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Lexus charges down electric era with new RZ 450e

21 April 2022 - 14:35
The RZ 450e rides on your choice of 18-inch or 20-inch alloy wheels.
The RZ 450e rides on your choice of 18-inch or 20-inch alloy wheels.
Image: Supplied

The new Lexus RZ 450e is the Japanese marque's first battery electric vehicle (BEV) built on a dedicated platform: the same electric-specific e-TNGA architecture shared with the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra. A compact crossover that will go on sale in select international markets later this year, the RZ 450e is juiced by a 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers two electric motors. Though Lexus has not quoted a combined system output, it confirmed that the front motor makes 150kW and the rear 80kW. In terms of all-out driving range, you're looking at about 450km on a single charge. 

Unlike the bZ4X and Solterra, the RZ 450e will be equipped with a trick all-wheel drive system known as "Direct4". According to Lexus, it uses acceleration, cornering-speed and steering-angle information to automatically adjust front-rear torque delivery and braking force to all four wheels. During acceleration the system adopts a front-to-rear drive-force ratio between 60:40 and 40:60 for minimum vehicle pitch. When the steering wheel is turned, drive force is biased to the front wheels between 50-75% for quicker reflexes and enhanced steering feel. When exiting a corner, torque distribution to the rear wheels is increased to between 50-80% for increased traction. 

Lexus claims a maximum single-charge cruising range of 450km.
Lexus claims a maximum single-charge cruising range of 450km.
Image: Supplied

There's also a newfangled steer-by-wire system that effectively replaces the traditional mechanical connection of old with a sophisticated set of electronics. The steering wheel has also been swapped for an ultra-compact yoke that looks like it was plucked out of the cockpit of an airliner. With a lock-to-lock steering angle of 150 degrees, Lexus says it greatly reduces the driver's workload and eliminates the need for hand-over-hand operation when negotiating intersections and winding roads. It also enabled the designers to lower the placement of the instrument gauges, which are digital. 

However, if this arrangement is a little too radical for your liking, you'll be pleased to know that this electric Lexus can also be had with a regular round steering wheel. 

Radical yoke steering wheel offers a lock-to-lock steering angle of 150 degrees. Centrally mounted 14-inch touchscreen information system is the same as you get in the NX.
Radical yoke steering wheel offers a lock-to-lock steering angle of 150 degrees. Centrally mounted 14-inch touchscreen information system is the same as you get in the NX.
Image: Supplied

Shaped to be as aerodynamically efficient as possible, the sharp-faced RZ 450e is fitted with a unique interpretation of the Lexus "spindle" grille that does without any inlets as there is no internal combustion engine to keep cool. To further aid with air flow, the designers have fitted a distinctive roof spoiler and given the boot lid a special ducktail design that is said to reduce drag and generate more downforce at cruising speeds. Below it you will notice a pair of slim LED taillight clusters linked by a narrow LED light bar. 

According to Lexus SA, the new electric RZ 450e is under consideration for SA.

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