From £67,994
Upmarket electric family SUV arrived with plenty to prove, especially to its keeper

Why we ran it:  To see if Lexus’s famed attention to detail made up for the modest range

Month 6Month 5Month 4 Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Lexus RZ: Month 6

It raised many questions when it arrived. Now that it’s leaving, we have the answers - 17 January 2024

In a world where lightness and aerodynamically sleek designs are the key to hitting those all-important range targets, the battle with consumer demand for big, raised, family transporters is an ongoing one.

None shows the difficulties of this more than the Lexus RZ, a heavy, bulky thing that goes against everything the new wave of electric car creators stand for. But in typical Lexus fashion, it doesn't seem to care and has put luxuries ahead of marginal weight savings - and range.

When the Toyota bZAX-derived RZ, in £73,945 Takumitrim, came to me just over six months ago, with fewer than a thousand miles on the clock, it was an interesting proposition to say the least: an electric car that really didn't scream EV, fighting in a niche segment dominated by an SUV in the BMW iX that just did everything so well, albeit for a loftier price.

So I wrote a list of questions I wanted to answer when it was time to return the keys and now, more than 7000 miles later, we are here to do just that.

Some were straightforward enough: would the chunky RZ be easy to live with? Surprisingly, for an inner-city dweller like me, it wasn't too bad. Sitting just within the footprint of the 5.1m-long, 2.0m-tall Land Rover Defender 130 behemoth, the Lexus is no minnow, and so trade-offs had to be made.

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For example, it could not deal with traditional multi-storey car parks, but its 522-litre boot could fit a festival's worth of kit (food, clothes and tents) for four people without the need to lower the rear seats.

Other questions had predictable answers: did it live up to the Lexus standard? It did, mostly. Being a Lexus, the cabin was of course a nice place to be, covered in Alcantara and fitted with rather unusual knee warmers for those in the front. The 14.0in infotainment screen was also an excellent addition.

Yet the driver's area felt like too much had been scavenged from the generic parts bin. (A drive in our Toyota Corolla long-term test car, with its identical instrument cluster, confirmed as much.)

There were also the tougher nuts to crack: could I match the claimed 252-mile range and would it be enough for my 130-mile commute? No and... just about. An average of 2.8 miles per kWh meant drives on the office days were no-luxuries ones.

Having the fan on reduced the range by 30-50 miles, so off it went. Motorways also cut back range to a maximum of 180 miles and I never got more than 220 on perfect-weather town-driving days from the 71kWh battery.

Then there were the more subjective questions: does the RZ. show there is a place for heavy, luxury-filled electric cars? That's a tricky one to answer. The real question here should be: is there an appetite? The BMW iX (which tops out at over £114,000 and has up to 380 miles of range) has already shown there is one, but beyond Germany's finest there aren't too many of them about.

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So as the EV era transitions further, especially when other brands venture into this segment - the electric Range Rover arrives later this year - this market will, as it has done with combustion models, really take off.

The RZ's main issue is that it is trying to excel in what is currently a niche, and unrefined, space, one that is dominated by a much better, albeit more expensive, car.

Then the key question: is the RZ worth the money? This was something I'd been grappling with during my time with it. Homeward-bound after a long flight, the RZ (which starts at £64,000) felt like it was worth every penny.

From its supple motorway ride, to its  Alcantara-clad sink-into seats, it was the ideal companion. Yet it was day-to-day use that had me grappling with it the most, especially the overly sensitive safety systems. Every trip started with me turning off the speed limit sign assistant - no, not for that reason - because it constantly gave false information and then loudly beeped for going over that fictional limit.

But my biggest gripe was the driver attention detection system. Brought in as part of the European General Safety Regulations 2 - a set of rules 10 years in the making that has already claimed victims such as the Toyota GR86 - the sensor sits on the steering column and makes sure you're paying attention and looking forward.

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In theory, a great idea; here in practice, not so. It gives you around three seconds before it has a moan - and that includes when you're at a junction looking for an opening. If anything, it is, itself, distracting. It could be turned off, but only per journey, and needs the navigating of four menus to do so.

Despite its flaws, the RZ was not a bad car. It was just a bad EV. But then maybe we're (I'm) looking at this from a different perspective.

Perhaps someone who has the money and has shortlisted the RZ won't be using it as a 100-mile-plus daily commuter and understands it's not a long-hauler.

Perhaps they want a Lexus because they love the luxuries, like its rarity (just 2000 RZs are allocated here and I never saw another) and can afford to have a daily EV that they swap on the driveway for something else at weekends or for that getaway trip.  Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a place in the world for the RZ. It's just not with inner city flat-living me.

