Home » The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e Is A Fine Electric Lexus, But It’s Not Groundbreaking. And That’s The Point

The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e Is A Fine Electric Lexus, But It’s Not Groundbreaking. And That’s The Point

New Project
ADVERTISEMENT

Let’s conduct a little role-playing exercise. Pretend you’re a hardcore Lexus stan (yes, they do exist). For the past few years, it’s only been Lexus for you and nothing else; maybe you had some bad experiences however many years ago with unreliable BMWs or Audis. Since then, you won’t settle for anything less than Lexus’ level of bulletproof quality, excellent customer service and what some consider the only consistently good dealer networks in the business.

But now you’re curious about all these electric vehicles you’re starting to see everywhere. Range and performance are a little less important to you than all the stuff I just described. And besides, you care about the environment, and also: Who actually likes paying for gasoline, anyway? At the same time, you aren’t sold on the gimmick-y nature of many modern EVs, and you also want a driving experience that’s not far off the RX crossovers your family has been leasing for years now.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

If this scenario is even close to true for you, you’re one of the approximately 4,900 people in America for whom the brand is aiming the new 2023 Lexus RZ 450e this year. This EV represents just about everything Lexus’ diehard customer-base loves about the brand, with batteries instead of an engine. But it is not groundbreaking or even deeply competitive in the growing EV arms race. Parent company Toyota treated battery EVs with skepticism and, in some ways worked against them behind the scenes for years, so the RZ feels like an attempt to catch up in class after not doing the reading or finishing the homework. 

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Group 001
Photo: Lexus

In the increasingly high-spec EV space, the RZ feels more like a niche offering for Lexus’ most loyal and electro-curious customers, not anyone cross-shopping for a Tesla or a Polestar. Even a few special touches like a drive-by-wire steering system and yoke—we’ll get to that later, trust me—probably won’t change that. Even that 4,900 sales figure say a lot — for context, Lexus sold about 100,000 RX crossovers in the U.S. last year and Tesla sold a staggering 252,000 Model Ys. This is not going to be some major volume player in the EV world.

But Lexus has said its future is all-electric and will be that way by 2030. While the RZ isn’t a bad car—far from it, in fact—it Lexus has some work to do to pull that off and compete with everyone else. 

ADVERTISEMENT

(Full Disclosure: Lexus was kind enough to invite me to San Diego to drive the 2023 RZ, paying for my airfare, hotel stay and a few meals. Honestly, I was just happy to not be on the East Coast at the end of February.) 

What Is It?

After two decades of dominating the luxury hybrid car space, including releasing the first real one in the form of the RX 400h back in the mid-2000s, Lexus has decided to tepidly see what happens when it gets rid of internal combustion entirely. The RZ is the first all-electric Lexus vehicle. 

It’s also the third member of an electric crossover family that also includes the Toyota bZ4x and the Subaru Solterra. It’s underpinned by the same e:TGNA electric platform that those cars use, and has a remarkably similar overall shape and design to both.

The spec sheet reads familiar, but it does boast some nice upgrades from the bZ4x. You get a 71.4-kWh battery here, with standard dual-motor all-wheel-drive (which is an option on the Toyota) and good for 308 horsepower. That’s a hell of an upgrade over the bZ4x’s max 214 HP in dual-motor form. 

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Luxury Cloudburstblack 009
Photo: Lexus

The new Lexus’ range, however, doesn’t put it in the heavy-hitter EV class: you get 220 miles of juice on standard 18-inch wheels and a disappointing 196 miles on the optional 20-inch wheels. I don’t think that wheel upgrade is worth it, frankly, and with tons of EVs in the luxury segment getting over 300 miles of range, the numbers here feel hard to justify. Additionally, and according to Lexus, the RZ charges from zero to 80% in 30 minutes of 150kW fast charging. That’s decent, but far below many rivals; the Hyundai Group E-GMP cars do the same in almost half that. 

ADVERTISEMENT

If you ask Lexus, it’s about battery preservation and long-term reliability. Super-long-range batteries, with current tech, might not live up the company’s reputation for building things that last. They’d point to all the hybrid RAV4s and Camrys still pulling taxi duty in New York City with endless abuse and little proper maintenance. But does the buyer leasing an RZ for a couple of years really care, or would they want more electric miles? That’s hard to say.

It’s also hard to say how many Lexus buyers will care that it’s similar to a Solterra or a bZ4x? It’s hardly just one of those two cars, but with nicer leather seats; it has enough interesting features that it stands on its own. It’s easy to think of the RZ as just a badge-engineering exercise. I think it’s more like the future of the industry, honestly; automakers will use a single (maybe two, max) scalable common platform for EVs and make them different with battery sizes, motor specs, software and unique features. 

