Lexus has released pricing for its RZ 450e electric crossover, and doesn’t seem brilliant for what you get. The base Premium AWD model costs $59,650 including a $1,150 freight charge, the uplevel trim costs $65,150 including freight, and the RZ maxes out at 220 miles of range.
Spring for a model with 20-inch wheels, and that latter figure drops to an estimated 196 miles. Yeah, that’s more money than a Lexus RX crossover (those start at $48,550) for less range than you get from a cheap and cheerful Chevrolet Bolt. It also doesn’t help that while the rest of Lexus has taken pains to do its own thing in recent years, the RZ is very much just a dressed-up Toyota bZ4X/Subaru Solterra.
Range alone should leave the RZ 450e dead in the water, yet I have a feeling that it’s not hugely important if it’s competitive against other EVs. The RZ 450e seems to have its own specialized mission, one that it has a chance of doing alright with.
Do you know any Lexus owners that have owned more than one Lexus? If you can think of one or two people in your life who fit that description, there’s a very real reason for that. Over the past few years, Lexus has enjoyed incredible brand loyalty. A 2021 JD Power survey found that Lexus had the highest brand loyalty of premium car brands at an impressive 51.6 percent. While JD Power did things a little bit differently for 2022 by splitting off cars from light trucks, Lexus ranked second in premium SUV brand loyalty at 56.4 percent.
What this effectively means is that a good chunk of Lexus drivers own more than one Lexus, and why wouldn’t they? Between incredible build quality and a legendary reputation for customer service, Lexus is the go-to brand for luxury cars that actually work.
For most people, cars that work are fairly important. (Editor’s note: This feels like a personal attack? – PG, MH, DT, JT, basically everyone here)
What’s more, more than two million Lexus customers around the globe have already bought electrified models, according to a Lexus press release, which in this case means hybrid models. These customers could drive an older RX 400h or a two-year-old NX 300h, but they have a certain degree of familiarity with electrification. From puttering about suburban neighborhoods in virtual silence to enjoying savings at the pumps, these customers have dipped their toes into the pool of electrification and many have probably liked the warmth of the water.
So, let’s put all this together by envisioning a Lexus household that has two Lexus models, one newer and one older, at least one of which is a hybrid. It’s not that hard to picture because these households really do exist. Maybe they’re looking at handing down their older Lexus to their children or maybe they want modern conveniences like Apple CarPlay, but for one reason or another, they’re looking to replace their older Lexus. Where will they go? Probably to the Lexus dealership.
Once they get to the Lexus dealership, they’ll find the RZ 450e. It’s a practical crossover that can be plugged in at home and run on pennies of electricity a day. The range might not be great and it might not qualify for government rebates, but this household always has a gas-burning Lexus for longer trips and the RZ 450e is a Lexus.
Even if you’re not a car enthusiast, it’s hard to ignore that car buying isn’t rational, and we’re talking about customers who bought a car that used a mouse or trackpad to control its infotainment and then bought another one with the same interface. If that doesn’t scream loyalty in the face of faults, I don’t know what does.
The Lexus RZ 450e is a conquest vehicle, but not one that seeks to draw buyers from other brands. Its purpose is to bring Lexus loyalists into the EV fold. As long as it’s reliable, it should do just fine. From rich materials to shared family switchgear, the RZ 450e melds the next big thing with the familiar in a package designed to appeal to some of the motoring world’s most conservative patrons. Don’t be surprised if it’s successful in its own way.
(Photo credits: Lexus)
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