Second Opinion

The RZ is wafty and handles better than you might expect but it’s let down by infuriating safety systems and sub-optimal range. I’ve driven EVs with poor ranges on long trips before, but due to the big reduction in the range figure when you activate the fan, I’ve never had range anxiety like I have when juggling miles and windscreen fog prevention in this. 

Jack Harrison

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Love it:

Braking news The ability to change the strength of the brakes and at what speed they were deployed on the fly was great 

Everyday storage It was plush but also incredibly practical, with deep door bins and lots of storage space 

Hello, stranger I never had more compliments from strangers than when I got out of this thing. It really is good looking. 

Loathe it:

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Short legs My biggest moan with the RZ is its limited range. This was especially the case on motorways. 

Safety systems It got to a point where the systems trying to prevent me getting distracted were distracting me... 

Final mileage: 7891

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De-ice mode leaves our driver with a chilling rage - 3 January

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve been going through a cold patch lately. I welcomed the opportunity to get a first taste of the RZ’s heated windscreen and its De-Icer mode. The verdict? Rubbish. It seemed to do absolutely nothing while we sat there waiting increasingly impatiently for 15 minutes. My library card did a better job.

Mileage: 7204

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Life with a Lexus RZ: Month 5

Is the range-topper worth £10k more? We’ve had the misfortune to find out - 13 December

Did you notice that the car pictured below isn’t my regular long-term Lexus RZ? If you did, congratulations, you’re in fine fettle. As for the rest of you, that is clearly Sonic Grey, not Sonic Silver. Get that eye test booked in.

Here’s a more pertinent question: why am I driving it? Well, a kind soul hit the front of our £74,000 EV while it was plugged into a public charger and, of course, didn’t leave a note. The damage? Warped front end, broken headline casing, scuff marks and very slightly bent bonnet. Not great.

The lovely Lexus press team have been round, as you can see (or, as established, you can’t), and lent me another. The best bit? It’s a different spec, meaning we can discover if it’s worth getting the RZ for less.

First, the differences. Downgrading from the £74,000, top-rung Takumi to this £65,000 middle-tier Premium Plus Pack loses the rather excellent performance dampers (this car definitely feels harder over bumps) but, as a result, gains 750kg towing ability. Swings and roundabouts.

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There are also a few styling tweaks (a lack of body-coloured wheel arches, for example), although the range-sapping-but-rather- fetching 20in wheels remain.

It’s the interior that gets the biggest downgrade, if you can really call it that. Gone is the dimmable panoramic roof and the excellent Mark Levinson sound system.

The biggest change? Tahara synthetic leather replaces the Takumi’s soft-touch Ultrasuede seats and touchpoints. Now this may sound like a rich person’s sob story, but it’s really missed – and, in November, the leather makes the cabin feel much colder.

Luckily, the heated seats and knee radiators (yes, that’s what I’m calling them now) remain, as do the electrically assisted seats.

So, do you put up that extra half-a-house-deposit for the luxuries? Well, if you’ve got the cash, why not? The differences are palpable, and this is a car from a brand that champions ‘ownership experience’, so if you can afford it, go for the trim that does this best. To summarise: most expensive spec in best Lexus shock. 

Love it

It’s below 10deg C, so the heated seats are coming in handy. But it’s Lexus’s party-piece knee radiators drawing warmth from under the steering wheel that really make the difference 

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Loathe it

What the bleep?

When I lock the car I’m sometimes greeted by 10 beeps, and I have no idea why. Having scoured the forums, I remain none the wiser. Time to investigate. 

Mileage: 6312

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First, the differences. Downgrading from the £74,000 

There's a reason EVs look the same - 1 November

For two cars that aren’t related, the RZ and Nissan Ariya are remarkably similar both in looks and dimensions (my car does have 100 miles less range, though). It really hammers home the point many make about wind tunnels shaping EV designs, especially the larger ones.

Mileage: 5994

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Life with a Lexus RZ: Month 4

The Lexus looks right at home on a golf course - 4 October

A Lexus and a golf course car park go together like bread and butter. It’s a staple. So it’s good to see the RZ is still the perfect links companion. Bags fit easily in the 1.85m-wide-SUV’s 580-litre boot without the rear seats needing to be dropped. Three bags and a chunky trolley is our current record.

