Is it better to be late than never? And is the all-new Lexus RZ electric SUV worthy of the Japanese luxury brand? We’ll answer these questions and more as we review the Lexus RZ450e.
- Spacious and luxurious interior
- Cossetting ride
- Relatively efficient powertrain
- Too expensive for what it is
- Nothing innovative to entice other EV owners
- Driving range and charging speeds are off the pace
Welcome, Lexus, to the electric vehicle party! No, no, don’t apologise. Late is fashionable, right? The DJ is pumping, the dancefloor is jumping, drinks are over there and nibbles will be coming round. Enjoy!
The Lexus RZ prestige SUV is the Japanese luxury brand’s first true electric vehicle, and it won’t be the last if Lexus is to hit its stated goal of EV-only by 2035.
By ‘true’, we – and Lexus – mean the vehicle has been designed from the ground up to be an electric luxury vehicle. Lexus says it’s not an electrified adaption of an internal combustion vehicle, like Lexus’s first EV, the Lexus UX300e launched in 2021, is.
In fact, this Lexus RZ is so new-age it boasts vegan-friendly interiors to go with its zero-emissions table manners.
But it is a little late to the luxury SUV EV dinner party, even in Australia where we’ve traditionally had to wait a year or two for vehicles already launched overseas.
In luxury SUV EV terms, the party started in 2016 and is getting busier every year. Tesla was first with the Model X in 2016, followed by the Jaguar I-Pace in 2018, and the Audi E-Tron in 2020. BMW bounded in with the iX in 2021, followed by the Genesis GV60.
There’s more coming too. The Polestar 3 is inbound later this year or early next, as is Mercedes-Benz’s first true SUV EV, the EQS.
Now, anyone who thinks Mercedes-Benz’s EQC (2020) deserves to be in this list of ground-up EVs should see my note above about the UX300e. Or read this. The same holds true for cars like the Volvo XC40 Recharge and C40, BMW iX3 and iX1, Mercedes-Benz EQB, and Genesis GV70 – all internal combustion cars with EV hardware added later.
So, while Lexus is late, it’s certainly not the last to arrive. And being late has its advantages, because you can see the competition and make sure you deliver more. After all, ‘more’ is what luxury is all about, right?
Has Lexus done that with the RZ450e Luxury and Sports Luxury? Let’s find out.
How much does the Lexus RZ cost in Australia?
Lexus claims the RZ five-door SUV is a Medium SUV like the Lexus NX, Mercedes EQC and BMW iX3, but its dimensions are actually bigger than the Lexus RX Large SUV.
It’s a big vehicle in the metal, but photos make it seem smaller than it actually is. That could be clever deception by Lexus’s designers who have given the RZ a razor-sharp interpretation of Lexus’s contemporary design language.
Get a great deal today
Interested in this car? Provide your details and we’ll connect you to a member of the Drive team.
Whether you love the styling or not, there’s no mistaking Lexus’s current range of vehicles for any other brand on the road. That spindle-shaped grille is visually striking, and the sharp lines it invokes are carried along the car’s flanks and incorporated somewhat into the rear.
Two versions of the Lexus RZ SUV will be offered initially, priced from $123,000 for the RZ450e Luxury and $135,000 for the RZ450e Sports Luxury. Neither price includes on-road costs, so be sure to add 7–10 per cent to understand what it will cost to park in your driveway.
The RZ’s pricing is in line with the Mercedes-Benz EQC400 ($128,000), Polestar 3 ($132,900), and Genesis Electrified GV70 ($127,800).
BMW’s iX kicks off at close to $140,000 and the smaller iX3 starts at around $105,000, so the Lexus RZ is stuck somewhere between.
Lexus is currently offering free AC charging boxes and home installation with every RZ sold, as well as access to Lexus’s Encore Electrified Platinum owner program that includes valet parking at select shopping centres, and the Lexus On Demand service, which provides access to other (petrol, hybrid or diesel) Lexus vehicles for up to four periods of eight days over the first three years of ownership.
