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Lexus RZ 2023 review


Lexus delivers its first electric vehicle built on a dedicated EV platform, but can the RZ medium SUV justify its high price in the face of ever-growing prestige EV rivals?

Good points

  • Polished drive experience
  • Lightweight for an electric SUV
  • Sports Luxury’s serenity
  • Strong build quality
  • Good back seat and boot
  • Encore Platinum perks

Needs work

  • High price of entry
  • Luxury-variant cabin not luxurious enough
  • Range and charge times are average
  • Not a terribly engaging drive
  • High quality cheaper rivals
  • Steering yoke not here yet

In recent years, luxury electric midsize SUVs have become as commonplace in private school carparks as lip fillers and tax avoidance. No bad thing, they’re a welcome alternative to kerb-crushing Range Rovers.

The latest entry is the Lexus RZ, the prestige brand’s first stab at an EV built on a dedicated electric vehicle platform. This, of course, the e-TNGA underpinning shared with the incoming Toyota BZ4X and Subaru Solterra EVs.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 rear above

Editor Tom Baker tested a Lexus RZ 450e prototype on a test track a few months ago, but this was our first chance to sample the model on Australian roads.

Intriguingly, Tom got a feeling in his waters the RZ was something of a driver’s car – highly unusual in EV Land – but aligns with Lexus (and now Toyota) president Koji Sato’s previous statement saying he wanted properly engaging electric cars.

On first encounter, and after punting this new RZ through some rather delightful South Australian twisties, there’s enjoyable dynamic talent, albeit without ever feeling sporty.

Thing is, the RZ weighs ‘only’ 2100kg. Not much for an EV SUV of this size (a Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 is 400kg heavier), so it understandably feels a dash more nimble.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 front 3/4 far

The RZ’s relative leanness is partly due to quite a small lithium-ion battery for a $120,000+ electric SUV. At 71.4kWh (64kW usable) it’s a fair percentage below the Benz EQC 400’s 80kWh offering.

Lighter weight’s a boon, but trade-off is range that may not meet some customers’ expectations.

Lexus’ European figures state the RZ’s WLTP figure in $123,000 450e Luxury guise is 435km, dropping to 395km in $135,000 flagship 450e Sports Luxury trim. Less aerodynamic 20-inch wheels versus 18-inchers doing the damage there.

When looking specifically at our market, Lexus Australia states the two grades share a 400km WLTP range figure.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 side

Against the opposition, a Benz EQC 400 ($124,300) manages 417km, a BMW iX3 ($104,900) 460km and a Tesla Model Y Performance ($95,300) 514km, all on the WLTP standard.

Both RZ grades use two independently-controlled ‘e-Axle’ electric motors, bringing all-wheel-drive and a total of 230kW. The front motor delivers 150kW and 266Nm, the rear 80kW and 169Nm. A 0-100km/h time of just 5.3 seconds bests most of today’s hot hatches.

Talking point? No Tesla Model S Plaid-like steering yoke for the RZ, as we originally hoped for the range-topper. We’re told this “state-of-the-art steer-by-wire and yoke steering wheel system” will be showcased “in the future.” No yoke, I’m afraid.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 front

Lexus has also abandoned leather, offering for the first time leather-free vegan upholstery – cue traditionalists spilling their port.

Positively, the purchase of an RZ also brings complimentary ownership benefits such as free home charger installation, free public charging and subscription to Lexus’ desirable Encore Platinum program.

What are the Lexus RZ’s features and options for the price?

Kicking off at $123,000 – you’ll be looking at over $130,000 drive-away – expectations are high at that price.

It’s a fair whack pricier than BMW’s (rear-wheel drive only) iX3, matches the Benz EQC 400, larger BMW iX 40 and loaded Genesis e-GV70 Performance, and is some $30K more than the hottest Tesla Model Y. Ignore the latter at your peril – its sales numbers utterly trounce all other SUV EVs.

In typical Lexus fashion, these RZs are properly packed in either grade, but the Sports Luxury offers a significantly classier cabin ambience.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 front close

Externally it’s striking to behold with edgy, slim LED lights front and rear. A smoothed radiator grille-free front panel instead of Lexus’s polarising giant spindle grilles of the recent past gives a classier air.

