- Impressively refined
- Cushy and supportive seats
- Great driver assist features
- One-pedal driving not possible
- Weird ergonomics and materials
- Air-conditioning saps range
The early adoption era for electric cars is over. These days, it’s average motorists—those who buy umpteen Toyotas like the RAV4 and Camry each year—that need to be convinced to go electric. With the 2023 Toyota bZ4X, the company endeavored to make an electric crossover that would seem immediately familiar to anyone switching out of anodyne gas-powered mobility appliances. All the 2023 Toyota bZ4X needed to be was mundane enough for Chris Commuter to plug into electric driving and forget about it.
In that regard, it’s an abject failure because the bZ4X is one of Toyota’s best-driving vehicles, endearing itself with exceptional refinement and performance. Yet challenges of living with the bZ4X keep it lingering on your mind. Either way, it’s an EV SUV you won’t soon forget.
Toyota’s bZ Business
The impression starts with the vehicle’s name—don’t capitalize the “b.” Similar alphanumeric jumbles will become common to products of Toyota’s Beyond Zero (bZ) electric subbrand. The bZ4X is the first vehicle in this portfolio, which will eventually include battery-powered crossovers, sedans, trucks, vans, and even sports cars. Like the bZ4X and its identical twin, the Subaru Solterra, those will ride on a dedicated electric platform called e-TNGA.
Until then, know that the 2023 Toyota bZ4X is sized similarly to the RAV4 compact crossover. It measures 3.7 inches longer overall than the RAV4, with a wheelbase that is 6.3 inches longer, and it’s 2.0 inches shorter in height but only 0.2 inch wider. Like the RAV4, the bZ4X’s undercarriage rides more than 8.0 inches above the ground, which Toyota insists adds adventure-readiness. Passenger headroom and legroom measurements are similar between the two, though the bZ4X gives up cargo capacity for its fastback-like profile.
Among the Quickest Toyotas on Sale
In its basic configuration and starting at $43,215 before EV tax incentives, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X is front-wheel drive and carries a 71.4-kWh battery, which motivates a motor making 201 hp and 196 lb-ft of torque. This test is of the available all-wheel-drive powertrain, which starts at $45,295, and features front and rear motors juiced by a 72.8-kWh pack for combined totals of 214 hp and 248 lb-ft.
That unremarkable output belies the bZ4X’s acceleration: 0-60 mph takes 5.8 seconds, matching sporty Toyota models like the small, stick-shift GR86 and the V-6-equipped Camry TRD. In Toyota’s lineup, only the RAV4 Prime and Supra are quicker. Among its competitive set, though, dual-motor versions of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and Ford Mustang Mach-E all do the sprint in less than 5.0 seconds. Still, the bZ4X delivers torque in a remarkably linear fashion, pulling amply off the line and while underway. Even though the bZ4X’s 14.5-second, 95.9-mph quarter-mile result lags the approximately 13.0-second, 100.0-mph results of its direct rivals, our test team noted how consistent its responses remained across a range of speeds.
The dual-motor powertrain proves sweet in everyday driving. Compared to Toyota’s wheezy naturally aspirated I-4, peaky V-6, and groaning hybrid engines, it’s enjoyably—even provocatively—swift. Accelerative context is provided by audible yet unobtrusive motor whine. The motors are tuned harmoniously, maintaining balance if accelerating with the steering wheel turned.
Low Limits, High Comfort
Conversely, braking performance is unimpressive. The 2023 Toyota bZ4X’s 125-foot 60-0-mph stopping distance trails the aforementioned Hyundai, Kia, and Ford. Our test drivers were perturbed by the pedal’s difficult modulation and felt it shuddering under ABS. In normal scenarios, too, the brakes aren’t EV-ideal—specifically, the fact that they’re so necessary. One-pedal driving isn’t possible; regenerative braking will slow the SUV, but stopping requires pressing the brake. This familiar footwork is by design, says Toyota, which purposely engineered this behavior into the car to keep the driver engaged. In our experience, though, this wasn’t necessary, as we find modulating an EV’s accelerator to decelerate completely keeps us attuned to the task at hand. Not to mention, stronger regen could boost the bZ4X’s range—more on that soon.
In terms of handling, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X can’t match the competition. It rounded our skidpad at 0.77 g average and completed the figure-eight in 27.4 seconds at 0.62 g average. Even in single-motor guise, the demure RWD Volkswagen ID4 sticks better, posting 0.83 g average on the skidpad and effectively matching the Toyota on the figure-eight. But those numbers don’t evince the bZ4X’s smooth, composed road manners. There’s a lovely weight in its steering, not so heavy as to require undue effort but not so light that things feel twitchy or vague. Body roll is minimal thanks to the low center of gravity, and the bZ4X’s ride is notably comfortable, aided by the plush, supportive driver’s seat.
EV Driving vs. EV Living
Don’t dismiss the bZ4X for its humdrum test results. Its overall driving experience is relaxing, cohesive, and satisfying. Factor in Toyota’s much-improved infotainment and driver assist features, and any cross-town jaunt becomes legitimately enjoyable. But the drives beyond town call into question whether the bZ4X’s pleasant demeanor is worth it.
That’s due to its battery capabilities. At best, range comes in at 252 miles for the single-motor powertrain in XLE trim. At worst, it rates at 222 miles, as is the case for this dual-motor Limited test vehicle. While those figures are generally comparable to the Ioniq 5 and EV6, other EVs have a significant advantage in charging. The bZ4X maxes out at 150 kW on single-motor models, and, due to its different battery pack, only 100 kW for dual-motor examples. Meanwhile, the Hyundai and Kia can take 235 kW.
In one session with an Electrify America 150-kW DC charger, we saw the bZ4X briefly reach a charge peak of 65 kW, leading to a 64-minute wait for the Toyota to charge from 5 to 80 percent. And that was in Southern California springtime weather; recharging will be even slower in colder or hotter weather. Further inhibiting the bZ4X’s viability is the range anxiety instilled as soon as you activate the air conditioning. Watching the range-estimate display drop by dozens of miles had us wondering how sweaty was too sweaty to arrive at our destinations.
For a vehicle that Toyota wants to be normal, parts of the interior aren’t. Beyond the steering wheel’s humongous hub is a small digital gauge display that only taller members of our staff were able to view unobstructed—average-height drivers may find it blocked by the rim. Tiny volume control buttons are simply a pain to use. Stylish, high-touch details like the drive-selector dial and fabric dashboard trim are contrasted by seemingly chintzy plastic door handles.
bN (Beyond Normal)
Perhaps more than any other automaker, Toyota knows how to crank out straightforward, personality-free vehicles that last for ages and never earn a second thought. The 2023 Toyota bZ4X is not one of those models. Yes, it may well last for ages, and its eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty bolsters Toyota’s reliability reputation. But it’s how the bZ4X stays on your mind that sets it apart from its brand counterparts. Whether you’re thinking about where to charge it next or how amiable it is to drive, Toyota failed wonderfully at making the bZ4X forgettable. In fact, it may well convert today’s average motorists into future EV enthusiasts.
Why We Can Live With the Government’s Push for Electric Cars
How the BMW iX M60 Soups Up Its Most Powerful eDrive Powertrain
Flathead Engines Only: Vintage ’50s-Style Hot Rod Drag Racing in Maine
2023 Toyota bZ4X AWD First Test: Among the Quickest, Best-Driving Toyotas
2022 Ford Bronco Raptor Has F-150 Raptor-Sized Thirst
Source: Read Full Article