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Premium Ether 022
Photo: Lexus

Anyway, the RZ comes in two trims: Premium AWD, which starts at $59,650 (add $1,200 onto that if you want the 20-inch wheels) or the more loaded Luxury AWD, which starts at $65,150. As it’s built in Japan, the RZ does not qualify for any tax incentives under the revised Inflation Reduction Act provisions.

Screen Shot 2023 03 11 At 7.48.13 Pm

How Does It Look?

I think it looks pretty sharp, actually. Of the three EVs on this platform, it’s the best-looking (and all of its body panels are totally unique.) I dig that arching rear quarter, the Sonic the Hedgehog-style aero spikes on the roof, and the supremely minimalistic approach to the Lexus spindle grille. Seriously, there’s nothing there. That’s a choice.

ADVERTISEMENT
2023 Lexus Rz 450e Premium Ether 008
Photo: Lexus

I think the RZ looks best in two-tone form, which comes on a few color options—most notably Ether, their name for this kind of metallic light blue. That’s something different from the endless sea of gray and silver and white Lexuses out there, isn’t it? If I have one major criticism, it’s that it looks a lot like the new Lexus RX at first glance, which is not helped by the fact that the two cars have the same wheelbase and overall length. Again, you can tell Lexus is aiming the RZ at its faithful for with that sizing decision.

Lexus ensured the RZ has the kind of super-premium interior the brand’s known for, with fit and finish to match. Seriously, it’s a nice car inside; there’s no reason to believe the RZ doesn’t have the impeccable build quality and luxury touches those loyalists now expect. Material quality is also excellent; I’m really partial to the UltraSuede trim that comes on the top model, as it’s a vastly less annoying alternative to Alcantara. Oh, and actual, physical buttons; those are a nice touch on an EV these days. 

How’s The Tech?

Lexus also added a ton of features and gadgets unique to the RZ, some of which make their world debut here. One is the Dynamic Sky roof, which adds a material coating to the glass sunroof so it can dim to a sun-blocking white color at the touch of a button. Seriously, it’s that simple. You press a switch and click, the glass roof goes white. It’s wild to try for yourself. Also wild: the latest edition of Lexus’ automated parking tech, which uses augmented reality overlays with the vehicle cameras to execute tricky self-parking maneuvers. It works great. I’ll take this over other types of robo-taxi junk any day.

New Project1
Photo: Lexus

Then there’s the Radiant Heating system, a heating element placed underneath the dash near your feet that’s designed to warm you up like a mini-space heater, and gives the sensation of wearing a blanket. It turns out that running an air-driven heater off the HVAC is super inefficient, and most of the hot air doesn’t even hit your body, so Lexus says this $175 option (seriously, it’s that cheap) is worth it even if you lose the glove compartment. I thought it felt nice.

Particularly of note is the optional steer-by-wire system, which now famously includes Lexus’ take on the yoke control that Tesla couldn’t quite get right. That’s notable enough that it deserves its own deep dive, which you can read later today. But in short: I like the steer-by-wire system more than I thought I would, though I didn’t love using the yoke. This option won’t be available at launch anyway. Given how limited-production the RZ is already, if you ever see a yoke-equipped model, consider it a unicorn sighting.

ADVERTISEMENT
2023 Lexus Rz 450e Luxury Sbw Thunderstorm 002
Photo: Lexus

Finally, let’s talk about the 14-inch touchscreen and infotainment system. It’s good! Toyota’s finally getting better at making these after lagging through much of the 2010s. The screen is pretty, fast and responsive to touch. (The Lexus trackpad, thankfully, has been sent back to Hell where it was born and where it belongs.)

The bummer, however, is the software. It feels lifted from an RX or an NX — not optimized for an EV. There’s no display of available charging stations around you or estimates for range upon arrival when using navigation. That’s awfully disappointing; most EV competitors better optimize their interfaces now to work with your power, range and charging needs. Clearly, Lexus has some catching up to do on this front as it starts to take EVs more seriously.

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Luxury Thunderstorm 002
Photo: Lexus

How Does It Drive?

On the road, the RZ is… fine. It’s fine! If you’ve ever driven an RX—and at this point, I suspect a great many readers have at least ridden in one—the vibes will feel very familiar. The RZ is cushy, comfortable and smooth. It’s not especially athletic, which really made the extra edge offered by the steer-by-wire option feel out of place here. It’s a little lumpy when you put it through a winding backroad. But again, how many owners will do that? How many will want to?