The ‘Spindle Body’ motif is more subtle here, blending into the RZ’s front end
As we’ve come to expect of electric SUVs, the roof has a coupe-like rear design while there’s a nice little lip spoiler below the rear glass, and roof spoiler fins for aerodynamic benefit.

Colours have a funky edge. There’s Sonic Quartz, Graphite Black, Sonic Chrome, Sonic Iridium, Ether and Sonic Copper, the latter the hero colour. Sports Luxury buyers can go two-tone with a black bonnet and roof.

Standard features on the RZ 450e Luxury include:

  • Direct4 all-wheel drive
  • Four-mode Drive Mode Select (Normal, Eco, Sport, Range) plus Custom
  • CCS2 DC charging capability
  • 11kW three-phase AC on-board charger included
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • LED headlamps with auto-levelling and headlamp washers
  • LED taillights and fog lights
  • Heated and driver’s side auto-dimming exterior mirrors with auto-folding
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Front and rear air spats
  • NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery (Greyscale or Hazel)
  • Auto-dimming rear view mirror
  • Shift-by-wire dial with integrated park brake
  • Dual-zone climate-control
  • Heated driver and front passenger seats
  • Eight-way power adjustable front seats with two-way driver power lumbar support
  • Power tailgate
  • Electrically adjustable steering wheel column
  • 14.0-inch touchscreen display with “Hey Lexus” voice recognition
  • Satellite navigation
  • DAB+ digital radio
  • Wired Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay
  • 10-speaker Panasonic audio
  • 5 USB-C ports (3x front, 2x second row)Lexus Connected Services with inbuilt Data Control Module (DCM)
  • Wireless smartphone charger

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 interior

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury adds:

  • 20-inch alloy wheels
  • Dynamic auto-levelling multi-weather headlamps
  • Front and rear acoustic glass
  • Black painted lower rear bumper, wheel arch mouldings, and trim
  • Two-tone paint option
  • Ultrasuede seat and door trim (Greyscale, Hazel or Storm)
  • Dimming panoramic sunroof
  • Tsuyasumi interior ornamentation
  • Multi-colour ambient interior lighting
  • Adaptive High-Beam System (AHS)
  • Intelligent parking assist
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Front radiant seat heating
  • Heated rear outboard seats
  • Three-position driver’s seat memory
  • Colour head-up display with touch-sensitive steering wheel controls
  • 13-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio

But no massage seats anywhere? And no head-up display or memory seats on the $123,000 entry level? C’mon, Lexus.

How does the Lexus RZ drive?

The idea was to ensure the full-electric RZ still drove ‘like a Lexus’, and to that end it’s a success.

For the most part it’s a serene drive experience: comfortable, cossetting quiet cabin and suspension easily soaking up bigger road hits.

The 450e Luxury’s tyre noise was marked on poor surfaces, but in the Sports Luxury with its double-glazed acoustic glass (front and rear) this seemed totally eradicated. The range topper is indeed a silent cruiser when you want it to be.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 front 3/4 driving

Despite no adaptive dampers as you may expect at this price, the handling/ride comfort balance in the RZ’s very good indeed.

The Adelaide Hills has some of Australia’s finest twisty ribbons of blacktop, and the RZ’s low centre of gravity and smart Direct4 all-wheel drive – adjusting torque between the front and rear wheels – give great poise through corners.

At around 2100kg it’s no true lightweight, but feels more agile than plumper electric SUV rivals with minimal body roll. In Sport mode especially, steering weight is good and the RZ neatly and sharply carved through many challenging turns.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 driving rear 3/4 2

It feels safe and confidence-inspiring, but get too greedy and it’ll remind you of its bulk and gift you a large dose of understeer.

Rolling acceleration’s really strong in Sport mode. It’s no belter from a standstill, but a quick squirt while you’re on the move and the brace of motors deliver serious, fun surge.

It never pins you to your seat – it’s a Lexus family SUV after all – and engineers have rightly set it up for smooth, refined speed building.

