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2023 Lexus RZ 450e Delivers Sublime Serenity but Not Much Range

Luxury car shoppers will find the posh ride they seek in the Lexus RZ 450e, but might be unhappy with how often they’ll need to recharge.

Dan Carney

April 20, 2023

6 Min Read
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2023 Lexus RZ 450e in Cloudburst Black.Lexus

Serenity is probably the quality for which Lexus vehicles are best known, and the new all-electric RZ 450e delivers that in abundance, confirming its place as a true Lexus luxury model.

But the old serenity prayer reflecting the need to accept the things we cannot change also comes to mind, as the RZ 450e seems likely to confirm EV skeptics’ worst fears, with a driving range that seems from the dawn of the EV era and recharging times that are unexpectedly deliberate.

Some of the things that make the RZ feel appropriately posh, as a Lexus should, include the smooth, quiet power delivery of the combined 308 horsepower of the front and rear electric drivetrain and the smooth ride delivered by the Frequency Reactive Dampers, which the company says provides a high level of stability with a comfortable ride.

Lexus points out that “precise control of sprung weight” is a signature trait of the brand, and that is an especially relevant issue for a battery electric vehicle because of the high weight of the battery pack. In this case, it is a 355-volt, 96-cell, 71.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion pack provided by Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, which is a joint venture between Lexus parent company Toyota and longtime battery manufacturer Panasonic.

The RZ rolls on the corporate e-TNGA platform, the same employed by the Toyota bZ4X EV. The RZ uses the same battery pack as the Toyota but has a more powerful drivetrain. This, combined with the luxury RZ’s heavier weight contributes to the significant shortcoming of this Lexus EV: its short driving range.

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Our tested RZ 450e Luxury edition, with an as-tested price tag of $67,300, has a rated range of only 196 miles. The lesser-specification Premium version rolls on 18-inch wheels instead of the 20-inch wheels seen on the Luxury, giving that version of the RZ an estimated range of 220 miles. Compounding the issue of this short range, real-world conditions shorten the driving range further, so that on a crisp spring morning with the climate control turned on, the RZ’s computer forecast a driving range of only 150 miles on a fully charged battery.

This is distressing because double that range has become the expectation in recent years. This is important because there is never an available DC fast charger that just happens to be exactly 150 miles away, meaning that the driver stops at the last one that falls within that range. This produces an effective driving range of more like 100 to 140 miles, as only someone with a lot of time to kill would really risk running an EV to its last mile.

It seems unlikely that many customers will be excited by the prospect of buying an EV with such a short driving range. Especially when this is compounded by slow charging technology. The RZ’s maximum DC fast charging rate is 150 kW. The company says that this will boost the RZ from 0 to an 80 percent state of charge in just half an hour, but experience has shown that chargers rarely deliver their full rated power, so a realistic expectation is probably double that for a charge.

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Even home charging is needlessly slow because the RZ’s onboard charger that works with the home AC current provided by the homeowner’s charging station only works at 6.6 kilowatts, which is two-thirds the capacity of my ChargePoint home charging station. Lexus says this means it will take 9.5 hours to recharge to RZ at home with a 240-volt charging station when the expectation is that it should be no more than eight hours.

In an overnight recharging scenario, this doesn’t really make much difference, but this slow charging rate will also bite owners when doing a between-errands charge of less than 9.5 hours when the slower charge means they can add less comfort-providing extra range between trips. One nicely executed detail relating to charging is the location of the RZ’s charge port just ahead of the driver’s door, making it convenient to plug and unplug charging cables.

This is a disappointment because in all respects unrelated to its EV range and charging, the RZ is a comfortable and enjoyable car. Even for an EV, the RZ is noticeably quiet. And while other premium crossovers’ ride is spoiled by their large-diameter 20-inch wheels with their corresponding lack of tire sidewall height providing ride compliance, the RZ’s ride is cushy and pleasant.

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Inside, as is common among luxury EVs, Lexus eschews leather in favor of synthetic materials. The soft fabric used for the seating surfaces is nice, though the faux leather used as trim looks artificial and would probably be better replaced by more of the fabric. Lexus designers apply a nice touch by projecting light patterns onto the inner panels of the front doors to provide the nighttime appearance of texture where there is none.

Gear selection is done using a rotary dial. This does not remain in the selected position, which would be the preferred way to confirm gear selection to the driver. But it does require a downward push on the circular shift selector ring to shift the car out of Park, which is meant to prevent accidentally shifting into Drive or Reverse. Lexus posted a video on YouTube describing the shifter’s action for customers, which is pretty solid evidence that they know the system is not intuitive to use.

The shifter also provides no provision for selecting a high-regeneration mode providing one-pedal driving. Instead, the RZ employs its steering wheel paddles that would shift gears in a combustion vehicle to let drivers apply four increasingly greater levels of regeneration when they lift off the accelerator pedal. Even at the highest level, the RZ does not come to a stop without using the brake pedal, and the mode selected is not persistent, so the driver must select the preferred level of regeneration every time they start the car.

Occupants bathe in the soft light that filters through the RZ’s Dynamic Sky panoramic glass skylight, which toggles instantly between opaque white and clear, as selected by the driver based on the brightness of the sun at the time. This could help boost the driver’s serenity, in case the driving range is eroding it.

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