The RZ450e Luxury spec is distinguishable by its 18-inch alloy wheels and matt-black wheel arch surrounds, whereas the Sports Luxury has 20-inch alloy wheels and gloss-black wheel arch surrounds.
Both have LED headlights, but the Sports Luxury’s lights are adaptive, meaning they can shape their beam to improve illumination at a distance, reduce glare for oncoming vehicles, and turn with the steering wheel to light the way around corners.
Sports Luxury buyers also have the $4200 option to ‘two-tone’ their RZ by blacking the bonnet and the roof. I think this actually lowers the perceived value of the RZ, so I wouldn’t be paying extra for that privilege.
|Key details||2023 Lexus RZ450e Sports Luxury|
|Price||$135,000 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Ether Blue|
|Price as tested||$135,000 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||BMW iX | Audi E-Tron | Mercedes-Benz EQC|
How much space does the Lexus RZ have inside?
Loads. This could be the biggest Medium SUV I’ve ever sat in, probably because it’s really a Large SUV as I established earlier.
The feeling of space in the front half of the cabin is impressive, and yet the various controls the driver needs are all within easy reach. The spaciousness vibe is partly because there is a lot of space, secondly because Lexus kept the dashboard slim by deleting the glovebox, and thirdly through clever selection of trim colours.
All of this is helped along by the Sports Luxury spec’s huge double-pane sunroof that can switch electrically from clear to cloudy at the touch of a button, but lacks a traditional fabric blind.
The back seats are beyond generous for legroom and headroom, although underseat footroom is blunted by the various machinery underneath to heat and cool the front seats and make them move electrically.
Shoulder width in the rear seat is sufficient for three adults if the middle adult is of the smaller variety.
There are air vents for second-row occupants but no climate controls, which is an oversight in a car with this price tag.
The Lexus’s boot is claimed to have 522L of capacity, and I don’t doubt it. The space is, again, generous and complemented by a big sub-floor cavity where a space-saving spare wheel presumably goes in other markets. In Australia, RZ owners have a tyre repair kit should they experience a puncture, but more serious damage will require a call to Lexus roadside assist.
This cavity, it turns out, is a good place to store the vehicle’s manuals and other items that you’d normally stash in a glovebox.
The back seats fold down to increase cargo space from 522L to 1451L, but the folding mechanism is a manual latch and hard to reach from the boot. Again, I think a car with a $125K-plus price tag should offer easy access buttons to fold the seats without fuss.
Anyone expecting under-bonnet storage, as found in some electric vehicles, will be disappointed. Even without a cumbersome internal combustion engine, the RZ goes without this additional feature.
Lexus provides a faux-leather NuLuxe interior trim on the RZ450e Luxury, along with electrically adjustable front seats and steering wheel, a 7.0-inch digital driver’s display, 14.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring, navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, and a 10-speaker premium sound system.
Dual-zone climate control is standard, as is dark tinted privacy glass for the rear windows.
The Sports Luxury we tested adds a handy head-up display and smart key card entry. It also replaces the fake leather NuLuxe with vegan-friendly UltraSuede, adds seat heating for front seat occupants, and can heat the steering wheel and the outer rear seats.
|2023 Lexus RZ|
|Boot volume||522L seats up
1451L seats folded
Does the Lexus RZ have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
Both RZ variants come with the same impressive 14.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that houses satellite navigation, wireless smartphone mirroring for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AM/FM/DAB+ radio and various car functions.
It’s a fundamentally good system with high-quality graphics and logical menus and it works well most of the time. I did experience a couple of glitches during our launch drive. One time it responded to a button touch by resetting back to the home page. Another time it froze for about 10 seconds before resuming operation. These were isolated instances.
