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2023 Lexus RZ 450e - Review by Larry Nutson

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2023 Lexus RZ 450e
A first from Lexus

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

Major automakers posted double-digit sales gains in the third quarter of 2023. Retail inventories have improved and fleet shipments are rebounding. For the third quarter of 2023, Lexus division reported sales of 74,896 vehicles, up 10.9 percent on a volume basis.

Year-to-date electrified vehicle sales including battery, fuel cell, hybrid and plug-in hybrid top 455,142 for Toyota Motor NA—that’s both the Toyota and Lexus brands. For Lexus, electrified vehicle sales in September were up 84.0 percent. The year-to-date electrified vehicle ratio is at 27.9 percent of all Lexus sales.

Lexus is working towards an essential goal: the realization of a sustainable global society. Lexus has the intention to contribute to a carbon-neutral society by aiming to offer 100% BEVs globally by 2035.

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The all-new, all-electric Lexus RZ 450e is designed to support Lexus’ goal. The RZ is the brand’s first globally available, purpose-built battery-electric vehicle. The new RZ has sold over 2500 units in the US since going on sale in the Spring.

RZ is a compact 5-passenger crossover utility vehicle that is built on a new e-TNGA vehicle architecture uniquely designed for battery-electric vehicles.

With a 112.2 inch wheelbase and an overall length of 189.17 inches, the RZ is well suited for the urban landscape…not too big and not too small. For reference, it is 3.35 inches shorter than the popular Lexus RX. The battery pack is part of the floor structure located between the front and rear axles.

Offered with all-wheel drive as standard, a 150-kW electric motor is mounted between the front wheels. An 80-kW motor is in the rear. Total system horsepower is 308-HP. A 355 volt, 71.4 kWh battery pack is mounted under the floor. The battery is covered by an 8-year/100,000 miles warranty.

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Lexus’ manufacturer-estimated 0-60 acceleration time is 5.0 seconds. It has an EPA-estimated range rating of up to 220 miles when equipped with 18” wheels and an EPA-estimated MPGe rating of 115/98/107 (city/highway/combined). When utilizing 20” wheels, the RZ has an EPA- estimated MPGe of 102/87/95 with an EPA-estimated range rating of up to 196 miles.

Let me bring some added clarity to the EPA-estimated mileage range ratings. They are a combined city/highway rating. Battery electric vehicles perform best in lower speed, city-type driving, which can be seen by the higher city MPGe ratings. Your driving range will vary depending on driving conditions, ambient temperature, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, battery pack age/condition, and other factors. 

Under ideal conditions, the RZ can charge from 0 to 100% in approximately 9.5 hours with a Level 2 (240v) charger---that’s basically, overnight. And, charging from 0 to 80% is in approximately 30 minutes with a DC fast charger.. You shouldn’t discharge the battery below 10%, so in reality the charging time can be a bit shorter. It is valuable to note Lexus informs the following: “DC Charging time will vary significantly depending on a number of different factors, including weather. As temperatures drop below freezing, this increase can be significant.  Accessory use, battery level and condition, charger specifications and charging multiple times per day also can negatively affect charging experience.”

The 2023 RZ is offered in two grades, Premium and Luxury. The RZ Premium rides atop 18-inch Dark Gray Metallic aluminum wheels while the Luxury is outfitted with 20-inch wheels in a Black and Machined finish. Prices start at $59,650 MSRP, including the $1,150 DPH.

Lexus has equipped the RZ is with a long list of collision warning, collision intervention, and driving control assistance features as standard.

My recent drive experience with the RZ was in a Luxury trim grade finished in Ether exterior color ($500) and fitted with a number of options that included a Cold Area Package ($200) and a Dynamic Sky Panorama Glass Roof ($550). The Luxury trim MSRP is $64,000 and the bottom-line totaled $67,095, including destination (DPH).

