2024 Lexus RZ450e
The Lexus RZ450e is a pure joy to drive, just don’t drive it too far.
Luxuries abound in this relatively small Lexus. The RZ450e gets stuck in the SUV category, but isn’t it really an electric hatchback?
By J-F Wright
Sun, Jan 21, 2024 08:13 AM PST
Images by the author, edited by Erica Wright.
The Lexus RZ is a smaller Lexus. They call it an SUV - at least the Lexus website classifies it as one - but it’s a far stretch from the beasts of the GX and LX. Those, of course, are ginormous and very capable, so not exactly something to compare the RZ to. But the RZ is definitely still a Lexus - with all the luxuries one would expect.
First off, before even getting inside, you’ll notice that the doors of the RZ aren’t quite what you’re used to - unless you already have a new Lexus. Instead of a door handle that you pull out to get the door to release, this handle is stationary. On the inside of the handle there’s a button - hit that and the door will release and you can open it. To get out, well, you just hit the button on the inside of the door to release it and then push it out and open.
Once inside, the Lexus-ness becomes even more apparent. This is a nice car! The Ultrasuede Interior Trim - a gray-silver-blue color in our test vehicle’s case - matches really well with the white and black details throughout. The Ultrasuede - although we can just call it suede, even if it feels really nice and “ultra” - is found across all the seating surfaces as well as a majority of the interior of the RZ. At first one might reel back and go whoa!, but give it just a second to sink in and the suede turns out to be a really nice feature.
The cockpit of the Lexus RZ is the typical Lexus cockpit - albeit a bit downsized. It’s clean, elegant, and user-friendly - it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. There are, of course, an abundance of USB-C outlets - three up front and two in the rear - in addition to the wireless charging station under the infotainment screen. What is lacking, however, is a glove compartment. Really the only place you can to store all that random crap you usually have in your glove compartment is between the two front seats under the center armrest. Does this mean an RZ driver will just have to get better at decluttering their car? That would be great!
The front electronically controlled seats (with a memory function) are a good middle-ground between comfortable and sporty support. They are somewhat snug, which is great for keeping you steady when the electric motors release all their might, but they are equally plush and comfy which is great for longer trips. Of course, this EV isn’t really geared for longer trips…
One of the most interesting features in the Lexus RZ Luxury is the sunroof. The glass stretches out above both the front and rear passengers, giving a great view of the sky or skyline. On first glance you might wonder where the screen is - you know, the one that limits the light on those really sunny days. The Lexus RZ450e Luxury doesn’t have that. Instead, you hit a button and the window itself magically turns a milky color, only letting in a little bit of light. Hit the switch again and wham, full-on glare! Pretty cool.
The milky (or not) window can, as noted, be enjoyed from the rear seats as well. So you can have an entire crew of solar eclipse watchers back there - the milky shade of the sunroof seems perfect for watching those. The rear bench has a lot of space horizontally, meaning that you can probably get three skinny adult butts in there - three kids is no problem. But, on the other hand, the floor is not far enough down to let my thighs rest on the cushion - my lower legs are too long and I’m sitting at an angle that keeps my legs from touching the seat. But, then again, a butt connected to a 6-foot frame is probably not what the rear seats were designed for anyway.
I’m impressed by the look and feel of the interior throughout the Lexus RZ Luxury. The colors and the layout and the general design is definitely Lexus, and as such it is definitely luxurious. An extra bonus is that fact that the rear seats fold fairly flat, giving way to an impressive flat area for hauling stuff - man I love hatchbacks…
Safety, Convenience, and Technology
Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 is the latest version of the safety and convenience package found in Lexus. The Lane Tracing Assist will keep you in your lane - but it will also tell you to put your hands back on the steering wheel if you let go for too long. This is not a self-driving vehicle.
The Adaptive Cruise Control (aka All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control) does a great job at adjusting your speed and keeping the RZ a safe distance from the car in front - but I would expect nothing less from a Lexus. The 3.0 version of the system comes with Curve Speed Management - it’ll slow down a tad when approaching a curve, just like you might if you were controlling the speed.
The Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound system sounds great, there’s really no other way to put it. Mark Levinson systems are most often a feast for your ears - and the RZ Luxury is no different. The larger siblings in the Lexus line-up do even better, but they have more space for more speakers and even more fine-tuning.
Front seats are heated and cooled, the steering wheel is heated, and you can also heat or defrost the exterior mirrors and the rear window. All of these things, of course, pull a ton of juice from the battery.
The 2024 Lexus RZ450e is fun to drive - there’s no getting around that. It’s a small car with a lot of torque from its dual electric motors, so it will take off like it’s nobody’s business. Sure, there are electric cars that are faster, but this is a Lexus and with that comes a lot of other bells and whistles instead of just pure speed and adrenalin.
Steering is very responsive and cornering is tight. This is definitely a sporty luxury vehicle. It’s a good thing the seats are tight because you can easily whip yourself loose with this much power and quick steering.
Acceleration is very smooth - of course, it’s an electric - while being impressively rapid and constant. The DIRECT4 all-wheel drive grabs whatever friction it can muster from the asphalt and delivers all the torque being produced by the dual electric motors.
To reign things in quickly you’ll have to use the brakes, but for normal driving the regenerative braking can be adjusted so that it works harder (or softer/less). Once you get used to driving semi-one-footed you can probably leave that setting on the strongest regenerative brake setting to increase range and save your brakes.
A Level 1 Charging cord is included so I hooked that up to the household outlet in my garage. It said it’d take roughly 30 hours to go from half a charge to a full battery. That’s a long time, so for an RZ owner it’s probably a lot smarter to get your garage set up correctly instead. But, I don’t need to drive the RZ daily, so for me it loaded up in due time.
The range on the 2024 Lexus RZ450e isn’t abysmal, but it sure ain’t what I’d want it to be. Our tests took place in cold-weather Colorado, and we quickly noticed that when the interior heater, a couple of seat heaters, plus the steering wheel heater goes on, you loose about 50 miles from the already not-super-great range of 196 miles.
The looks of the Lexus RZ450e remind me more of a hatchback than anything else. Lexus, of course, calls it a (compact) SUV just by virtue of the R in the name RZ - R is Lexus-speak for SUV or crossover… That’s unfortunate since a hatchback is, in my opinion, just as cool, if not cooler, than a crossover.
There are interesting twin fins on either side of the end of the roofline, giving the rear end a very sporty, or maybe even aggressive, look. Maybe, probably, the fins also do something for the RZ’s aerodynamics - but most of us will just see them as an extra flare to the overall design.
Speaking of the roofline, it ends a bit short of the rear of the car, which takes away a little from the hatchback-feel. I would have liked to see the roof extend all the way back - increasing the amount of vertical space one can use when loading the vehicle. Of course, a straight drop in the rear is horrible for aerodynamics, so that’s probably a no-go from the engineers.
Who Is The RZ For?
The RZ is for the luxury-couple without kids. Or, alternatively, it could be the second vehicle for a family with kids, for around town driving. A great setup would be a larger car for hauling around stuff and for longer trips, and then this RZ for tooling around town or going on dates at expensive restaurants with valet…
Would I use it as the only car for a family of five - nah, not really. Maybe if I lived downtown in a big city and didn’t plan on any long outings. But for this money, a family can do better. For the single, or the DINKY, living a life which many 40-year-old fathers envy, the Lexus RZ450e would be spectacular.
For the right buyer, with the right driving routines, and a garage set up for charging EVs, the Lexus RZ450e is definitely a strong contender. It handles like a go-cart, rides like a comfy Lexus (wait, that’s what it is!), and is a pure joy to drive - sporty yet sophisticated and luxurious.
About The Author
John-Fredrik Wright was born in Sweden, but raised on both sides of the Atlantic. His experience in the automotive industry starts with a summer-job as a host at Volkswagen’s premier showroom in Stockholm. Later, he worked as an instructor at Swedish Active Driving, teaching safe driving (among other things the renowned "elk-avoidance maneuver") and advanced driving techniques.