Lexus RZ long-term test: report 1

How does Lexus's four-wheel drive electric SUV cut it as a commuter car and a countryside companion alike? We're finding out...

Long term Lexus RZ Haining and car

The car Lexus RZ 450e+ Takumi Run by Chris Haining, sub-editor

Why it’s here To find out whether Lexus's premium electric car combatant offers the right blend of efficiency, luxury and performance to succeed in a crowded market

Needs to Cope with a long motorway commute as well seeming at home in the countryside, and be easy to live with day to day

Mileage 865 List price £69,095 Target Price £66,025 Price as tested £69,095 Official range 251 miles Test range 170-190 miles Options fitted Bi-tone Sonic Copper and Black paint (£1100)

24 January 2024 – The Lexus RZ mucks in

I wouldn't make a terribly good explorer because, as much as I love the great outdoors, I never want to be too far from my creature comforts. When my wife and I go camping in our favourite spot in Cornwall, we take an Italian Bialetti coffee maker to ensure we can enjoy a really good brew. We also sip on fine single malt while warming by the camp fire, and it’s no coincidence that a good local Chinese takeaway will deliver to our campsite of choice. It’s this desire to embrace the great outdoors without scrimping on luxury that led me to choose a Lexus RZ electric SUV.

2023 Lexus RZ long-term country lane

My corner of Essex rewards the intrepid more than much of the county. There are lots of intriguing country lanes that unlock pleasing vistas if you take the trouble to venture down them, but they’re not always in the best condition. Generally, they’re more pothole than paving and they tend to get buried under leaf fall, which, in the spring, decomposes into a porridge-like material that poses a slip hazard to walkers and has many a car spinning its wheels in vain. What you really need is four-wheel drive and a set of big tyres to shrug off the craters and quagmire, and that’s what the RZ has.

Unlike the closely related Subaru Solterra, the RZ isn’t claimed to offer any genuine off-road capability, but I don’t need this. Instead, what I demand is that it takes me to those hidden beauty spots that lurk at the end of weatherworn tracks. And like I say, I want luxury, which you don’t get with the Solterra but the RZ offers in spades; in range-topping Takumi trim, it’s the rambling equivalent of silk-lined hiking trousers and electrically heated gloves.

2023 Lexus RZ long-term leg warmers

It isn’t cheap, though – far from it. My vanity drove me to tick the box for Bi-tone paint (an £1100 option), because the RZ’s Sonic Copper and Black livery makes what I reckon is a pretty handsome car look even more striking, but it also brings the price to almost £70k. Fortunately, our New Car Deals service affords a tasty discount, and that’s the only factory-fitted option that can threaten the RZ buyer’s finances; various dealer-fit accessories are offered, including a towing pack for £700, but the RZ Takumi is well enough equipped that any more add-ons would be to gild the lily.

In fact, it gives me virtually every luxury feature I could think of, and some that I never imagined. Not only are the front seats heated and cooled (passengers in the back make do merely with heating) and the steering wheel heated, but the panoramic glass roof goes magically opaque at the touch of a button, keeping the sun’s rays under control. What’s more, the RZ offers front occupants a radiant infra-red heating system that acts as if a woollen blanket has been draped over your lap. This strikes me as a clever bit of thinking, because staying warm in an electric vehicle (EV) can be a problem if you’re concerned about the range-sapping effects of turning the heating on.

2023 Lexus RZ long-term nature reserve

I like EVs. My previous BYD Atto 3 served up a quiet smoothness that very few combustion-engined cars can equal, and I wanted more of the same from its replacement. The RZ handily beats the Atto 3, too, when it comes to that other EV forte: performance. With its two electric motors and 309bhp, it’s said to sprint from 0-62mph in 5.6sec, and my few exploratory lunges thus far tend to support that claim. I won’t be driving like this often, though; in Takumi trim, the RZ’s official range of 251 miles should just about suffice for my regular motorway commute from Mistley to Twickenham and back, but I can see a bit of self-restraint with the accelerator being necessary to get close to that figure.

Such mundane schleps aren’t what I chose the RZ for, though. Every hour I spend on the M25, I hope to at least match in the countryside. I feel good visiting areas of outstanding natural beauty in a car that doesn’t emit noxious gases along the way. And pulling into a nature reserve, windows down and with no engine rumble to swamp the sound of the swooping swallows, is a joy. Let’s see if the RZ can keep me smiling.

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