New Lexus RZ SUV to be brand’s first bespoke electric car

The Japanese brand’s first solely electric model will be unveiled in 2022, sharing underpinnings with the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra SUVs

Lexus RZ

Lexus has released more teaser images of its first bespoke electric model, which will be called the RZ, ahead of its official debut in the first half of 2022. Initial images released by Lexus show that the design of the new zero-emissions SUV has been heavily influenced by the striking LFZ concept that was unveiled earlier in 2021.

The pictures show the RZ is going to retain the LFZ’s dramatic side profile, with a rear-biased cabin layout, an aggressive roofline and a relatively long bonnet that we expect will house some additional storage space like you’ll find in the Audi e-tron or Tesla Model X, which the new Lexus is expected to compete against.

Underneath, the RZ sits on the same e-TNGA platform as the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra – both of which will also be their respective brand’s first dedicated electric models. We expect the RZ's sister cars' 150kW charging capability will be carried over, but the Lexus is likely to feature a longer wheelbase and could in theory use a larger battery pack as a result.

The LFZ concept, for example, used a 90kWh battery for an estimated driving range of 373 miles, compared to the 71kWh unit found in both the bZ4X and Solterra, which allows for a 330-mile range for certain models. 

There'll be some key technology differences between Lexus’ first standalone EV and its Toyota and Subaru relations, though. For starters, the RZ will be available with 'DIRECT4': an all-wheel-drive system that constantly manages how much of the electric motor's power output is sent to each wheel at any given time and adjusts it based on throttle and steering inputs, as well as road conditions. Lexus says the RZ can therefore shift "from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive and everything in between, in the blink of an eye".

The RZ will also feature 'steer-by-wire' technology, which removes the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and front wheels. Lexus claims this new setup improves steering response to help maximise the benefits of the DIRECT4 system, and means drivers can perform U-turns with inputs of just 150 degrees.

It also suggests the RZ may not have to be offered with a conventional round steering wheel, with Lexus already referencing a yoke mechanism that allows the instruments to be seen without peering through a wheel. However, the firm’s European boss told DrivingElectric that a more traditional wheel design is likely to be offered as an alternative, unlike the latest Tesla Model X, which exclusively features a yoke steering wheel.

There’s no word yet on pricing for the RZ, but we expect a starting price of at least £60,000-£70,000 is likely given the price tags of some of its potential rivals like the BMW iX and Jaguar I-Pace. The RZ isn't the brand’s first-ever zero-emissions model; that title goes to the UX 300e, which competes against the Audi Q4 e-tron, Mercedes EQA and Volvo XC40 Recharge in the premium compact electric SUV class. Unlike the RZ, however, the UX is also offered with hybrid and (in some non-UK markets) petrol power.

More zero-emissions models are expected to arrive soon, as Lexus has pledged to offer an electric-only line-up in Europe by 2030. It has revealed several zero-emissions concepts designed to represent its future premium EV range, including an electric saloon and a larger electric SUV, as well as a flagship Lexus-LFA-inspired super sports car with a 0-62mph time “in the low-two-second range.”

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