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2023 Lexus RZ 450e starts the brand’s pivot toward full electrification

After countless photos and teasers, the 2023 Lexus RZ 450e has finally been shown in all of its glory. The brand’s first battery-electric vehicle for North America initiates its move toward its goal of a fully electric product portfolio in most markets by 2030 before aiming for 100 percent of its global sales to be BEVs. Underpinned by the same e-TNGA architecture used by the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra, the RZ 450e has an optimal weight distribution thanks to the battery being mounted low on the floor.

The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e takes a lot of the design cues from the LF-Z Electrified Concept and applies it to a four-door compact crossover. Its low roofline and a double roof spoiler give it a sporty profile, especially with the rear window that descends quickly. The front bumper has been designed to improve its aerodynamics, and its spindle grille has been replaced by what Lexus calls a BEV Spindle Body, showing off an outline in an area that’s now enclosed. Like the new NX, the RZ gets full-width LED taillights with Lexus spelled out in the middle. It also appears to have a mini duckbill spoiler kicking up at the end.

Moving inside, the interior makes use of responsibly sourced materials and has a standard panoramic roof to add a sense of airiness. One of the three types of upholsteries available is Ultrasuede, which uses 30 percent bio-based sustainable materials. You’ll find Lexus’ new user interface with an available 14.0-inch main touch screen and a head-up display. Three interior colors will be available: Orage, Palomino, and two-tone Dapple Gray/Black. Every RZ will also come standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 driver assistance suite, which now includes an Emergency Driving Stop System (EDSS) that will bring the vehicle to a complete stop if it detects that the driver can’t continue driving. The car will also be available with an automatic parking system.

At least for now, the RZ 450e will be available only in dual-motor configuration. The front motor makes 150 kW or 201 hp while the rear generates 80 kW or 107 hp for a combined output of 308 hp. On a single charge, Lexusestimates that the RZ 450e can travel 225 miles when equipped with the standard 18-inch wheels thanks to a 71.4-kWh lithium-ion battery. However, it didn’t disclose DC charging speeds. We suspect it’ll peak at 150 kW since this is the same unit used in the front-drive Toyota bZ4X. The new eAxle fully integrated the motor, inverter, and transaxle into one unit with a short front/rear layout for the front unit and a low profile for the rear one, allowing for improved interior packaging.

The RZ is the first model to use Lexus’ Direct4 system, which controls the front-to-rear drive force ratio between 100:0 and 0:100. This improves startup acceleration, handling stability, and energy consumption. Direct4 uses a front-to-rear drive force ratio distribution between 60:40 and 40:60 to minimize vehicle pitch during launch and straight-line acceleration to achieve a direct feel. Data such as cornering speed and steering angle help optimize drive force distribution for improved handling. When the driver turns the steering wheel, power is biased to the front wheels (between 75:25 and 50:50) to improve the steering feel. Once you exit, move power goes to the rear wheels (between 50:50 and 20:80) for better traction and control of vehicle pitch. Alongside the Direct4 system, Lexus will also launch its first steer-by-wire system in the U.S. on the new RZ. This reduces the driver’s workload and makes maneuvering in tight spaces easier.

To improve the RZ’s handling, Lexus uses frequency reactive dampers to give it a sportier character without compromising ride quality. Together with the BEV-specific e-TNGA platform, the crossover offers a natural driving sensation and linear responses to the driver’s inputs. Laser screw welding and peening, and structural adhesives are used more extensively to join the body frame while improving ride and handling. A double-ring structure and a rigid foaming agent minimize distortion and reduce deformation in the rear hatch. An anti-roll bar and fender braces have also been added to improve steering response while additional reinforcement in the lower back section improves rear tracking.

The 2023 Lexus RZ 450e is expected to go on sale toward the end of 2022. It’s the first of four upcoming BEVsfrom Lexus, which also includes a three-row crossover and a sedan that will likely replace the IS. A new halo sports car that will serve as the LFA’s successor is also in the cards and will likely use solid-state batteries.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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