The Lexus RZ also features Lexus Connected Services, allowing remote vehicle access via a linked smartphone, allowing owners to check charge level, remotely lock and unlock, look at routes that include charger access, plus contact emergency services in the event of an accident, and allow stolen vehicle tracking. Access is complementary for the first three years.
A 10-speaker premium sound system is standard in the Luxury. The Sports Luxury steps it up with a 14-speaker Mark Levinson system that promises greater clarity and power.
There are five USB-C ports throughout the cabin; three up front under the infotainment screen and two behind the armrest below the air vents.
Is the Lexus RZ a safe car?
At the time of writing, the Lexus RZ had not been independently safety-rated by ANCAP. Lexus is a brand that prides itself on five-star safety, so it would be a shock to them and us if this all-new vehicle doesn’t perform well. But until it is tested, we do not know for sure.
The Lexus RZ has a 10-strong complement of airbags, including front-centre airbag and driver’s knee airbag.
|2023 Lexus RZ|
What safety technology does the Lexus RZ have?
The Lexus RZ450e has a competitive safety suite, except for two dubious omissions.
Standard active safety features include autonomous emergency braking (forward and reverse), active lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Neither of those last two systems is of the more advanced – and increasingly prevalent – ‘active assist’ variety. This is a major oversight on an all-new car built on a future-focused new-generation platform. If brands like Hyundai, Kia and Nissan can fit blind-spot active assist and rear cross-traffic active assist to Medium SUVs priced under $50,000, then a company like Lexus backed by the might of Toyota should fit it standard to a luxury SUV with a $130K price tag.
Lexus has debuted one new safety technology on the RZ. A safety system called Drive Start Control suppresses abrupt acceleration if the car is shifted into drive or reverse while the accelerator is pressed.
The RZ’s active cruise control includes stop-start functionality and is linked to road signs so the driver can choose to obey the speed limit at the touch of a button.
How much does the Lexus RZ cost to maintain?
The Lexus RZ comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre vehicle warranty, while the high-voltage EV battery is covered for up to 10 years provided owners perform an annual EV system health check, as prescribed by Lexus. Lexus provides capped-price servicing, with yearly service intervals priced at $395 per visit for the first five years.
We tried for an insurance quote on the RZ, but because it’s so new to market, the insurance company had no data to share. If you’re keen to buy an RZ, we’d suggest putting $2500 a year aside for comprehensive insurance, depending on your driving record and other particulars.
|At a glance||2023 Lexus RZ450e Sports Luxury|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km
Up to 10 years, unlimited-km high-voltage battery
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1185 (3 years)
$1975 (5 years)
Is the Lexus RZ energy-efficient?
A 71.4kWh battery is standard, which Lexus claims is good for 470km of driving by lenient NEDC standards or 400km by tougher WLTP standards. Lexus quotes 30 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 per cent at a maximum rate of 150kW DC, which is lineball with BMW’s best but well behind luxury class leader Genesis’s 350kW charging speed.
AC charging is capped at 11kW, and takes 6.5 hours for a full recharge.
A full 71.4kWh charge at domestic power rates of around 24c/kWh will cost just over $17 – for 400km. A petrol-powered luxury car with 9.0L/100km efficiency will cost around $60 for the same driving range. A diesel with 6L/100km efficiency will cost just over $40.
So, 400km from a 71.4kWh battery suggests an energy consumption rate of around 17.8kWh/100km, which is decent for a vehicle of this size and weight.
For what it’s worth, Tesla and Hyundai lead the electrical efficiency race with vehicles capable of 13–15kWh/100km, and it’s not unheard of for large luxury cars to exceed 20–25kWh/100km.
We’ll put the Lexus RZ450e through our week-long test process shortly and see what its real-world efficiency is.
|Energy Efficiency||Energy Stats|
|Energy cons. (claimed)||17.8kWh/100km|
|Energy cons. (on test)||Not recorded|
|Driving range claim (WLTP)||400km|
|Charge time (11kW)||6h 30min|
|Charge time (50kW)||1h 30min (10–80%)|
|Charge time (150kW max rate)||30min (10–80%)|
What is the Lexus RZ like to drive?