There are four regen levels for harvesting energy back to the battery, changed through steering paddles. No setting arrests progress particularly harshly, ensuring the drive stays smooth when you lift off the throttle.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 front 3/4 driving 2

More regen for town use – and being able to come to a stop without the brake pedal – would be a personal preference.

Lexus may wish for its EVs to be engaging to drive, and while the RZ offered some fun on winding roads, it feels at its best and most relevant in town and on highways.

The way it keeps out the city noise, absorbs bumps and can squirt effortlessly through traffic are its trump cards. Sling on adaptive cruise control on the motorway, enjoy the superb sound systems in both grades and this RZ’s found its happy place.

What is the Lexus RZ’s interior and tech like?

The Luxury and Sports Luxury cabins both appear superbly built, but the pricier model feels by far the classier.

Arguably you’d expect as much for an additional $12,000, but it’s really because the 450e Luxury feels quite ordinary in places. Not what you’d want from a $123,000 Lexus.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 interior close

The entry-level’s ‘NuLuxe’ synthetic leather upholstery feels good, but the doors are plain to look at and mundane to the touch.

The Sports Luxury’s vegan Ultrasuede, by contrast, is properly upper class. Velvet-like in feel, and in the Storm blue of our test car – combined with brilliant dimming panoramic sunroof – it’s all light-filled, soft-touch loveliness.

The 14.0-inch touchscreen neatly blends into a digital driver display. The widescreen is razor sharp, and after a couple of false starts, ran wireless Apple CarPlay faultlessly. Needing wired Android Auto will annoy you iPhone rejectors.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 roof

Positively, Lexus has retained physical dials for climate control and audio – yet another new vehicle that has moved away from putting Absolutely Everything Through A Screen. Good to see some brands listen to customers and motoring journalists.

The digital driver display should be more customisable – it lacks the wow factor of a Benz/BMW/Audi effort – but Lexus has put too much information through the Sports Luxury’s head-up display.

You navigate this on-screen info via touch sensitive steering wheel buttons, and it proves distracting until you learn the technique of navigating the numerous menus.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 door handle

Speaking of technique, RZs have Lexus’s touch-sensitive door handles. The correct method is a gentle, fluid tap on a hidden pad and the door classily pops open. From inside, a gentle thumb tap does likewise. Brilliant, if you don’t manhandle it.

The centre console uses a rotary gear selector – another Lexus first. The space between front occupants is cleanly designed, with two-way opening storage under the armrest, two large cup holders and extra storage for larger items beneath the centre console.

While not feeling vast inside – the Luxury’s lack of glass roof accentuates this – rear leg and head room is very good, although toe room suffers.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 back seat

Rear seats don’t recline or slide as seen in some medium SUVs, but remain very comfortable and a luxurious place to travel.

The boot has a good 522L of space, and it’s a nice low loading height. Rear seats split-fold 60:40 to give you up to 1451L of room.

Less good is the complete absence of a ‘frunk’ under the bonnet, as that’s taken up by drivetrain bits – just like a petrol or diesel car.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 interior boot

There’s 64L of smart, upholstered space under the boot floor, it housing tools, emergency kit, charging cable and puncture repair kit. And, rather comically, the owner’s manual. That’s because there’s no glovebox in the main cabin.

With an EV-specific platform supposed to improve interior packaging, this seems mystifying.

Is the Lexus RZ a safe car?

The Lexus RZ doesn’t yet have an ANCAP safety rating. Safety inclusions are comprehensive, and on test the driver assist systems felt well-calibrated with minimal fussiness to use.

Key inclusions are:

  • Lexus Safety Sense+
  • Pre-collision System with autonomous emergency braking3
  • Pedestrian (day/night), bicyclist (day/night), motorcyclist (day), vehicle ahead (day/night) and oncoming vehicle (day) detection
  • Intersection turn assist
  • Emergency steering assist with active support
  • Acceleration suppression at low speeds
  • Front cross-traffic alert
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
  • Speed road sign assist
  • Lane tracing assist with lane-departure alert
  • Driver monitoring
  • Front and rear Parking Support Brake with parking sensors
  • Blind Spot Monitor (including stationary) with rear-cross traffic alert
  • Safe Exit Assist
  • Reversing camera with guidelines and rear camera washer
  • 360-degree camera
  • Active cornering assist
  • 10 SRS Airbags
  • Tyre inflation pressure monitor

The 450e Sports Luxury adds:

  • Adaptive high-beam system
  • Intelligent parking assist

What are the Lexus RZ’s ownership costs?