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Premium Ether 018
Photo: Lexus

The important thing is that being an EV helps make it dead quiet in almost all driving conditions and road noise isolation is excellent. That’s what you want from a Lexus; the ones that don’t have a howling V10, anyway.

It’s also not fast. Zero to 60 mph apparently happens in an extremely respectable 5.2 seconds, but it never feels like it. Torque delivery is instant and flat in that nice way all EVs generally are. But, shit, I recently tweaked my neck after stomping the accelerator from a dead stop in a Polestar 2 with the 450-horsepower Performance Pack. The Lexus RZ… well, it doesn’t do that.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Extremely straightforward” is something I had in my notes when I drove this car. It feels designed to really ease the owner into the EV experience; there’s a push-button start to turn the car on and off, so no fancy tech to activate it upon just getting inside, like a Tesla. There are tons of actual buttons and switches and knobs here, so key functions aren’t just relegated to a screen. I do consider that a plus, from a functional perspective.

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Premium Iridium 003
Photo: Lexus

But the RZ didn’t feel like a completely cohesive approach to making an EV, if that makes sense; it’s more like Lexus wanted to directly transfer the experience it offers to a crossover that just so happens to run on battery power instead of gasoline.

It’s a deeply pleasant and plush driving experience. That’s not a bad thing. Not every EV needs to be a 5,000-pound high-speed weapon that can somehow post zero to 60 times that supercars were doing a decade ago. There’s something to be said for quiet pragmatism and daily drivability. But many luxury buyers are starting to expect all that crazy stuff from their EVs, for better or worse, and that’s not what you get from the Lexus RZ.

What’s The Verdict?

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Premium Ether 021
Photo: Lexus

Finally, allow me to address the range. I never got anxious about it cruising around San Diego, both because we hewed close to Lexus’ home base for the event and because California’s EV charging infrastructure is incredibly impressive. (Seriously, I’ve only been back to the West Coast a few times since the pandemic started, and each time I’m blown away at how many more electric chargers and cars I see out there. Good on you, Golden State.)

I’m of two minds on this subject. On one hand, 220 miles is merely fine, and so is 190 on the bigger wheels; we’re all terrible about basing our EV range needs on road trips we never take when most Americans drive about 30 miles a day max. On the other hand, you can get a lot more range from other EVs in this $60,000+ segment. And… wouldn’t you want to? I know I would.

ADVERTISEMENT

But here’s the upside, and it says a lot: if you buy an RZ, you get access to the Lexus Reserve program, which gives you up to 30 days of free Lexus rentals over the course of three years. It’s actually a great deal. It means you can borrow a gasoline or hybrid Lexus anytime you need to travel, or more importantly here, take the family on a road trip vacation or something. I say it’s significant because it, again, speaks to the excellent customer service and dealer network you get when you buy a Lexus—that goes a long way here and it’s part of why loyalists will be interested in the RZ.

2023 Lexus Rz 450e Premium Thunderstorm 001

Then again, “Just rent one of our gas cars if you need to drive a lot” doesn’t scream confidence about Lexus and Toyota’s EV game. The RZ feels like the product of that in many ways. But things are changing. Lexus wants to go all-EV by 2030. The incoming new Toyota CEO comes from that division, and he’s made clear he’s not here to screw around on the EV front. And the automaker has a concept lineup of EVs that looks really impressive.

I don’t think the RZ 450e will be seen as a starting point for what’s to come; maybe a rough first draft — a footnote in the electrification of the industry. But for now, and for a small niche of buyers who love what they get from Lexus, it’s a solid ride with some impressive luxury features. It’s the best member of the Lexus-Toyota-Subaru EV trio, bar none—as it well should be.

For a few dedicated Lexus heads, it’ll be an interesting first foray into EV ownership. But the best had better be yet to come from Lexus.

ADVERTISEMENT
2023 Lexus Rz 450e Premium Iridium 006
Photo: Lexus

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

The $59,650 Lexus RZ 450e Only Offers 220 Miles Of Range. Here’s Why That May Not Matter

Let’s Appreciate The Amazing Performance Cars Made While Akio Toyoda Was In Charge Of Toyota

Let’s Look At Some Of The Details Of The New Lexus Design Language

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
24 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rsakurai
Rsakurai
6 months ago

The Lexus Reserve program is a big joke. Do not make a purchase decision based on this as you will be disappointed. You can reserve a car at your local dealer using the Lexus app on your phone but most dealers do not participate in the program so your reservation is meaningless. If you call Lexus customer service, they will give you the runaround. They suggested calling all the Lexus dealers in the area to find a participating dealer. This was very time consuming and a waste of time. We were put on hold for long periods of time as she tried to find answers.
The Lexus dealers will in turn give you the runaround. No one knows about it. You will leave messages for managers to call you back and they won’t. If you continue to call they will finally tel you that they don’t participate. Your blood will boil. Your blood pressure will go up. Don’t waste your time.

