- Toyota's first long-range electric vehicle
- Built on a platform shared with the Subaru Solterra
- Power output of 201-215 hp is fairly modest, but 250 miles of estimated range is commendable
- Launches the first bZ4X generation for 2023
Don't accuse Toyota of being late to the EV party. The automaker gets a little miffed at that, pointing to the existence of two generations of RAV4 EV (last sold in 2014) and an early investment in Tesla Motors as proof that Toyota has been interested in fully electric cars for a while. But in terms of tangible results, Toyota's interest in the electric space hasn't yielded any actual modern EVs — though the Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrids are good stepping stones. On the other hand, Toyota's continued lobbying against EV incentives paints a picture of a company more focused on proving the case for its still-nascent hydrogen fuel efforts than answering its customers' call for a Toyota EV.
The currently controversial automaker looks to put some of these grumblings to rest with its first fully electric vehicle, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X. Developed jointly with Subaru (whose own version of this EV is called the Solterra), the bZ4X is a compact SUV that is slightly longer than the current RAV4. Its on-paper specs aren't mind-blowing, but those looking for Toyota's take on a modern electric car will likely find the power output and estimated driving range totally sufficient. And we can't discount the unique, expressive design, which is fairly daring for Toyota.
The front-wheel-drive bZ4X is powered by a single electric motor at the front axle. Toyota quotes power output at 150 kW, which equates to 201 hp. That doesn't seem like a lot, especially given the bZ4X's 4,232-pound curb weight, but the instant torque from the electric motor should provide sprightly acceleration from a stop.
In contrast to other manufacturers like Volkswagen and Ford, Toyota is not seriously bumping up output if you want the all-wheel-drive version. That front motor is swapped out in favor of two 80-kW motors (one at the front and one at the rear) for a combined output of 160 kW, or 215 hp. We doubt the modicum of extra power translates to a noticeably quicker acceleration time, as the AWD model weighs about 200 pounds more than the FWD version.
Under the floor is a lithium-ion battery pack with 71.4 kWh of capacity for the front-drive bZ4X, which Toyota says should be good for 250 miles of range on a full charge. The all-wheel-drive model's pack has slightly more capacity, at 72.8 kWh, but Toyota hasn't yet quoted range estimates for this version.
Like many modern Toyotas, the bZ4X's cabin is clean and understated. The center stack is a natural focal point up front, with a touchscreen that is wide but not visually overbearing. It's loaded with Toyota's newest system, which appears to be the same one as in the new Tundra — and for the record, we absolutely love the interface in the new Tundra. Under the screen is a panel reserved for climate functions, composed of a mix between haptic controls and a few toggles for often-used features like temperature, fan speed and fan direction. In front of the driver is a new shroudless digital display that constitutes the bZ4X's instrument panel. And we think the cobra-like curved styling elements that draw your eyes from the steering wheel to the display are pretty cool.
The bZ4X's interior is fairly roomy for a vehicle of this size. At 6-foot-4, I found rear legroom to be quite generous when the front seat was set in my preferred driving position. However, the presence of the battery pack below the vehicle seems to push up the floor somewhat. The rear seat feels low to the ground, and headroom is a little tight even though the roof doesn't slope down much from the front seat. In the front, the steering column also felt mounted too low. Hopefully the lack of room underneath the steering wheel rim is due to this static bZ4X's preproduction status, and the issue doesn't carry over to the final model.
There are many critical things about the bZ4X's tech offerings that we just don't know. How large is the screen? How many speakers will it have? What features and trim levels will be available? The list goes on.
However, we do know that the bZ4X will debut the newest version of Toyota's suite of advanced safety features, dubbed Toyota Safety Sense 3.0. We don't believe it will have any cool hands-free driving tech à la the Chevrolet Bolt EUV's Super Cruise or the Mustang Mach-E's BlueCruise. That said, TSS 3.0 does bolster the forward collision warning and mitigation system with guardrail identification, motorcyclist detection during the day, and low-light cyclist detection. The lane-centering feature is also said to be improved.
The 2023 Toyota bZ4X has been a long time coming, but Toyota's first modern electric vehicle is almost here. It may not be the most powerful or flashy EV on the market, but Toyota's strong brand loyalty is sure to make it a hit right out of the gate.