After decades of experience with hybrid cars, Toyota has finally branched out into fully electric vehicles. Called the Toyota bZ4x, the SUV is the Japanese brand’s first bespoke electric car.
As the first car in Toyota’s bZ all-electric sub-brand, the bZ4x follows the concept revealed earlier this year relatively closely when it comes to styling, while underneath the body it’s also the first Toyota to sit on the brand’s new dedicated e-TNGA battery-electric vehicle platform.
This new architecture houses a 71.4kWh battery in its floor that Toyota says gives a range of 280 miles on the WLTP test cycle. The brand also claims that the battery will hold 90 per cent of its range for the first decade of its life, helped by water cooling of the cells (a first for Toyota) with active thermal management of the battery helping range and durability.
Two powertrain options will be available, the first a front-wheel drive set-up offering 201bhp and 265Nm of torque for a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds. The new platform has been developed in conjunction with Subaru, a brand known for its all-wheel-drive heritage, so there will also be a dual-motor four-wheel-drive powertrain on offer on the bZ4x with 215bhp and 336Nm of torque, which cuts the 0-62mph time to 7.7 seconds. The latter option also offers different XMode settings for the powertrain that include parameters for snow and mud, as well as Grip Control for tougher off-road conditions.
Both cars offer a maximum rapid charge rate of 150kW, meaning an 80 per cent charge can be recouped in 30 minutes, while an optional 11kW AC charger in the future will help overnight home recharges for those with a compatible wallbox.
The new platform houses what Toyota calls a “slim battery” in its floor, delivering a low centre of gravity and maximising chassis rigidity and interior space. Toyota claims that that bZ4x offers a feeling of space inside, with a panoramic roof adding to the roomy feel.
This new platform engineering is backed up by more advanced technology, including a seven-inch TFT digital dash that promotes Toyota’s “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road” philosophy, while the bZ4x’s new infotainment system – which looks like a large, slabby screen placed in the centre of the dash layout – will feature over-the-air software upgrade capability.
With the new e-TNGA architecture’s long wheelbase maximising space inside, Toyota claims strong legroom for rear-seat passengers, while boot space stands at 452 litres.
Outside, the design is characterised by the brand’s new defining ‘hammerhead’ shape, with slim headlight units and a deep, blanked-off front bumper and grille due to the EV’s reduced cooling requirements.
The entire front wings and wheelarches (which will house up to 20-inch alloy wheels) are coloured black, along with the rear arches, to give a more rugged look, while strong creases above the wheelarches flow back down the doors into wrap-around tail-light units that are linked on the boot lid by a full-width LED bar.
Compared with the brand’s RAV4 hybrid models, the bZ4x is 85mm lower, has shorter overhangs but a 165mm longer wheelbase, and yet a relatively tight turning circle of 11.4 metres.
As per the bZ4x concept, the new e-TNGA platform has allowed Toyota to develop a steer-by-wire system, which will be introduced on European models “at a later date” according to the brand. This new set-up, called One Motion Grip, does away with a mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and the front wheels, instead replacing it with a digital connection in which the driver’s inputs on the steering wheel are relayed electronically to the front tyres, with a motor adjusting the tyre angle.
Toyota claims this gives more legroom in the front, improving the driving position and entry and exit. The brand also says the traditional steering wheel can be replaced, making operation smoother – particularly at low speed – with full lock able to be achieved in just 150 degrees of steering wheel movement.
More electronic integration has also allowed the brand to improve safety, it claims, with Toyota’s third-generation Safety Sense tech featuring. Toyota claims that “it can operate as a partner to the driver to realise the ultimate mobility society goal: zero fatalities and injuries in road accidents”.
The bZ4x is Toyota’s first model in its bZ ‘beyond zero’ sub-brand, which reflects the firm’s history with electrified vehicles, including the world’s first hybrid electric production car – the Prius – as well as Toyota’s future in this area of the market.
Reservations for Toyota’s bZ4x open on the 15th December, following the car’s European debut on the 2nd December, with pricing to be confirmed and deliveries scheduled in 2022.