Mileage: 4774

Life with a Lexus RZ: Month 3

You could pack your house into the RZ - but Rimell made do with a tent - 16 September

Off to a festival for the weekend? The RZ has you covered. Its 522 litres of boot space coped with four lots of tents, bags, food and extras, all without needing to drop the rear seats. Best of all, the range indicator stayed very consistent, which was great for keeping anxiety at bay. 

Mileage: 3316

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Life with a Lexus RZ: Month 2

The RZ boasts a lounge-like interior - 30 August

Waiting around on a photoshoot can be a bit of a pain – unless the Lexus RZ is close by. With my laptop out, the EV’s rear cabin recently became my office for the day. The slightly reclined seats were brilliantly comfy, but it was the three-pin plug socket that was the real star. This really is a vehicle I would like to experience as a passenger

Mileage: 3043

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EVs are impractical for most flat dwellers, so we tried a novel solution - 16 August

Sorry to sound like a stuck record, but this Lexus RZ continues to grow on me. As I sorted last week, it’s turning out to be an all-round great car – although I should expect nothing less for £74,000.

However (and I will harp on about this), the range is a disappointment – about 220 miles is pretty much as good as it gets at the moment, and that’s in good temperature conditions and with all the niceties turned off.

One of the biggest issues with such a paltry range is needing to charge the car nightly, because it’s a 130-mile round trip from my place to Autocar headquarters. Now, if you’re someone who can afford a car of this ilk, you will most likely have a driveway and a convenient charger right outside your house.

Living in a second-floor flat in a city centre, I have neither. That’s not Lexus’s fault, of course, but the question of how I charge still needs answering. A lengthy three-pin-plug cable out my window and into the shared car park was an idea, but health and safety concerns promptly precluded that.

Will lexus rz ev charger 21

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Instead, I have become a regular visitor to the local public charger. It bills me at 44p per kWh, which isn’t terrible, but it’s a 10-minute walk away. As long-term solutions go, this really doesn’t scream convenience, and I bet similar circumstances have put off many a prospective EV owner.

However, potentially a better solution is on the horizon. Go Zero Charge (GZC) has come up with the idea of communal, bookable chargers for people living in flats. And the first site to try it just happens to be in my home city of Southampton. So I took the RZ down to South Western House to see what was what.

Before arriving, I was given a code that, when entered into GZC’s smartphone app (yes, another one, but hopefully I won’t need any more now), unlocked three chargers outside the complex. Having booked a time frame, I was given an estimated total price, based on the rate of 34p per kWh that had been set by the site’s operator.

Next came the best bit. Once I had made the booking, the app sent me a code to unlock a bollard that was blocking the space, so I knew it would be unoccupied when I got there. And if someone overstays their pre-booked time slot? That will be a pound a minute, please.

“It just seemed sensible to us,” said GZC boss David Wells. “If you know you can charge, then there’s no anxiety. It’s peace of mind.”

Having these chargers at an apartment complex – one of the first in the country to have them – is a big deal. “This makes it easier for people thinking of switching to EVs to do so,” continued Wells. “If you know there’s a charger available for you at home, that’s a game-changer.” 

Will lexus rz ev charger 14

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This was a sentiment shared by South Western House’s property manager, Dave Harris. “For us, this is a stepping stone,” he said. “Now we just need to convey this to people and get the message out.”

It really is a big talking point, and if this can be replicated across the UK (Wells wants to add 5000 chargers over the next five years), the door to full electrification will be opened for a heck of a lot more drivers – making that much-talked-about 2030 date for the ban on combustion-engined car sales seem a little less optimistic.

Another area of focus is reliability. GZC is trying to give charging operators a better reputation – damaged over the years by perennially broken and occupied chargers – by using what it calls a heartbeat monitor on its devices. This sends a signal back to the control centre every minute.

“If they’re not being used because they’re not working, we make no money,” pointed out Wells, as GZC operates unusually by taking a cut of charging costs rather than billing for installation.

It’s all good news, then, and this set-up is something that the RZ and I would love to have at our place on the other side of town.

Love it 

Spa on wheels

The more I return from other cars to the RZ, the more its ride staggers me. For something that weighs two tonnes, it really glides.

Loathe it 

What do you want?!

I’ve discovered a new beep: it sounds when I lock the car (only sometimes), but I have no idea why. Investigation to follow. 

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Our new EV looks fantastic, feels luxurious and is exceptionally relaxing (mostly) - 9 August

Just over 1500 miles in and I’m beginning to form a bit of a bond with our Lexus RZ. This is a good car. It’s plush, it drives well, it’s very comfortable and it’s well-equipped.

