The RZ 450e is Lexus’ first model to be developed as a BEV from the outset. Lexus says, “the intention is not simply to deliver zero emission, all-electric driving, but to re-invent the BEV driving experience”.
To achieve this, the car has undergone extensive track testing and refinement at the Shimoyama Centre in Japan, a venue that is soon to be Lexus’ new global headquarters.
The RZ is not a vehicle that simply adopts battery electric power in lieu of a conventional engine; it adapts exciting new technologies to enhance performance and driving pleasure.
“The RZ has been developed with the aim of creating a uniquely Lexus BEV that feels secure to ride in, is pleasing to the touch and is exhilarating to drive,” says chief engineer Takashi Watanabe. “Our vision is to use electrification technology as a means to enhance fundamental vehicle performance, so that we can continue to pursue driving pleasure for all future generations.”
Lexus provided the following information on the RZ:
First and foremost, the RZ retains all the finer qualities of performance and craftsmanship associated with the brand. The company has leveraged its experience of vehicle electrification to deliver the benefits of a BEV with the essential refinement and driving experience unique to its brand.
The RZ also marks the first application of Lexus’ new e-Axles – compact motor units used front and rear that work in conjunction with new DIRECT4 all-wheel drive electronic torque control. High-quality handling, excellent body rigidity, a low centre of gravity and a long wheelbase as well as responsiveness are granted with this dedicated new electric vehicle platform. A powerful lithium-ion battery is fully integrated in the chassis.
The platform and battery electric drivetrain open up new freedoms in design. The exterior re-interprets the signature Lexus spindle shape in the vehicle’s body, while the interior is a light and open space that is both simple and luxurious, expressing Lexus Omotenashi hospitality and Takumi craftsmanship.
With its zero-emission performance, the RZ will help Lexus in its progress towards carbon neutrality and a sustainable mobility society. Here, the focus is not just on the car’s performance on the road; but to consider its entire lifecycle, from parts procurement, manufacturing and ownership through to eventual disposal. Already, new methods have been adopted at Lexus’ Motomachi factory, the RZ production centre, to reduce emissions. Looking beyond its market introduction, the RZ is set to offer an enhanced driving experience with an optional by-wire steering system. Lexus’ new One Motion Grip, currently under development, will provide easier and even more precise steering without sacrificing feedback from the road surface.
Building on an all-new battery electric platform open up new design opportunities and the freedom to create a look that sets the RZ 450e apart from other vehicles. At the same time, its styling is an evolution of Lexus “Next Chapter” design, embracing themes that can be seen in other new Lexus models, such as the RX. The basic theme was seamless, emotional design inspired by driving a BEV. The RZ is instantly recognisable as both a Lexus and a BEV, with proportions that reflect its dynamic character.
The RZ measures 4,805 mm long, with a 2,850 mm wheelbase and short overhangs – 995 mm front, 960 mm rear. Overall height is 1,635 mm and the width is 1,895 mm (excluding door mirrors). In terms of external dimensions and footprint, the model sits between Lexus’ mid-size NX and large RX crossover models.
The new-design headlight units are unified with the spindle body which accentuates the Lexus L-motif daytime running lights, while the principal headlight lamps and turn indicators are made less prominent. The rear presents a cool, high-tech look with a split roof spoiler that extends the design’s rearward flow and contributes to the car’s stable performance. The elongated LED light bar across the width of the car has become a hallmark feature of Lexus design.
Securing the Lexus Driving Signature was the primary goal in the development of the RZ’s dynamic performance and strengthening the car’s core characteristics of the “three Cs” – confidence, control and comfort in all driving situations. Going further, the benefits of BEV-specific qualities, such as fast response and high precision were maximised. Lexus has ensured the vehicle always responds as the driver intends, making driving both comfortable and exhilarating, even for people who are not used to driving a BEV. The result is the addition of a BEV dimension to the Lexus Driving Signature – the refined, linear and reassuring responsiveness and rewarding feeling of control and connection with the vehicle that define the driving character of new Lexus vehicles.
Efficient and compact electric e-Axle
The RZ is the first production model to feature Lexus’ new e-Axle, designed for use in BEVs. This is a compact, modular package which consists of a motor, gearing and a PCU (Power Control Unit), located between the driven wheels. The RZ uses both front and rear e-Axles, which work in conjunction with the DIRECT4 all-wheel drive control system to adjust the vehicle’s posture, traction and power distribution, according to the driving conditions.
The front motor produces 150 kW and the rear 80 kW, together delivering 230 kW maximum output. The RZ achieves excellent energy efficiency, with consumption rated at 16.8 kWh or 18.7 kWh per 100 km in the combined Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle, depending on wheel size and car specifications. Their compact dimensions – short front e-Axle and low rear e-Axle – contribute to the car’s packaging, helping gain more room in the cabin and a low load compartment floor.
Battery electric powertrain
Lexus has designed a compact, high-voltage system circuit in which a transaxle and inverter are contained within the e-Axle units. An Energy Storage Unit (ESU) integrates the charging, power supply and power distribution functions. Noise filters have been added to the circuit to enhance electromagnetic compatibility; this helps avoid interference with the vehicle’s audio system.
The battery stack is positioned entirely beneath the cabin floor and forms a structural part of the vehicle’s frame. This contributes to the vehicle’s rigidity and its low centre of gravity, while the unit’s slim profile also means there is no intrusion in cabin or load compartment space. The battery is contained in a sealed, reinforced structure to protect it in the event of contact with the road surface or a collision. The unit comprises 96 cells with a gross capacity of 71.4 kWh. Quality, durability and reliability are reflected in Lexus guaranteeing that the battery will retain at least 70% of its capacity after 10 years.
Lexus is confident however, given its long experience in battery technologies, that actual capacity at the point should be at least 90%. Most RZ variants – running on 20-inch wheels – achieve a range of around 395 km in the WLTP combined cycle test. Those which use 18-inch wheels see the range extended by about 40 km. These ranges apply to performance from full charge to complete depletion of the battery.
The Lexus RZ will be available on sale in South Africa in 2024. Exact timing will be confirmed as the year progresses.
Globally and by 2030, the brand plans to achieve a full line-up of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) in all categories, and by 2035, aims to sell 100% BEVs globally, contributing to the realisation of a carbon-neutral society.