Belated it may be to the battery electric vehicle market, Toyota is mounting a serious offensive with no less than 15 EVs planned to be released by 2025. This includes seven of the Japanese juggernaut’s mainstream bZ (short for beyond Zero) models, with the first one being the bZ4X shown here.
It may be just a concept for now, but the show car debuting at Auto Shanghai today previews a very real RAV4-sized C-segment SUV, developed in partnership with Subaru and based on the e-TNGA modular platform. It’s also coming fairly soon, with sales of the production model set to start in mid-2022.
Toyota is pulling all the stops with the bZ4X with some striking touches, not least of which being the rather extroverted exterior design that utilises plenty of sharp creases and contrasting gloss black elements. The front end ditches the company’s typically massive lower grille for a small centre inlet and a slim upper black panel that houses the car’s sensors, forming a sort of hammerhead shape.
This panel is flanked by trapezoidal headlights that feature L-shaped daytime running lights and an array of projectors, which in turn are integrated into the blacked-out front fenders. A series of character lines define the side surfacing of the bZ4X, including prominent rear fender flares that house another black moulding for the wheel arches. A chrome window strip continues to the rear of the car and provides a “floating roof” look.
But it’s the rear that takes the cake, with a dramatic cross-shaped graphic formed by the full-width taillights. The futuristic interior is wilder still, with a yoke-style steering wheel that, when combined with the steer-by-wire system, is claimed to be the first for a production car (the facelifted Tesla Model S also has such a wheel, but presumably with mechanical steering).
Toyota says that the steering system will eliminate the need for the driver to move their hands around the wheel when making a turn, as well as removing interference from rough road surfaces and braking (what we enthusiasts lovingly call “feel”). The half-cut wheel is paired with a high-mounted instrument display, while the tall waterfall-style centre console features a freestanding infotainment touchscreen and a rotary gear selector.
The new platform enables the bZ4X to have a long wheelbase and short overhangs, with D-segment-rivalling rear legroom claimed. The car will also be offered with all-wheel drive via front and rear electric motors, which Toyota says benefits from the Subaru connection, providing “genuine off-road capability” that sets it apart from the competition. That’s a big claim.
No details about performance and range have been released just yet, but Toyota is touting class-leading efficiency, a “very competitive” range and reliable, long-lasting battery performance that maintains range even in cold climates. An on-board solar charging system also extends the range of the battery.
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