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The many journeys that we have already shared have all been a breeze. It really is a car made for relaxed travelling, and I’ve started to pick up on the many things that Lexus has done to make that so.

This includes the quietest windscreen washer motor you’ve ever heard (honestly, it’s creepily muted) and windows that drop without a hint of noise. They really are luxury levels of detail, even beyond what you would expect from a £74k car – something I didn’t think I’d say.

Its deep seats add another level of plushness that I’ve not experienced in something costing less than £100k. The £135k Range Rover P440e Autobiography, another on our long-term fleet, comes to mind. These seats also have internal fans to keep your back sweat-free – a pleasant addition on a summer’s day.

Speaking of the Range Rover, the RZ’s 14in infotainment touchscreen also wouldn’t look out of place in a car of that quality, although it’s not as slick as the best of them. It’s not bad by any means, just not as user-friendly as it could be. I find myself always switching to Android Auto now, especially for navigation.

What is great, though, is how the RZ is to drive, which again adds to its ‘get you there relaxed’ mantra. It rides quietly and in supple fashion and has a pleasing heft to its steering that speaks of plenty of dynamic fine-tuning, which Lexus is known for.

In tight spaces, such as car parks, it behaves like a much smaller car, having a fantastic turning circle, thanks to its four-wheel steering.

For those looking at this car now, from late 2024 the RZ will also be available with Lexus’s steer-by-wire system, One Motion Grip, complete with a yoke in place of a steering wheel. No, this isn’t a gimmick: as we said in our first review of the RZ, it’s actually quite good and very precise, so much so that you can complete a full lock in just 150deg.

Anyway, back to our car, and with all good things, there are, however, some drawbacks. As I mentioned in my first report, the overly sensitive active safety systems are a bit of an annoyance.

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I get why they’re there, but instead of being a kind hand on the shoulder to give you a nudge that you’re, for example, getting just a little too close to that central line (easily done in a car that’s nearly two metres wide), it’s more like a driving instructor shouting at you for your ineptness. It feels like something out of the school of Sir Alex Ferguson. I’m much more Mikel Arteta. 

Some good news to report. I wrote in my initial report about the SUV’s real-world range of around 180 miles and how, for a £74,000 car, this was awful. Update: I’ve been using the Fan Off range-extending mode, which has boosted it to 220 miles – and it hasn’t been as unpleasant as I had expected. Big bonus.

I suppose some thanks for this should go to the temperate British summer weather, but mostly it’s due to those aforementioned fan-fitted seats, which don’t amount to a mega range killer, according to the car’s miles-left indicator.

And I’ve found some other great little additions that also don’t count as range-zappers – many that I will be testing once the mercury moves a bit further south. One is for all those people who get cold knees when they’re driving. Not me, but apparently there are enough of them for Lexus to add an under-wheel knee warmer.

Yes, really. I never thought I’d look forward to the colder months, but that’s what the RZ is doing to me. It really is a car that I’m enjoying living with, and I’m excited to see how it surprises me next.

Love it

Centre of attention

I’ve had more compliments (and looks) than I expected. My dad called it “the best-looking car I’ve seen for a long time”. I’d agree.

Loathe it

Being overbearing

The safety systems feel like something there to control you rather than help. I bicker more with the RZ than my fiancée. 

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Mileage: 2433

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Life with a Lexus RZ: Month 1

Welcoming the Lexus RZ to the fleet - 26 July 2023

Spending £70,000-plus on a car is quite a privilege at the best of times, but throw in the current cost of living crisis and impending recession and it becomes an even more extravagant proposition.

So, with opinions like that, seeing the keys to such a vehicle land on my desk at Autocar Towers was a bit of a surprise – but maybe that was the point. The very plush Lexus RZ will be in my keep for the next few months, possibly in the hope that I’ll become an advocate for high-end cruising, or at least understand its place.

What’s more, the brand’s new flagship is an EV, and Lexus’s first bespoke one at that (after the also-a-hybrid UX) – albeit a reskinned Toyota bZ4X. Sorry, being cynical.

But it’s hard not to be in the world of lavish EVs. Just look at the spec sheets that accompany some cheaper models such as the Skoda Enyaq iV, which in £45,000, bigger-battery form delivers more than 300 miles of real-world range.

It makes you wonder why Lexus (and Toyota) didn’t want to offer more than the RX’s on-paper range of 251 miles (we’ll come to that later) and whether a car like this, at this price point has a place in the world – especially when battery technology has yet to catch up with combustion power in terms of how far it can take you between stops.

