The electrification of the luxury automobile market continues. Now, it’s Lexus’ turn, a short 17 years after the Japanese marque launched its first hybrid model, the RX400h.
Like its spiritual predecessor, the brand’s first all-electric, battery-only vehicle is a sports utility vehicle. The RZ 450e marks a new chapter for Lexus – not only of abandoning its erstwhile petrol-fuelled automobiles, but improving the driving experience.
The RZ is built for longevity. High-capacity 71.4kWh batteries designed exclusively for Lexus’ upcoming range of EVs, along with other low-loss technologies, result in an impressive 450km per single charge. These batteries are made to last – according to Lexus, the car retains an impressive 90 per cent battery capacity retention rate even after a decade.
You’d want to keep driving it too, if the automaker’s promised new systems are as responsive as they say. One of these, dubbed DIRECT4, purportedly distributes force across all four wheels during acceleration, cornering and steering to improve stability and agility, making for a sensitive and pleasurable drive. Another novel system replaces the mechanical link between steering wheel and tires with electric signals to reduce vibrations from the tires and brakes.
The standard steering wheel also gets a rectangular makeover, not unlike the ones used in racecars – or Tesla’s controversial “yoke” steering wheel, released with the Model S last year. This, Lexus says, will reduce the need for hand-over-hand operation when making big turns.
In terms of design, the iconic Lexus spindle grille has evolved into a so-called “spindle body” that improves the car’s aerodynamic performance. The interiors are also designed to evoke a feeling of Japanese hospitality: think clean, modern and spacious, with few buttons and dials to distract from the driving experience. The minimalist cockpit adds to the serenity.
The RZ 450e, which will go on sale later this year, puts Lexus in good stead to hit its eventual goal of offering a full lineup of EVs by 2030.
(Related: Test Drive: The all-electric Lexus UX300e)