Lexus reveals its first electric vehicle for the US—steering yoke not yet included

Lexus on Wednesday unveiled the 2023 RZ, the luxury brand’s first dedicated EV, and the first Lexus electric model to be sold in the United States.

Scheduled to arrive at dealerships later this year, this small crossover will launch in RZ 450e guise with a 71.4-kwh battery pack affording 225 miles of range, and dual-motor all-wheel drive. The automaker didn’t publish a combined output, only saying that the front motor produces 201 hp, while the rear motor makes 107 hp.

The RZ shares the e-TNGA platform with the 2023 Toyota BZ4X and its 2023 Subaru Solterra twin. But Lexus has suggested the RZ will be more fun to drive. That’s in keep with a strategy that will see affordability be the focus for Toyota EVs, while performance and range will be at the center for Lexus EVs.

2023 Lexus RZ

2023 Lexus RZ

To that end, the RZ gets more power (the BZ4X has 214 hp) and a Lexus-specific Direct4 all-wheel drive system. It uses speed, acceleration, and steering-angle sensors to judge how much torque should be sent to each axle, according to Lexus. It can also switch off power to one axle to boost efficiency, according to the automaker.

The torque split stays in the 40:60 to 60:40 range during straight-line acceleration to help minimize pitch. In corners, it starts out shifting power to the front wheels to improve response and steering feel, then sends more power to the rear wheels for traction on corner exit, according to Lexus.

Lexus said the RZ will eventually be offered with a steer-by-wire system, including in the U.S. By eliminating the mechanical connection to the tires, this allows for a steering angle of 150 degrees lock-to-lock. That in turn will enable use of the steering yoke previously shown in prototype versions of the RZ. A conventional steering wheel will be the only option in the U.S. at launch, though.

2023 Lexus RZ

2023 Lexus RZ

Exterior styling echoes the LF-Z Electrified concept from 2021, complete with an unadorned panel in the shape of the spindle grille Lexus applies to its internal-combustion cars and a blacked-out roof. The latter will be an optional feature.

Pricing information for the 2023 RZ will be available closer to its U.S. launch later this year.

The RZ isn’t the first Lexus EV. The automaker began selling an all-electric version of the UX crossover outside the U.S. in 2019. Beyond the RZ, Lexus has teased an electric sedan, SUV, and sports car. A first Lexus plug-in hybrid—a version of the NX—has also arrived this year.

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