EV but, given a lot of other welcome features including its liberal cabin room, we are especially impressed with the RZ450e.


The handling is unexpectedly confident. Much of this is attributed to the two motors – one at the front, one at the back – that are constantly driving the wheels. No sharing the load here.


Punching the 2100kg (less payload) SUV into corners on county roads works very well with the central computer dishing out power dependent on throttle input and traction limits, among others.


So well do these two motors work in concert that a single-motor version (Lexus says it is not making one but the platform is shared with single-motor versions of the upcoming Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra) may not produce that stable delivery.


There is a lot of weight in the RZ450e, but it is well balanced and goes a long way in helping the SUV have very good ride and comfort qualities. Up against some rutted and uneven country roads in the hills around Adelaide the RZ simply soaked up most, never producing ugly under-chassis thumps and bangs.


Much of that is attributed to extra body rigidity over its siblings (bZ4X and Solterra) and the fact that this is based on a purpose-designed and built EV platform, unlike Lexus’ first EV, the original UX300e.


The front suspension is the MacPherson strut type but wears shock absorbers with frequency reactive dampers that vary the damping force dependent on road input frequency.


Lexus said that the shock’s damping force is set softer in the high-frequency range to improve ride comfort, and firmer in the low-frequency range to aid with handling stability.


The rear-end has trailing arm type double-wishbones, again with tuning for comfort and handling.


The brakes have a pressuring system to improve brake feel and controllability and the pump motor is on an anti-vibration mount to reduce brake noise.


Steering is almost spot on. It sits between the disjointed feel of some Asian rivals, yet is lighter than a Euro SUV. Lexus will bring the yoke steering wheel to market in Australia within 18 months (it has to first pass Australian Design Rules) which could be either a new way to drive or an expensive (it is an option) gimmick.


The RZ’s seats – in ‘vegan’ material which we once broadly termed vinyl – are comfortable, well bolstered and in the Sports Luxury version, come with heating and cooling.


There is room for four adults with good rear seat leg and headroom, with a boot with an accommodating 522 litres (seats up) or 1451 litres (rear seats folded). Much of that is because there is no spare wheel, but there is tyre inflation equipment and membership to a comprehensive roadside assistance program.


Externally the RZ carries on with the ‘spindle grille’ fascia except there is no grille. Instead, the shape is blanked out in body colour and looks, subjectively, a whole lot better than the in-your-face nose of its ICE siblings.


The rest of the design follows the edgy theme with some razor lines that effectively make the SUV look smaller in pictures than it is in the flesh.


Inside it is much the same story – clean, a bit edgy and an interesting mix of media and colours that easily show high quality materials and lots of care in the construction.


A highlight is the panoramic glass roof of the Sports Luxury ($135,000 plus costs) that has a dimming control (turns the glass frosty) and the same variant’s radiant heating for the front passengers that warms the shins and feet. 


There are some other things that let the RZ down and pretty much all of that is centred on the infotainment centre. 


The broad central touchscreen is big and bold but its graphics are not up to rivals such as BMW, amongst others. It also suffers from an element of lag, reflected particularly in the sat-nav which has a sluggish cursor so departed from reality that drivers can – and on test, did – regularly miss a turn.


Everything is on the touch screen save for the HVAC temperature dials. That means finger tapping through tiers of functions to find the goal, often while the fingers are attached to the person who is driving the RZ.


That aside, the Mark Levison audio in the top-spec Sports Luxury is a joyful aural experience that glides beautifully into the quiet ambience of the RZ and certainly confirms that audiophiles will be one of the biggest supporters of EVs.


The RZ gets a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with the battery coming with a 10-year extended warranty. There is also extended capped-price servicing to five years and a cost of $395 per service. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.


This five-year period extends to the service loan car program and includes a pick-up and delivery of the car during service, with a loan car provided and a wash and vacuum before the owner’s car is returned.


There is also five years of 24-hour roadside assistance called DriveCare which includes assistance for fuel and tyre issues. DriveCare even includes a courier service for delivery of urgent small parcels or documents, coverage for metropolitan taxi fares up to $150 and for clothing and personal effects up to $250.


Buy an RZ and owners also get lifestyle benefits such as VIP hotel offers and invitations to exclusive events such as golf days, concerts, and track events.

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