The Korea Herald


[Test Drive] Lexus’ answer for luxury EV

By Byun Hye-jin

Published : June 26, 2023 - 14:16

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Lexus’ first fully-electric vehicle RZ 450e (Lexus Korea) Lexus’ first fully-electric vehicle RZ 450e (Lexus Korea)

Unlike other global carmakers going all-out to launch fully electric vehicles, Toyota and its premium brand Lexus have insisted on developing hybrid cars. However, with burgeoning demand for battery-powered EVs (BEVs) in Korean and other major countries’ clean car markets, Lexus aims to expand its footing with the first BEV lineup, The All New Electric RZ.

RZ 450e, the first EV in the RZ lineup, is a crossover utility vehicle -- a mix of sedan and sport utility vehicle -- that runs on Toyota’s first EV modular platform e-TNGA. Although it is a latecomer to the BEV business, Lexus touted its advanced electrification technology brushed up on hybrid cars does not fall behind that of other EV makers.

Lexus also rolled out the New Generation RX, the fifth-generation model since it debuted the first luxury hybrid CUV in 2006. It comes with three powertrain options -- hybrid, plug-in hybrid and turbo engine hybrid.

A test drive was conducted last week in Gangwon Province, a round-trip course of some 75 kilometers. The Korea Herald reporter drove two Lexus models, the RZ 450e and the RX 500h, a high-performance car with a 2.4-liter turbo engine. For the RZ model, a Gymkhana test -- a timed event on a small course, testing both skill and speed -- was also carried out at Injae Stadium.

On the road, the RZ 450e offered a smooth and stable ride, with very little wind and tire noise. It felt like a well-balanced car that blends stability and power.

Interior of Lexus RZ 450e (Lexus Korea) Interior of Lexus RZ 450e (Lexus Korea)

One possible complaint is the car's driving range of 377 km on a single charge. While this is sufficient for city commutes, it can be inadequate for long road trips. The Genesis GV70, a rival model launched last year, boasts a range of 400 km.

While there is no technological limitation in developing longer range cars with bigger batteries, the decision was made to optimize the car’s weight distribution and stability in driving, according to Kasai Yoichiro, assistant chief engineer at Lexus International.

During the Gymkhana test, which consisted of courses driving between traffic corns and making a U-turn, the RZ 450e mostly showed a stable performance -- even during the rain. Although there was excessive body roll and sliding of the car on the U-turn course, it enabled a strong traction control.

Lexus’ high-performance hybrid model RX 500h (Lexus Korea) Lexus’ high-performance hybrid model RX 500h (Lexus Korea)

In terms of driving, the RX 500h offered a more dynamic experience for the driver than the RZ model. When cornering the car downhill, there was little need to step on the brakes because it hardly rolled to the opposite direction before making the turn. Lexus’ proactive driving assistance automatically slows down the car during cornering, which allows for easy steering, said Ohno Takaaki, chief engineer at Lexus International.

On the sport mode, the RX model showed more powerful acceleration than the RZ 450e on the same mode. Its maximum 371 horsepower is higher than the fully electric vehicle’s 312.

Both the RZ and RX models adopted Lexus’ new Spindle Body design, where the grille flows into the bodywork. The RZ 450e has a lower hood than the RX 500h, featuring an edgy image. The cars adopted 28-inch wheelbases with a slight lift-up style. A seamless horizon lamp and Lexus lettering on the rear exterior was a modern touch.

As for the interior, the RZ car model comes with a sunroof, which allows in a certain amount of light while blocking UV rays. In addition to the head-up display, both cars offer a 14-inch touch display, where drivers can select the driving mode. An auto-lock system is activated when a car or bicycle passes by the driver, who is about to get off the car.

The RZ 450e comes in two trims, supreme and luxury, priced at 84.8 million won ($65,000) and 92.5 million won, respectively, slightly pricier than the Genesis GV 70. The prices for the three RX models range from 97.4 million to 115.6 million won.