Anyway, we’re going to start with a clean slate.

First, let’s have a look at what we have here: a 309bhp, four-wheel-drive, two-tonne family SUV that has been created to offer “confidence, control and comfort”, according to Lexus.

Although this is my first report, I’m already more than 700 miles into our relationship, which has included airport trips and motorway runs. B-road blasts have figured too, and they’ve been surprisingly quite fun in this EV, despite its weight.

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I’m happy to report Lexus has hit the mark: this is a comfy car. And plush – especially in the Takumi trim of our model. As a result, every journey has been one of comfort – from being lightly manoeuvred into my driving position at the press of the start button to the in-seat fans keeping me sweat-free on scorching days.

This is a key point for a car at this price point: it needs to be as nice as, if not nicer than, your lounge. Odd analogy, but you get my point. The infotainment, with its large, 14.0in screen, has a raft of features that we will dive into later.

I’ve sat in the back of it and it’s very pleasant. Those seats recline, which makes it one of the most comfortable rear benches I’ve sat on, although passengers have reported feeling the bumps, something I’ve not noticed in the front.

The faux suede (an environmental decision) across every seat and touchpoint adds to the plushness. Then there’s the opaque glass sunroof that, as if by magic (it’s actually science), switches to clear at the touch of a button. The interior is just such a good place to be.

The RZ also drives well for a 4.8m-long family SUV, and with the Takumi trim adding performance dampers front and rear (which means no towing can be done), it handles well too. The four-wheel steering also means our car can manoeuvre slickly in town.

Good news, then? Well, ish: there are some caveats. The beeping is one. The RZ has a host of safety features, from speed limit monitoring and lane assist to driver concentration technology.

They’re all good things, but they’re just very sensitive (the driver monitoring system hates sunglasses), and when alerting – which it does with loud beeps and bongs – it is quite aggressive.

You can, as with most safety systems, turn these off but it must be done for each journey. This seems a world away from the if-not-safer Volvo XC40 Recharge, my previous long-term test car, which doesn’t feel the need to constantly bong at you as part of its uncompromising quest to keep you driving legally and safely.

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Which brings me on to the range. The RZ has a claimed a top end of 271 miles, but as ours is fitted with 20in alloys, this immediately drops to 251 miles.

Yet this is the dreaded ‘fan off’ range, so the reality is even lower. How low? After our first few weeks with the RZ, even in stints of especially conservative driving (the app has been scoring my driving at 84 out of 100 for efficiency), I’ve achieved no more than 180 miles from the fully charged 71.4kWh battery.

That’s 180 miles for a car that costs £74,000. Not great, but it’s a good benchmark to attempt improvements during our tenure.

This is going to be an interesting test, then. We have here a car that Lexus has entrusted as its new flagship, so is it up for the task? Let’s see what it’s made of.

Second Opinion

The RZ is a beautifully finished, smooth-riding car, so I imagine it will be a very pleasant companion for the next few months if Will can find a way to tame the overzealous safety systems. I’m also curious to see if the RZ’s range prediction in winter will be more accurate than the Toyota bZ4X’s.

Illya Verpraet 

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Lexus RZ 450e Takumi specification

Prices: List price new £73,945 List price now £74,000 Price as tested £73,945

Options: None

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed range 252miles Test average 2.8mpkW Test best 3.2mpkW Test worst 2.2mpkW Real-world range 220 miles (in perfect conditions)

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 7.4sec Top speed 99mph Engine Permanent magent synchronous motor Max power 309bhp Max torque 320lb ft Transmission 1spd reduction gear, 4WD Boot capacity 522 litres Wheels 20in, alloy Tyres 235/50 R20 (f), 255/45 R20 (r) Kerb weight 2115kg

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Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £763.20 (premium pack) CO2 0g/km Service costs None Other costs New front bumper and bumper trims £400, new headlight £1000 Fuel costs £1065 (mainly public charging) Running costs inc fuel £1065.09 Cost per mile 15 pence Faults None

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Will Rimell

Will Rimell
Title: Deputy news editor

Will is a journalist with more than eight years experience in roles that range from news reporter to editor. He joined Autocar in 2022 as deputy news editor, moving from a local news background.

In his current role as deputy news editor, Will’s focus is with Autocar and Autocar Business; he also manages Haymarket's aftermarket publication CAT.

Writing is, of course, a big part of his role too. Stories come in many forms, from interviewing top executives, reporting from car launches, and unearthing exclusives.

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