Officially, it’s being described only as “the newest Lexus electrified vehicle,” but the RZ crossover the luxury brand began teasing today is set to become its first all-electric model aimed at the U.S. market when it is formally revealed in 2022.
It will follow the debut of parent brand Toyota’s first long-range battery-electric vehicle, the bZ4X. Both BEVs will share the underlying e-TNGA architecture and other key components, though the Lexus RZ is expected to introduce more high-end features and, according to some sources, deliver more aggressive performance.
Lexus was the first luxury automaker to introduce a hybrid model and now offers a wide range of conventional and plug-in models. But, like its parent, it has been reluctant to embrace full battery power, at least until now. With competitors moving quickly into the BEV space, it is hustling to catch up and the RZ is the first step.
Going “Beyond Zero”
All told, Toyota has said it will have 70 “electrified” models in production by 2025, including 15 BEVs. Of those, the majority will be Toyota brand bZ, or “Beyond Zero,” models. But the Lexus RZ is expected to be just the first of several luxury models it will launch in the next few years.
The teaser images released Thursday show the clear influence of the Lexus LF-Z concept released earlier in 2021. Like that prototype, the RZ has an angular, almost geometric design. The nose lifts some of its cues from the current Lexus line-up, but adopts a closed grille, with no need to push air under the hood since the entire powertrain is mounted below the load floor on the skateboard-style e-TNGA platform.
The impact of range-extending aerodynamics is obvious, with the steeply raked windshield flowing into an arcing roofline that ends in a short spoiler. The backlight is just as steeply angled, with an additional ducktail spoiler helping control wind flow.
The LF-Z is expected to influence more than just the design of the Lexus RZ. Among other things, the production battery-crossover is likely to use the new Direct4 powertrain technology. That would mean twin motors, one on each axle, and an electronic control system capable of shifting torque, where needed, much faster than conventional all-wheel-drive systems.
It’s useful to note that the e-TNGA system was jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru, the smaller automaker set to use it for its own BEV, the Solterra model introduced last month at the LA Auto Show. Based on the new renderings, it appears that the Lexus RZ has both a longer wheelbase and overall length.
Both the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra will draw power from 71 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery packs. The new Lexus RZ could power up a bit, as the LF-Z concept was said to use a 90 kWh pack that would deliver up to 373 miles per charge. (By comparison, the maximum range is 330 miles for the Toyota bZ4X.) That would be in line with the direction other luxury brands are taking, as high-line buyers appear willing to pay for added range and improved performance. The LF-Z, according to Lexus, could hit 100 kmh, or 62 mph, in about 3 seconds flat.
The battery pack should be able to get up to an 80% charge in under half an hour by using up to a 150 kilowatt-hour public quick charger.
The RZ actually won’t be the first all-electric Lexus model. The automaker currently offers the UX 300e, but only in a few, select markets like Europe. And that model relies on a more conventional platform allowing the small crossover to be offered with hybrid and even gas-powered variants. Its range comes in at just under 200 miles using the global WLTP standard, far less than what can be expected of the battery-only Lexus RZ.
The new teaser images — and a separate, short video, offer no insight into the Lexus RZ’s interior. If it were to pick up on the concept’s design it would feature large video displays making use of augmented reality — in line with what the new Mercedes-Benz EQS battery-sedan is doing. The show car also adopted a steer-by-wire system and — here lifting a page from Tesla’s interior styling book — a yoke, rather than a steering wheel. We’ll have to wait a bit to find out more.