When you think about electric vehicles, what comes to mind? If you said Tesla, you’re not alone as the automaker proved EVs could not only be feasible, but also fast and desirable.
However, Toyota has been working on electric vehicles for longer than Tesla has been around as the first-generation RAV4 EV was introduced in 1997 and was followed by a second-generation in 2012. Of course, both had limited appeal thanks to a combination of high prices and short ranges.
Those critical issues have now been solved and Toyota is far more serious about electric vehicles this time around. That’s clearly evident thanks to the introduction of the all-new bZ4X, which is the company’s first dedicated battery electric vehicle and will be offered in all 50 states.
We recently traveled to California to check out the US-spec model, which will be arriving at dealerships in the middle of next year. While we unfortunately didn’t get to drive it, it looks rather promising at first glance.
Edgy Styling And A Truly Spacious Interior
Looking virtually identical to the Japanese model shown earlier this year, the US-spec bZ4X is an edgy crossover with a distinctive front fascia that vaguely recalls a hammerhead shark. This is undoubtedly the car’s most controversial design element and we prefer the fully enclosed grille used on the similar Subaru Solterra.
Putting that aside, the rest of the bZ4X is pretty agreeable as the model features angular lines, plastic body cladding and contrasting accents. Other highlights include a split rear spoiler, full-width taillights and a pronounced rear pillar.
In terms of size, the model measures 184.6 inches (4689 mm) long, 73.2 inches (1859 mm) wide and 64.9 inches (1648 mm) tall, with a wheelbase that spans 112.2 inches (2850 mm). To put those numbers into perspective, the bZ4X is 3.7 inches (94 mm) longer, 0.2 inches (5 mm) wider and 2.1 inches (53 mm) lower than the RAV4. It also has a 6.3 inch longer (160 mm) wheelbase and this results in a truly spacious rear passenger compartment.
Toyota didn’t say how spacious, but we’d guess the model is packing at least 38 inches (965 mm) of rear seat legroom. Furthermore, the bZ4X offers enough headroom for this 6’ 2” writer and it appears higher-end variants will feature heated rear seats.
Speaking of the interior, the crossover has a distinctive cabin with a freestanding digital instrument cluster which resides at the end of a half-pipe like structure. This is supposed to expand the “vehicle’s feeling of space, while also helping to keep driver’s sight lines up and on the road.” We’re not entirely sold on the idea, but we’ll find out how well it works when we drive the bZ4X next year.
On the topic of screens, the model features an Audio Multimedia system just like the 2022 Tundra. Toyota didn’t mention screen size, but the crisp display presumably spans at least 10 inches. Regardless of how big it is, the infotainment system is a big improvement over the company’s previous systems as it features an intuitive layout, cloud-based navigation and over-the-air updates. The system also has EV-specific features such as charging station information, which should prove useful on long road trips.
Screens aside, the cabin is a little quirky as it has a chunky steering wheel that protrudes from the dashboard like a growth. The steering wheel also has a grab bag of buttons and this certainly doesn’t help its looks.
Elsewhere, there’s a rotary shifter and a floating center console with storage and USB charging ports underneath. They’re joined by sleek switchgear, an upholstered dashboard, and a covered phone storage compartment with a USB port.
Up To 250 Miles Of Range
As the first member of the bZ family, the bZ4X rides on the all-new e-TNGA platform that was designed specifically for electric vehicles. It features a lightweight structure, battery crossframing for improved rigidity, and a suspension that promises to provide “agile responsiveness.”
The entry-level variant has a 71.4 kWh lithium-ion battery, which powers a front-mounted electric motor that develops 201 hp (150 kW / 204 PS). Customers can also get a dual-motor, all-wheel drive powertrain, which features a larger 72.8 kWh battery as well as front and rear electric motors that produce a combined output of 215 hp (160 kW / 218 PS). Neither output is terribly impressive and the bZ4X isn’t exactly lightweight as the front-wheel drive variant tips the scales at 4,232 lbs (1,920 kg), which is 862 lbs (391 kg) more than the entry-level RAV4.
While the bZ4X isn’t shaping up to be fast, Toyota said the front-wheel drive variant is projected to offer up to 250 miles (402 km) of range. The numbers for the all-wheel drive variant haven’t been released, but Toyota said owners can expect an 80 percent charge within an hour thanks to its fast-charging capability. The automaker also noted engineers focused on minimizing battery degradation and they expect the battery to retain 90 percent of its capacity after a decade.
As for the all-wheel drive variant, the bZ4X promises to benefit from Subaru’s involvement via an X-Mode. Drivers will also find Grip-Control, which “leverages motor drive characteristics to achieve capable off-road performance – exceeding expectations at every turn.”
While a number of questions remain, the bZ4X will spearhead an onslaught of upcoming electric vehicles. In particular, Toyota will be introducing 15 dedicated BEVs globally by 2025 including seven wearing the bZ moniker.
QUICK FACTS: 2023 TOYOTA BZ4X
› What is the Toyota bZ4X?
It’s Toyota’s first dedicated, mainstream electric model that has been co-developed with Subaru, which will launch its Solterra variant at the same time. The compact electric crossover has a similar footprint to the RAV4.
› What versions of the bZ4X are available?
Toyota will offer two variants of the bZ4X, a front-wheel drive model with a single electric motor producing 201 horsepower, and an all-wheel drive model packing two electric motors, one on each axle, delivering a combined 215 horsepower.
› What is the range of the Toyota bZ4X?
Toyota estimates that the bZ4X will offer up to 250 miles (402 km) of range for the front-wheel drive variant that’s equipped with a 71.4-kWh battery. It has not yet announced a range estimate for the all-wheel drive model that gets a slightly bigger 72.8-kWh battery pack.
› When will the Toyota bZ4X go on sale?
The 2023 Toyota bZX4 will enter production next year and reach dealerships across the USA sometime towards the end of spring, early summer.
› How much will the bZ4X EV cost?
While Toyota has not yet announced pricing, we expect the bZ4X electric crossover to start from somewhere around $35,000 to $40,000 for the base launch trim.