The Lexus RZ 450e is a unique all-electric vehicle for Lexus. It is the first model purpose-built as an EV, sharing an EV structure with Toyota and Subaru. That should excite many EV fans, and the exterior and interior features of this SUV are something worth talking about.
While great looks and a posh cabin have become expectations for the Japanese luxury automaker, the challenge for the RZ (300e & 450e) is the same as any EV on the market – range. Depending on the model you choose, you will get somewhere between 225 and 275 miles of driving range.
In today’s burgeoning EV market, where vehicles can achieve a range of up to 500 miles, offering somewhere at the halfway mark will be challenging for Lexus fans to accept. Range anxiety aside, the look and incredible ride, as well as the impressive tech offerings, made the Lexus RZ 450e I tested a great experience. Just don’t stray too far from a charging station.
The truth is for many drivers who simply commute to work or run errands locally around their hometown, 200 miles is plenty of EV charge for whatever they may encounter. Mid-range EV’s argument, and it’s a legit one, is that smaller battery packs not only cost less but add less weight to the vehicle. Less weight also means much better drive dynamics and overall efficiency.
The Lexus RZ 450e Luxury model I tested looks like a Lexus, with its signature chiseled edges, pronounced front nose and grille, and a refined overall statement. Whether it’s on standard 18- or 20-inch rims, the RZ 450e looks sporty without losing an ounce of elegance.
The RZ’s most distinctive features are the low ride height coupled with the raked windshield diving into the long, sloping nose. This SUV looks fast and athletic, but it’s a Lexus, so, there’s no need to sell that as much as the real payoff, which is inside the cabin.
Because this is a Lexus, the cabin looks very distinct and very engaging. Overall, it’s a great combo of comfort and technology that put many options into the hands of the driver and occupants.
The first thing that strikes you when you get seated in the front row is the large 14-inch touchscreen. This is a responsive interface that offers great visibility. Digging down on some of the menus was a bit frustrating, though it was intuitive to navigate. I appreciate the shortcut options at the bottom for climate and other controls.
Thoughtful tech often can be the thing that pushes a consumer to one brand or another. Lexus always has been out front with this kind of innovation and in my RZ 450e tester, there were several impressive details: one, the dimmable panoramic roof; and two, the cooling fan beneath the cell phone charging pad. I also liked the electronic door handles on the inside of the cabin. It took me a couple of days to get the hang of it, but once I did – it was very cool.
The ride quality of the RZ was pleasant and always comfortable. This is a quiet cabin that glides effortlessly across the road without the buzz or bumps often associated with other EVs.
The NuLuxe seating surfaces are of excellent quality and extremely comfortable. Front-row occupants enjoy a radiant knee heater that improves range compared to typical forced-air heat. Due to the battery beneath their feet, rear-seat passengers enjoy a flat floor, as well as plenty of head and legroom.
One oddity of the RZ 450e was its lack of a front trunk. Designers chose to use this unique-to-EV storage space to gather the powertrain’s various modules and control hardware. This decision has an upside, too; it keeps the high-voltage wires as short as possible, saving weight.
The rear utility space is large and easily makes up for the loss of the front trunk feature. Flexible rear seating folds flat to increase the accessibility for larger items and accommodates lots of shapes with its higher ceiling.
There’s just one powertrain option in the RZ 450e. It can be ordered with either two- or four-wheel drive. The AWD option in my tester featured a 201-hp electric motor on the front axle and a 108-hp motor on the rear axle for a combined output of 309 hp. Max torque is 321 lb-ft and the 0-60 mph test happens in just 5.3 seconds.
I found the 300-plus-horsepower EV to have plenty of quickness. Like most EVs, some of the best parts of driving them (and the highlight of any day’s trip) is simply getting on it from a dead stop. It’s a fun experience to quickly, and quietly, launch yourself into a high-speed mode.
The suspension on the RZ 450e is soft, which is great for comfort but less great for fast maneuvers. This is not a vehicle for accelerating into corners, though the drive-by-wire steering offers a surprisingly exceptional feel.
At $58,500 for the base model, you get a lot of premium vehicle accouterments in your Lexus. My Luxury 450e started at $64,000, and added about $1,700 in options and $1,150 delivery, bringing the total to $67,095. This feels about right for the pure luxury of Lexus, though it falls a little short of what I might like to see in an extended EV range.
John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.