The Lexus RZ450e has a 150kW front electric motor and an 80kW rear motor that give it all-wheel drive and a combined output of 230kW and 435Nm. That should be enough to cope with its 2.1-tonne weight. In fact, Lexus claims the RZ will accelerate from 0–100km/h in a spritely 5.3 seconds.
There’s really nothing to complain about here. The Lexus RZ drives exactly like a large, electrically powered luxury SUV should. It’s quiet and refined. The adaptive ride is cossetting without feeling totally disconnected. The dual motors’ power and torque are delivered with alacrity and to good effect. Its steering is a good balance between light and communicative.
I don’t think the RZ’s straight-line acceleration ‘feels’ like 0–100km/h in 5.3 seconds. It doesn’t have the urgency or the smack in the back that other EVs deliver. But really, that’s splitting hairs. It’s more than capable of meeting owners’ daily needs.
In short, the Lexus RZ ticks all the boxes of what a Lexus luxury SUV should be.
I just think Lexus has made some short-sighted decisions on what it proudly proclaims is a new dedicated EV architecture that presumably will play an integral role in building Lexus’s EV-only future.
With all the freedom the EV architecture provides, why set front-drive as the blueprint for a luxury brand at a time when most other brands are harnessing the dynamic benefits of rear-drive in EVs. This is particularly strange for a brand keen to build its reputation for dynamic driving.
Sure, this powertrain has the smarts to adjust power and torque within mechanical limits to suit changes in traction or handling. But it’s always going to feel like a front-drive SUV because it can never send more than 150kW and 269Nm to the front, and it can never send more than 80kW and 166Nm to the rear.
That’s one. Other points the RZ raises: the 71.4kWh battery pack provides a limited and unimpressive range; the RZ’s efficiency is good without being great, and lacks innovation; there’s no talk of the scope of Lexus Connected’s Over-The-Air connectivity to streamline system updates or improve the ownership experience; and the RZ’s active safety suite ticks most of the existing boxes without debuting anything significant.
All of this doesn’t detract from how well the Lexus delivers on its promise as a competent electric luxury SUV. It just doesn’t do anything new or better than the competition.
|Key details||2023 Lexus RZ450e|
|Engine||Dual electric motors|
|Power||150kW front motor
80kW rear motor
|Torque||266Nm front motor
169Nm rear motor
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Weight (kerb)||2095kg (Sports)
2110kg (Sports Luxury)
|Spare tyre type||Tyre repair kit|
|Tow rating||750kg braked
Anyone looking for an EV with a Lexus badge won’t be disappointed. The Lexus RZ is the Lexus of electric vehicles, and will make the transition from ICE to EV easy for existing Lexus owners.
But it won’t steal existing EV owners from any other brand, simply because it doesn’t offer anything above and beyond the current EV experience. Except the price.
We rattled off a great host of rivals at the beginning of this review. We deliberately left two vehicles off, because they’re not rivals in the ‘luxury SUV’ realm. But the Kia EV6 and the Tesla Model Y are SUVs and they are electric. They’re also two examples of how you can get an EV with similar interior space for a lot less money.
Sure, you may not get the vegan interior or the electrochromatic sunroof depending on which model you choose. But you will get a vehicle with all the RZ’s mod cons and all of its dynamic capabilities, and you’ll have enough money left over to pay for many years of EV charging or a domestic solar installation.
Don’t get me wrong. The Lexus RZ is a good example of a luxury electric SUV. But Lexus really hasn’t taken advantage of arriving late to the party. Instead of seeing what everybody else does and offering more, they’ve just matched it.
To be fair, Lexus does not have a reputation for innovation – except in the customer experience realm. Lexus has a reputation for doing luxury in a pragmatic and considered way, as the Lexus RZ proves. But luxury is not about having enough. It’s about having more.