Fairly efficient, decent space onboard, it's something a bit different
Scratch the surface and it's a rather generic, expensive electric SUV. No yoke USP until 2025
What is it?
This is the Lexus RZ, a new model for the premium Japanese carmaker. In fact it’s the first purpose-built EV that Lexus has produced – the UX300e was born as a combustion car and only had its innards stuffed with batteries later in life – but it is built on the same eTNGA platform as both the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra.
So far, so generic, right? And yet, there is one aspect of the RZ that sets it apart from its ever-growing list of rivals: the futuristic-looking yoked steering system. But don’t get too excited, because you can’t get it in the UK until 2025. But it’s the most interesting thing about the car, so let’s take a quick closer look.
So it’s getting a yoke like a Tesla?
Not quite. While Tesla simply fixed a silly-shaped steering device to a standard Model S column and told those ‘early adopters’ to have at it, Lexus has developed an all-new steer-by-wire system that it is calling One Motion Grip. You better believe that we’ll be shortening that to OMG.
Steer by wire means no physical connection between you and the front wheels. Instead, your inputs are transferred electronically at a rapid rate. Sounds odd, but it means the steering ratios can change depending on the car’s speed. At low speeds a small turn of the wheel will give much more steering angle than the same turn of the wheel at high speeds. This means with OMG – unlike in the Tesla – you never need to remove your hands from their usual position on the yoke to make tight turns.
What about the rest of the car?
There’s just the one powertrain option in the form of the RZ 450e. Like its Toyota and Subaru siblings the RZ uses a 71.4kWh battery at its heart, but where the bZ4X can be had with either two- or four-wheel drive, Lexus has followed Subaru in going all-wheel drive only.
That means there’s a 201bhp electric motor on the front axle and a 108bhp motor on the rear axle for a combined output of 309bhp. Max torque is 321lb ft and the 0-62mph run takes just 5.3 seconds.
And the range?
Good question. The answer is that it very much depends on spec – if you want the larger 20-inch wheels you’ll get a WLTP range of 252 miles, but if your ego can cope with 18-inchers then you can up that to 272 miles. Your wallet and your passengers will thank you.
What’s it like inside?
The nice thing about a Lexus is that at the very least you’ll get something a bit different. There are some nice bits of trim in the RZ and plenty of room all round: we applaud Lexus for the effort that it puts in to stand out from the crowd. And it is a terribly crowded market these days.
And how much will the RZ cost?
Prices start at a bold £64,500 for the entry-level Premium Pack model, add £4k for the mid-range Premium Plus Pack car and the top-spec Takumi model starts at £74,000 on the road. Sure, it’s pricey, but at the very least the options list is nice and short thanks to the generous standard equipment list.
What are its rivals?
There are so many these days that we’re actually losing track. The RZ is of course pretty much the same size as its Toyota and Subaru siblings, but its price means it’ll be fighting premium rivals like the Jaguar I-Pace, the BMW iX3 and the Mercedes EQC.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Clearly a huge amount of effort has gone into Lexus’ new steer-by-wire system, and although it won’t be hitting our streets until 2025 (and we’re not fully sold on its effectiveness just yet), at least it provides the RZ with an interesting differentiator.
Unfortunately, the standard version is just a little too ‘generic EV SUV’ for our liking right now, and it’s an expensive one at that. We like the fancy tech of the higher spec models, but we prefer the comfort of the smaller wheeled models – there’s been too much sacrificed at the altar of performance here and we’re not sure the RZ is worth the extra outlay over some impressive competition.