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The Glass Roof does not have a roller shade function, but a smart-function low-e coating to help the panorama glass roof suppress radiant heat. A dimming function, which instantly reduces the amount of light entering the cabin area was fitted with this Dynamic Sky panorama glass roof option.

The Cold Area Package adds radiant heaters placed at the bottom of the front console that quickly and directly heat front passengers’ legs and feet.

My drive with the RZ was mostly in city-type driving near my home in Chicago. BEVs perform best in lower speed driving. Regenerative braking puts charge back into the battery while coming to a stop. I did make a drive to Chicago’s western suburbs, a distance of about 30 miles each way. Prior to this drive, I added charge to the battery using a DCFC charger bringing it up to 70% just to play it safe.

The climate was mild during my drive, so I only had the HVAC system fan on the lowest speed and the interior temperature set to low. I did not use heat or air conditioning. I noticed by having the fan switched on the predicted driving range displayed in the instrument cluster was about 20-percent less compared to having the system completely off.

I queried Lexus on this. They replied: “The predicted range is based on a variety of factors, including whether or not the HVAC is on. By turning on the fan, there’s going to be more power consumption so there will be a predicted range drop.”  

Lexus also advised: You’ll notice that when you put the RZ in Range Mode, the range will be higher because it’s going to actively work to reduce the power consumption for maximum range.

  • In Range mode maximum speed is to 100 km (62mph) or 62 km (38mph) power [my note for clarity: for accelerating from stop] (but you can push past for safety reasons), power mostly goes through rear eAxle, DIRECT4 power is tampered for efficiency, and air conditioning is disabled (but can be turned on if desired). Each of these will play a role in the predicted range.

The RZ 450e’s driving range is not quite as much as we are seeing in other BEVs on the market today. However, your needs for your typical driving pattern must be considered in determining if a BEV is right for you as well as how much driving range you actually do need on a daily basis. Charging is all important. Personally, I recommend the installation of a Level 2 charger at your residence. It’s key to a good ownership experience. If you live in a cold climate it is best to be able to garage a BEV.

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Come January 1, the EV Federal tax credit will change to an up-front $7,500 discount taken off the purchase price right at the dealership. No longer will there be waiting until buyers file their tax return to get the tax credit, according to the IRS. President Biden's 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) made this change. If purchasing, only certain EVs qualify for the discount and there are limits on both vehicle MSRP and personal income that apply. If leasing, there is a workaround in the IRA allowing all EVs to qualify, and the limits on MSRP and income do not apply. The $7,500 credit is given to the leasing company and they should apply it to the lease contract vehicle price.

The future is electric. Happy motoring!

© 2023 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

About Larry Nutson, The Chicago Car Guy

Larry has been the executive producer for The Auto Channel for more than 20 years.

Larry is a graduate mechanical engineer and an automobile enthusiast at heart. "I’ve enjoyed a diverse automotive corporate career that began in product planning and expanded into marketing and communications. I’m established as a successful contractor, a founder of the Individual Communicators Network (ICN) and operated a well-regarded 1000-home residential property management service. I'm equally at ease with technical matters, strategic planning, architectural plans, or communicating to an audience. Project management suits me well and I love to travel.

A Founding member and past-Chairman of the Individual Communicators Network. Past chairperson of the SAE International Public Affairs Committee. Public relations services for SAE Congress and Formula SAE. Sponsorship representative for and early-supporter of the Woodward Dream Cruise, Detroit, Michigan.

Independent management and communications professional since 1997.

Guest commentator on Drive Chicago-WLS 890AM, Consumer Guide Automotive Car Stuff Podcast, KRTK 93.3 Automotive Insights, Shunpiker's Journal-Michigan Business Network and Talk Radio. Executive Producer for The Auto Channel. Contributing writer to Blog and Chicago Tribune/Autos.

Past member of the Board and Treasurer of the Midwest Automotive Media Association

Specialties: Brand Communication, Event Planning and Management, Government Liaison, Automotive Marketing, Automotive Product Evaluation, Education Advocacy, Homeowner Association Management, German Language