Purely looking at energy consumption, Lexus Australia quoted 18.7kWh/100km as the WLTP figure. This is markedly ‘thirstier’ than efficiency kings Tesla; its Model Y Performance using just 14.6kWh/100km on the WLTP cycle.

Our tests, primarily along rural roads, returned just over 20kWh/100km in both Luxury and Sports Luxury models. The average consumption dropped during city use, where RZs will typically be found.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 engine

A full charge had the RZ indicating a range of 396km until empty. It should be achievable in the right circumstances, but our use made 370km look more likely. But we were battling battery-busting single-digit temperatures.

With EVs, cost is relative to how you charge the battery. Got solar at your home or work and can charge this way? Welcome to the moral and financial high ground of zero emissions and zero fuel cost.

If you’re buying from the electricity company, your running costs to fill the battery comes down to your domestic energy prices.

While most EV owners charge exclusively at home, Lexus also chucks in a three-year free subscription to the Chargefox rapid DC public EV charging network (1200 plugs nationwide).
Public DC charging’s done with a CCS2 cable with a maximum 150kW charging capacity.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 charging

This rate may be decidedly average for a brand new luxury EV in 2023, but at an ultra-rapid charger the RZ’s battery is up to 80 per cent in 30 minutes.

A huge – often unfounded – fear of moving to an EV is potential battery replacement cost. Lexus has set itself a durability target of 90 per cent battery capacity retention after ten years.
High confidence, but not enough to offer owners better than 70 per cent EV battery retention over the warranty period.

There’s a five-year/unlimited km whole car warranty, with the EV battery extended to ten years/unlimited km subject to an annual EV system health check after the fifth year.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 rear 3/4

Making only 64kWh of the 71.4kWh battery usable should help preserve battery health, as does water cooling and a battery heating system for faster charging speeds in low temperatures.

An 11kW onboard charger’s included for Type 2 AC charging, while a Type 2 GPO cable’s also thrown in.

Lexus’ free home charger installation’s a boon. It’s a 7kW JetCharge AC wallbox, able to charge the RZ from 10 per cent battery to full in around 10 hours. If your home has three-phase power you can pay to upgrade to a more powerful 11kWh wallbox, cutting charge time to 6.5 hours.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 front driving

Five years of capped price servicing is included, costing $395 per visit with intervals of 12 months or 15,000km. You get a complimentary Lexus vehicle during scheduled servicing.

There’s also complimentary three-year subscription to Lexus’s Encore Platinum program, normally reserved for top tier Lexus models. Read about the included high life goodness here.

The honest verdict on the Lexus RZ

The RZ’s what a Lexus EV should be: beautifully built, comfortable, quiet and lavishly luxurious if you stump up for the Sports Luxury grade.

But if you were looking for something that really moves the electric SUV game on, the RZ isn’t it. It’s a safe pair of hands with range, performance, charge speed and efficiency all being average.

Lexus RZ 450e Sports Luxury 2023 duo with Luxury 2

That makes its price a little hard to swallow. At around $133,000 (Luxury) and $145,000 (Sports Luxury) to drive-away it feels expensive, not least when BMW’s larger iX 40 can be bought for the same as the RZ range-topper. A similar-sized BMW iX3 EV at $105,000 looks veritably cheap next to the RZ.

We’re told 150 of the expected 500 RZs for Australia this year have been spoken for, and that’s understandable from the Lexus faithful.

They’ll score a refined, likeable and very well-equipped EV, plus enjoy superb Lexus ownership perks. But it comes at a very steep price.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

150kW at 0rpm
266Nm at 0rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
0 litres
All Wheel Drive
Single gear
4805 mm
1895 mm
1635 mm
Unoccupied weight
2110 kg

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