Thevenin
Thevenin
1 year ago

I appreciate trying not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I think the article fails to capture exactly why people are so fiercely disappointed with the e-TNGA platform.

The FWD BZ4X rated fkr 242 miles EPA has such startlingly poor efficiency that it managed 220 miles in Edmunds mixed testing (the 240-mile 2021 AWD ID.4 managed 272 miles in this test). The 228-mile rated AWD version got 160 miles in Caranddriver’s 75mph test (the 208-mile rated 2021 XC40 P8 managed 180 miles in this test). This is not just bad, it’s alarmingly bad, dramatically worse than comparable EVs in those same tests. This means the RZ 450e almost certainly has the same effective range as an Ioniq Electric. Not the Ioniq 5, but the 175-mile rated predecessor which had an MSRP of $34k and a battery roughly half the size. I do not know how Toyota tricked the EPA tests this egregiously, but I’m glad we have 3rd-party verification.

The charging tests are also alarming for the e-TNGA platform, but luckily the Lexus is allegedly receiving the slightly less-awful PPES 71.4kWh battery, which in 3rd party testing takes 36 minutes 10-80%. This is not catastrophic, but it still fails to meet Lexus’s 30-minute claim, and those 36 minutes are only buying you 122 miles. This puts it about halfway between a 2018 Kona EV and a 2016 Bolt EV in terms of effective charging speed. Toyota claims this is to protect the battery for longevity, but they offer the exact same 100k/8yr/70% warranty as everyone else in the industry. And this isn’t even touching how the thermal management system is wildly underengineered and somehow overcools the battey in winter.

The e-TNGA platform vehicles are fiercely disappointing, even to the point of outrage, because Toyota hyped themselves to the moon. We expected so much and waited so long only to receive a vehicle that underperforms its rated specifications so badly that it competes with 7-year-old tech despite being more than double the price and having no glovebox.

Nobody is thrilled to hear about how there’s a niche use case for gullible rich people who don’t know how to cross-shop, regardless of how valid the perspective is, because ultimately the e-TNGA is rife with false advertizing. It’s a broken promise.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

I am in no way the target audience for this vehicle, so I’m amused by my almost visceral response to the EV grill: that blank looks >wrong<. Yep, after years of vocally hating the gaping maw I have come to grudgingly accept that it’s here to stay (although I occasionally still mutter imprecations at them)—to the point that covering it almost made me do a spit-take. Ah, irony

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

If you’re only doing 30 miles a day, then just buy the RX Prime or whatever the PHEV Lexus version of this is. It will probably save you money, and you won’t have to screw around with renting a car every time you want to drive more than 100 miles in the winter. These low range EVs are the worst possible compromise.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 year ago

These would make a nice second car, but nobody in their right mind should buy a car with a yoke. Unless it’s for a dedicated race car. That’s the only valid use case.

I don’t care how much more visible the dash is. Nobody holds their hands at 9 and 3 all day long when driving. To do so on a long road trip is pure misery. There’s a reason Formula 1 drivers spend time in the gym.

You are definitely going to one-hand the steering occasionally on a long road trip. One-handing a yoke means you’re either resting your hand on the top, which has no grip surface and is unsafe; holding the bottom, which is a bit unsafe; or you are constantly holding your arm up, unbalanced, in a battle to keep the wheel straight.

Buy a yoke and suffer. I had one in an used ’72 Chevy Nova. Within days I was scouring the junkyards for a replacement stock steering wheel. I’ll never tolerate a yoke for a street vehicle no matter how desirable the attached car is.

Greg
Greg
1 year ago

ick.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 year ago

In some ways I find this really appealing and in other ways it doesn’t quite add up for me. First and foremost-Im one of the many people that thinks the vehicle pretty much feeling and operating like a normal ICE car is a HUGE plus. Auto journos seem to have this tendency to poo poo EVs that aren’t sci fi spaceships, but for a lot of buyers it’s actually a positive. I don’t want to have to relearn how to drive and operate a vehicle when I eventually switch to an EV, and so much of the ridiculous bullshit that’s baked into Teslas and the countless EVs trying to impersonate them is just a gimmick.

A lot of it is also distracting. I don’t want to have to fiddle with a tablet and touch nonsense when I’m driving. Buttons, knobs, and switches work. In my car I can do things like adjust the climate controls, change audio volume/channels, etc. without having to take my eyes off the road. Good luck doing that when those controls are buried in menus in a tablet.

