Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Aix-en-Provence in the South of France for an international test drive of the all-new 2023 Lexus RZ 450e, the luxury automaker's first-ever battery-electric vehicle. With a range of up to 220 miles when paired with the 18" Dark Gray Metallic aluminum rim selection, the EV crossover and its 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack are essential to the company’s Lexus Electrified Vision. The sustainable goal is to leverage electrification technologies to enhance fundamental vehicle performance.
The timeless moments experienced in this beautiful country region were fascinating and perfect for launching a silent, emissions-free, and perfectly-sized crossover amongst residents who focus on locally-sourced produce, sustainable living, and compassion. Within the perimeter, you will find alluring 14th to 19th-century buildings and omnipresent squares for communing and shopping. Outside of town, the air was mystified by the abundance of lavender fields and copious mountains to create some epic driving scenery.
To properly understand what this new EV means to the brand, Lexus says that owners of the RZ 450e will be satisfied by a constant and natural dialogue defined by the three Cs: Comfort, Confidence, and Control. Built in Japan, it is sized between the NX and RX and joins an electrified fleet that includes seven hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. In its first year Lexus expects to sell 4,900 units in the United States and 30,000 globally with a goal of becoming an all-electric company by 2035.
While driving through France I was paired with 20" black and machined finished luxury wheels and Dunlop tires. Hence, total driving range equates to 196 miles. If you choose the 18” rims, then your overall range will increase up to 220 miles from the 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery (one battery option) featuring 96 cells for a 308-horsepower total. The 355.2-volt pack is placed beneath the floor to help the RZ maintain a low center of gravity to an already balanced chassis and rigid body structure. Yes, this is the Japanese brand's first foray into all-electric mobility, but I would like to see the battery range hit at least 250 miles for this category. Competitors include the Audi Q4 e-tron, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Tesla Model Y, Jaguar I-PACE, and another 15 new EVs coming into this segment.
Stylistically, the RZ 450e is exquisite inside and out. Deep, sculpted lines are externally refreshing, while sexy LED lights, bold Lexus spindle body, glaring two-tones, and an illuminating front logo add mass appeal. An innovative Ether Metallic hue and other shades such as Cloudburst, Iridium, Caviar, and Eminent White Pearl increase the personalization options for newly-introduced RZ owners. The cockpit features a 13-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, the 14" Lexus Interface multimedia screen with detailed navigation, a smartphone charging pad, five USB-c ports, and a dimmable Dynamic Sky panoramic roof which can turn from transparent to opaque and features a special coating to reduce cabin heat on sunny days. However, Lexus must add genuine wood panels instead of the faux materials currently utilized.
On the road, the RZ is super quiet and silky smooth with the help of FWD-biased DIRECT4 all-wheel drive for performance driving and overcoming lousy weather conditions. The system consists of a front and rear e-Axle, with each paired to an electric motor, gearing, and an ECU to drive the wheels. The front engine produces 150 kW and the rear 80 kW. DIRECT4 perpetually monitors the roads and driver behavior to decide when and where to apply torque. For example, it can send 100% torque to the front axle if needed. New to Lexus is the rotary gear selector and the futuristic Steer by Wire steering system, which does away with a mechanical connection for a digital one. I had a chance to experience this system and its futuristic steering wheel design. Amazingly, the technology enhanced the turn radius with quicker and more proficient inputs. Moreover, Drive Mode Select offers drivers customizable Normal, Eco, Sport, Custom, and Range settings.
EV owners will complete 80% of their charging at home using a 240v Level 2 charger. Therefore, a home installation setup such as the ChargePoint Home Flex is best. But when you are out and about ChargePoint has an extensive network of Level 2 AC and Level 3 DC Fast Chargers. I can use the app to find locations in my area from shopping centers to hotels. In terms of costs, compare the kWh rate of charging your vehicle to an electric oven or dryer. For the quickest results, I suggest hardwiring your unit to a 50-amp circuit breaker estimated at 37 miles of range per hour. The lower the amp rating, the slower the charge. As you increase amperage more power will be drawn to your RZ at a faster rate. Remember that home charges are eligible for utility rebates and other incentives including the renewed US federal tax credit for 30% of total station and installation fees up to $1,000.
Of course, safety is always at the top of the mind for Lexus engineers. So the RZ 450e is packaged with the latest generation of Lexus Safety System + 3.0 along with e-Latch and Safe Exit Assist that reduces accidents by preventing the doors from opening in the path of approaching vehicles or cyclists. Then there is Drive Monitor Camera which pings if it notices the driver looking in another direction. Lexus also provides a dedicated service line for RZ members for their various inquiries or possible concerns.
Pricing ranges from $59,650 to $65,150 depending on which rendition (Premium or Luxury) of the all-electric 2023 Lexus RZ 450e is selected. Sadly, Lexus doesn’t expect to build an F Sport RZ model in the foreseeable future.
After a few picturesque days of EV riding in Aix-en-Provence we made our way to Marseille for a day of Mediterranean delight. The French port city is lovely in every respect and full of wonder and energy. In typical fashion I went on an evening running tour to enjoy the sites and search for plant-based sustenance. With gratitude I found Flower Burger which commingles health and deliciousness in the same breath and flows with the lifestyle of an EV owner. Live life people while “experiencing amazing” as often as humanly possible.