First the name. The RZ is positioned below the "RX" and judging by the letter "Z", the RZ should be at the top of the pecking order. However, with Lexus, it is not the order of the letters that matters, but the meaning. The "R" stands for "radiant" or "energetic". The "Z" refers to both "zero emission" and the Z-axis in mathematics that gives an extra dimension.
And that extra dimension is what the RZ is all about! This is because the RZ is on a platform developed exclusively for electric cars. So there is no petrol or diesel-powered version. This unique platform gave the designers the freedom that a shared platform does not offer. This is why the RZ is much more dynamic and streamlined than Lexus' other SUVs. Note its low nose with the distinctive lines previously found only in the grille of a Lexus.
Very special are the two small spoilers on the tailgate. These would nullify vortices of the air next to the car, making it more stable in a straight line.
Thereby, the "e-TGNA" (electric Toyota Global New Architecture) platform provides plenty of interior space, combined with extra rigidity (for safety and good handling). For example, the battery is not only embedded in the floor, but is even part of the load-bearing structure. It doesn't get any sturdier!
Thanks to this platform, the interior space is outstanding. Despite its tall build, the seat is unusually low for an SUV, as if it were a coupé! In absolute terms, space in the front is fine. Rear space is not only good, but even better than that of the larger RX! In short: with the seating alone, the RZ manages to stand out!
As befits a "premium brand", the cabin is made of high-quality materials. These now consist partly of recycled raw materials to reduce the environmental impact already during production. Therefore, the look is a little less warm and opulent than usual with Lexus.
Like many other cars, the RZ can also vary the colour of the interior lighting. New is the ability to display patterns on the door panel, which gives the same warm shadows on the ground as under the canopy of a forest. It's all very subtle, but immediately stood out in a positive way during the test drive.
Also new is the heating. To save power, the RZ is fitted with a "heating panel". According to Lexus, this consumes 70 watts for the driver and 170 watts for the passenger, compared to 5,000 watts for a conventional heater. During the test, this heater was also received as more natural because no hot air is blown into the interior, but the occupants simply warm up.
Electric car: performance and range
The RZ comes standard with a battery with a capacity of 71 kWh. Depending on the wheel size, this gives a range of around 400 km. The RZ does not break any records with its maximum charging speed either, but that was not the intention. Lexus has sought a balance between weight, range, performance and price, and the chosen combination is a successful one as far as Autozine is concerned.
Each RZ is equipped with a so-called "e-Axle". This offers variable distribution of drive forces to all four wheels, depending on the conditions, the requested power and steering angle. However, this is not unique and the main difference with the competition is that Lexus gives it a fancy name.
With the two engines, the RZ is good for 313 hp / 435 Nm. Lexus has chosen to harness this power for thrills, as the RZ is eager, builds up power at lightning speed, making it excitingly quick. The difference between the various driving modes (selectable only via the central display) is slight, as even in eco mode the RZ is viciously fast!
In deceleration, the RZ excels less. In braking, one can clearly feel that the RZ is big and heavy. With levers behind the steering wheel, you can choose in steps how much the RZ reduces speed when releasing the accelerator. Even in the heaviest setting (maximum energy recovery), the RZ decelerates significantly less than other electric cars. Therefore, it cannot be driven with one pedal and that is a missed opportunity.
Steering with a yoke: One Motion Grip
The standard RZ on standard rims (18-inch) offers an unfortunate combination of firm suspension and long suspension travel, which causes the bodywork to dive under braking and lean over in corners. Still, bad road surfaces are clearly felt in the cabin. Lexus wants to offer extra comfort by maximising the distance between driver and technology. However, this leaves the driver constantly having to wait and see how the car will respond to a command, which gives a lack of confidence.
The advice is therefore to wait until 2025. For this test, a prototype of the RZ equipped with "One Motion Grip" was also driven. Then the RZ has a control stick or "yoke" like an aircraft. Here, the dashboard is also modified, as the first advantage of a control stick is that the clocks can easily be placed on top of the steering column and are easier to read.
This feels "naked" at first, as the usual barrier of the steering wheel rim and clocks between the driver and the outside world has been removed. Steering with half a steering wheel takes some minutes to get used to and in that time it becomes clear what added value Lexus offers with this.
Though the yoke is just a gimmick. What makes the RZ with "One Motion Grip" different is the fact that the steering angle varies with speed (directly at low speed, indirectly at high speed). Variable steering angle would be impossible with a fixed connection between the steering wheel and the wheels. If a corner is not turned in and out at exactly the same speed, the steering wheel would never return to the centre position. All-electronic steering solves that problem.
And the results are amazing! On the motorway, the steering is heavy and indirect, making it less tiring to drive straight for long periods. In town, on the contrary, the steering is very direct, giving a superior feel. On a roundabout, for instance, half a turn (150 degrees) is enough to steer around. The "wobble" of the conventional RZ is completely alien to the prototype with One Motion Grip (and 20-inch rims), which actually makes the car feel distinctly confident. With One Motion Grip, the RZ is unprecedentedly agile and with it Lexus is setting new standards.
How does the Lexus RZ manage to distinguish itself from electric cars from everyday brands? It starts with modesty. Lexus doesn't go for impressive numbers, but has struck a fine balance between range, weight, price and performance.
With new technology, Lexus then aims to offer more refinement than usual in electric cars. For example, the way power is built up and distributed between the front and rear wheels should provide more peace of mind and a more confident feel. All-electric steering, together with a camera that "reads" the road, can predict driver behaviour. How effective this is depends on the options chosen. On small rims and with conventional steering, the RZ gives an uncertain feeling. Instead, with One Motion Grip, the RZ offers a hitherto unprecedented combination of comfort and dynamics.
Finally, the RZ stands out with the typical Lexus approach. The design combines organic shapes with high-tech elements. The interior is inviting and, thanks to its construction on a platform made for electric cars, very spacious. A warm welcome comes literally and figuratively from the new and efficient heating system. In short: this luxury Japanese car not only manages to stand out from other electric verhcile, it steers the Lexus brand straight ahead!
- Distinctive design
- Innovative, unique technology
- Very spacious, also in the rear
- Noticeably heavy when braking
- One Motion Grip only from 2025 onwards
- Driving noise increases sharply from 120 km/h