Also, Lexus interiors rule. My sister and brother in law have a moderately equipped NX they bought certified last year and it’s a treat to sit in and interact with. Every surface feels nice. There are 0 squeaks, rattles, etc. Everything is simple. It’s just a really nice place to spend time. I’m not sure where some of the “why do people buy Lexuses” enthusiast speak comes from. They’re great cars…they just don’t make very many options for us. They look good, they’ll last for eternity on nothing but routine maintenance, the interiors are well styled and built to last and they’re ridiculously comfortable. They are the ultimate appliances, point blank.

All that being said-this car makes 0 fiscal sense to me. Its range sucks, it’s expensive, and you can’t even get a tax write off from it. Unless they’re planning on offering really enticing leases on it it’s very obviously a lackluster deal. For people with money to burn it likely doesn’t matter much-but for the folks who’d consider something like this as a stretch purchase who are EV curious the value lies elsewhere.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
1 year ago

Pedantic note, it’s a bit smaller than an RX actually, although yes the wheelbase is the same.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
1 year ago

Any review of an EV e-TNGA that doesn’t shame the actual, you know, EV capabilities of the platform is immediately sus IMHO

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
1 year ago
Reply to  Patrick George

I think that I appreciate The Autopian a lot because it’s one of the few places where the journalists aren’t afraid to give their own definitive opinion. In this one though, I feel like there was a bit of dancing back and forth throughout, especially for a platform that is just… so easily compared to. That being said, I did enjoy the review! I hope that I wasn’t too discouraging

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 year ago

I got depressed just reading about the fictional character in the first two paragraphs. If I ever become that guy please just put me out of my misery.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 year ago
Reply to  Patrick George

The fact that it works for some (most, probably) people isn’t an issue in my eyes. That’s fine. It’s just not me. As a former Giulia owner, my pain threshold is pretty high. I’ll take the dealer visits in a beautiful, fun to drive car over something numb and ugly any day, and I don’t see myself changing my mind on that.

Full disclosure: The Alfa spent roughly 13% of its lease time with me at the dealer. I did not buy another Alfa, but I did buy something else complex with a less than stellar reputation for quality, and out of warranty this time too.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
1 year ago

Glad to see it’s not just a BZXR4ti or whatever with a lexus badge, and that awful cluster display is changed. Seems like they added some nice tech as well.

To me, they almost pull it off w/ the 30 day rental gimmick – but really, that offer should be there with an EV that gets at least 250miles+ of range. The numbers, as-is, are just pathetic. Fine for most driving, but not competitive with the market.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
1 year ago

150kw DC fast charging speed is decent, but probably the minimum moving forward. 6.6kw level 2 is a joke – my freaking Bolt does 11.2kw. For a “premium brand” they should really be at the 19.2/80amp level. Though, with this sized battery maybe that’s not as much of an issue…

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 year ago

The market is a non-issue for the typical Lexus buyer. The person buying this is not cross shopping anything. They don’t know what the average range of comparable EV’s is, nor do they care. Patrick nailed this cars demographic. It’s not for the family cross shopping an EV6. It’s for the people that have been turning in their RX for another RX every three years.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
1 year ago

I disagree, somewhat strongly. I think that the typical Lexus buyer is going to be leery of EVs, in general, and they firmly fall into the crowd of “EVs need to be better than my current car in every way for me to make the switch”. Therefore, I do not see the average RX swapper to be considering one of these.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
1 year ago

I mean, fine? For the folks that only buy lexus, that’s ok – they can do what they’d like.

My point was only that comparable luxury vehicles, I guess the Lyriq comes to mind, offer 100 more miles of range and better charging speed.

Anders
Anders
1 year ago

Sorry, but if you havn’t reviewed the consumption, range and charging speed (which, remember, are the big problems with the bz4x) then you seriously need to go back and do a new and proper EV review.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
1 year ago
Reply to  Anders

Yeah, the charge speed on the buzzforks falls pretty flat when you compare it to something like the Ioniq, but how often do people really have the charging infrastructure available to take advantage of that anyway?

I think that’s the bigger systemic issue that needs to be addressed.

Anders
Anders
1 year ago
Reply to  Patrick George

Sorry if I was too harsh in my comment, but given the criticism the bz4x have (rightly) gotten for its design and engineering choices, and the RX beeing based on the same platform, I think it would be interesting to know if Lexus has improved the consumption, the (capped and limited) charging, changed the large invisible buffer or improved the software.

24
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x