Toyota has just taken the wraps off the prototype version of the bZ4X electric SUV, revealing a model that will go on sale stateside next year. The long-awaited RAV4-sized electric sport utility will be Toyota’s first truly mass-market battery-electric model, offering a WLTP range of up to 310 miles thanks to a 71.4-kWh (gross) battery pack. It should also be one of the most important launches for the automaker this decade, acting as the launch vehicle for its bZ, or beyond Zero, series or sub-brand of electric models.
Landing close to the looks of the concept seen earlier this year, the production model features plenty of rhombus-shaped design details and a distinct approach to the front fascia design, signaling its EV powertrain.
Like a great many other battery-electric models, the bZ4X will be offered in single- and dual-motor flavors, with the front-wheel drive version serving up 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, while the dual-motor all-wheel drive variant will produce a still-modest 215 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. The former will be able to make the jog from 0 to 62 mph in a leisurely 8.4 seconds, while the latter will get there a little quicker in 7.7 seconds, with Toyota clearly erring on the side of range when it comes to performance.
Based on the e-TNGA platform, the bZ4X will feature what the automaker calls an E-axle, combining the motor, transaxle, and inverter into one unit, powered by a battery integrated into the floor. Toyota worked with one other automaker on the project, incorporating Subaru’s all-wheel-drive technology into the SUV, a version of which will also be offered by Subaru soon in the Solterra.
Another innovative technical feature will be a steer-by-wire system that will be offered as an option, designed to reduce vibration and reduce effort required for U-turns.
“The steering feeling is improved through independently controlling the steering torque that the driver feels and the steering angle of the tires. Steering characteristics can be changed with drive mode select,” the automaker notes.
Speaking of steering, the bZ4X will offer a Tesla-style yoke as an option, for those who are into that sort of thing. The nominal reason for offering such a steering in the Toyota model, which has not been received with universal acclaim in Tesla models earlier this year, is to make the instrument screen more visible to the driver, in lieu of a heads-up projection. A solar roof will be another option, at least in some markets.
When it comes to range, the front-wheel drive model will offer a range of 310 miles in the WLTP cycle in Japan, which is a bit more optimistic than the EPA cycle, while the all-wheel-drive version will offer a range of 286 miles. We won’t know concrete EPA numbers for a while, usually weeks before the model will land on dealership shelves stateside, so take the 310-mile figure with a grain of salt as the official US numbers are both likely to land below the 250-mile mark. It will be interesting to see just where the EPA numbers will materialize, as range remains quite a make-or-break factor in a segment that will become very cutthroat in a short span of time.
Among other features, the bZ4X will offer the latest version of Toyota Safety Sense suite, offering a camera- and radar-based sensor system. Also, at least in Japan, the SUV will be able to supply power back to a home charging system, powering a house in the event of an outage.
“When used with home solar power generation, solar power can supply electricity to the house in the daytime, surplus electricity can be used to recharge the vehicle via a power feeder, and electricity stored in the vehicle can be used to power the home at night,” the automaker notes.
Needless to say, the debut of the bZ4X represents an important step for an automaker that has openly shunned the transition to EVs over the past decade, and is only now rolling out its first mass-market model, even as it continues to lobby against more stringent emissions standards and EV adoption. On the other hand, Toyota might argue that it’s not late to the game at all, having observed some of the costs of being too early.
When it goes on sale in mid-2022, the bZ4X will arrive in a rapidly growing segment that will be populated by entries from Nissan, Volkswagen, and a few others, just as interest in EVs appears to be growing stateside. Therefore, the launch of the first electric SUV by Toyota will certainly face a greater audience than it would have five or 10 years ago, which has been one of the arguments the automaker has made in recent years for staying out of EVs. But some note that Toyota may have still lost some crucial time to hedge against Tesla’s dominance of the EV market, as it will now be facing a competitor, at least in Europe and the States, that has been making EVs for a decade and is about to open up two new factories in these regions, while Toyota is getting rolling just now.
Pricing and EPA numbers are expected to be announced closer to the start of sales Stateside in the second half of 2022, with the bZ4X expected to arrive in dealerships just before the start of autumn.
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