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Lexus RZ

Lexus RZ

This might come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Lexus brand but, despite being at the forefront of introducing hybrid drivetrain technology to the masses – at the premium end of the market of course – the RZ reviewed here is the company’s first proper electric vehicle.

Ah, you’ll say, what about the UX 300e? It’s true, that was an EV, but the difference between the two is that while the 300e was an evolution of a hybrid model the RZ has been designed from the ground up as an electric car.

Lexus RZ
Lexus RZ

Has being late to the party allowed Lexus’s rivals the chance to steal a march on the firm or is the RZ going to offer up some serious competition? Let’s find out.

Lexus have always been adept at building cabins that you’d want to spend time in and the RZ is no exception. There’s lots of soft-touch, tactile materials across the dashboard and on the doors. It all feels, and looks, attractive and very well put together.

The driving position is excellent. The seats are comfortable and supportive, offering plenty of adjustment both horizontally and vertically. The digital instrument cluster is clear and easy to read. You do sit a little lower in the RZ than in most rivals you still get that SUV feel.

Lexus RZ
Lexus RZ

The centre of the dashboard is dominated by a 14in infotainment touchscreen. There’s no physical input option – not even the clickpad that Lexus has been so fond of - and that means operating it can be distracting when you’re on the move.

I’ve always been impressed by Lexus’s attention to detail, thoughtful little touches that remind you you’re in a premium automobile and the infrared heaters fitted to the RZ are another example of that.

When the temperature drops keeping the cabin warm uses a lot of energy, seriously impacting on an EV’s range and efficiency. Climate control uses about 5,000W while the heaters – fitted to Premium Plus Pack and Takumi versions – use just 170W to warm front passengers’ knees. It’s a bit like having a blanket thrown across your lap.

You’ll probably still need the heated seats and steering wheel on to completely negate the need for a coat but, even with those switched on, you’ll still be saving money and power.

Lexus RZ
Lexus RZ

The RZ has an enormous amount of legroom in the back. The floor is perfectly flat, too, so there’s no straddling required for anyone stuck in the middle seat on the rear bench. Headroom is generous and will comfortable accommodate taller passengers. The rear seats don’t slide back and forth but you can adjust the angle of the seat backs a little.

Cabin storage includes a small tray below the infotainment screen, a cubby under the centre armrest and a pair of cupholders between the front-seat passengers. The door bins are quite small and, unusually, the RZ doesn’t have a glovebox.

The RZ’s boot is slightly larger than its direct rivals (BMW iX3 and Genesis Electrified GV70) and has ample underfloor storage for the charging cables. That does help mitigate the absence of additional stowage space under the bonnet.

There’s no lip to negotiate when loading, or unloading, the boot and the load area is very wide towards the back of the car. All models are fitted with 60/40 split folding rear seats and a powered tailgate as standard.

Lexus RZ
Lexus RZ

Quick? Yes, the RZ is. It doesn’t threaten to wrench your head from your neck when you accelerate hard but it’s rapid enough to keep you planted firmly in your seat.

Take the RZ for a pleasant drive around the countryside, leaving time to soak up the view and enjoy the scenery, and it can be a pleasure to drive on sweeping roads. You get a reasonable sense of connection between the steering wheel and the front tyres too. Pick up the pace, though, and the RZ’s composure starts to wane. It’s the same over higher-frequency undulations, where the RZ struggles to settle between peaks.

The RX exhibits a considerable amount of body lean in corners as well.

That means that, while the RZ is supremely comfortable at moderate speeds – the suspension does a commendable job of soaking pretty much anything that Britain’s broken roads throws at it – comfort quickly dissipates at higher speeds.

Lexus RZ
Lexus RZ

It’s very, very quiet on the move, even by EV standards, with road noise and motor whine at barely audible levels.

A feature that’s worth a mention – although it won’t be available in Europe until 2025 at the earliest – is what Lexus calls One Motion Grip. It’s a drive-by-wire system that has no physical connection between wheel and, er, wheels. When you turn the aircraft-style yoke an electronic signal is sent to a motor on the steering rack that turns the front wheels.

I know what you’re thinking because I’ve thought it too: What if the system fails?

Well, thankfully, Lexus have considered that very scenario and felt it prudent to fit a back-up controller just in case. It should have some advantages over a traditional set-up because just 150 degrees of steering angle need be applied to turn the front wheels full lock.

At low speeds – below 10mph – the steering ratio is improbably quick, meaning that tiny inputs are needed to have a big effect on the car’s direction.

Lexus RZ
Lexus RZ

Still, that’s one for the future. For the time being we’ll have to make do with a more traditional set-up.

The RZ’s range varies according to the diameter of the wheels. With the 18in alloys fitted to the entry-level Premium Pack car the, official, maximum range is 271 miles. Riding on the 20in alloys fitted to all other models and that figure falls to 251 miles.

The RZ’s range between charges isn’t anything to shout about but it shares that distinction with a significant number of other EVs. It isn’t the fastest charging battery-powered car either. It’s also still somewhat let down by an infotainment system that, for some, might prove less than user-friendly.

What it does offer, however, is a practical and very well put together interior that’s both luxurious and comfortable. It’s very quiet and relaxing on the move too.

Lexus RZ

Price (from): £64,500


Type: AC synchronous electric generator

Total power output: 309bhp

Front motor output: 201bhp

Rear motor output: 108bhp

Max torque (front): 266Nm

Max torque (rear) 168Nm

Total torque: 435Nm

Transmission: Single speed

0-62mph: 5.3 secs

Max speed: 99mph

For more information click here.

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