Delivers An Almost Perfectly Balanced Package Of Price, Performance, And Practically
Well, Toyota could only sit this one out for so long; it looks like they’re finally getting serious about joining the battery electric vehicle game with this 2023 bZ4X utility. And if their hybrid game-changing abilities are any indication, they’re not just showing up to play, they’re swinging for the fences.
Toyota has indeed joined the ranks of fully-electric carmakers, seeking to go “beyond Zero” with this 2023 Toyota bZ4X utility vehicle. It’s another joint-venture vehicle with partner Subaru whose Solterra is arriving at about the same time. And they are very similar, sharing the same basic profile and purposeful, but awkward split roof spoiler that’s featured on some other EVs these days.
Where they differ significantly is up front, the bZ4X wearing a smooth aero-inspired, mostly grille-less face typical of modern EVs. It’s 3-inches longer than the RAV4, but with 6-inches more wheelbase that helps it feel much roomier inside. It’s not the most handsome interior design we’ve seen lately, but it is very functional.
Standard powertrain is a front-mounted 150-kW electric motor rated at 201-horsepower. But, when it comes to adding all-wheel-drive, where many EVs will add the same size motor to the other set of wheels, or even a larger one, here, Toyota goes incredibly conservative, placing smaller 80-kW units on both axles, which only raises total output to 214–horsepower and 248 lb-ft. of torque. So, we weren’t expecting a whole lot when making our way to Mason Dixon Dragway,
And while it may not explode off the line like many EVs, grip for launching was plentiful and it seemed to make very good use of what it has, capable of getting to 60 in the mid 6-second range. And it more than held its own though our slalom course. Just a bit of understeer and only minor body roll had us getting through the cones with good speed and great confidence. Even the steering wheel has good weight to it; with quick, direct response from all inputs.
And the ride is quite nice on public roads too; smooth and solid, without the overly heavy feel of many EVs. Working with Subaru allows Toyota to take advantage of Subaru’s X-Mode all-wheel-drive technology; which they’ve reconfigured to work with battery power. There are settings for Snow/Dirt and Snow/Mud; as well as low speed Grip-Control which reads the road surface and manages power flow to keep momentum up and avoid slipping on rough or slippery roads. Regen braking features a heightened “Boost Mode” to reduce brake pedal use, but it lacks a 1-pedal driving setting.
The bZ4X is available in XLE and Limited trims, with a fairly high end feel accompanying top Limited. Front seats are both heated and cooled; and along with the heated steering wheel, are nicely integrated into the climate control system, turning on and off automatically as appropriate.
A 12.3-inch touchscreen is the centerpiece of Toyota’s new multimedia system that was actually designed here in the U.S. It looks great and works well, but there’s no volume knob for the radio; and, ironically enough, both gas stations and electric charging locations show up on the nav. screen, allowing you to easily navigate to either.
The gauge display is uniquely mounted in a pod high on top of the dash, which has you looking over the steering wheel to monitor it instead of through the wheel. We like the overall presentation, but actual information tends to be minimal. We couldn’t find a way to see the often-useful percentage of battery charge remaining.
Max range from the all-wheel-drive bZ4X’s 72.8-kWh battery pack is 228–miles, which we’d say is pretty accurate, as we drove 210 and had an indicated 20 miles of range left when we pulled up for a charge. Front-wheel-drive features a slightly smaller 71.4-kWh battery, but is rated for up to 252-miles.
There’s a surprising amount of back seat space, and a good 27.7 cubic-ft. of cargo room in back; which makes the bZ4X plenty capable for performing most routine family tasks. Seatbacks fold easily for more space if needed. However, there is no traditional glove box, and no under-hood storage up front like many EVs.
Pricing starts at just $43,215, with all-wheel drive a $2,080 option; and top Limited coming in at $47,915. No Federal tax credits are currently available. Still, with a starting price that low, it is very competitive. But we also kind of feel like we didn’t quite get Toyota’s best effort here. Rather a “let’s work with Subaru on this one just to get something out there” situation.
So, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X is certainly not a Prius-like game changer when it comes to battery electric vehicles; but it is a Toyota, and delivers the almost perfectly balanced package of price, performance, and practically that Toyota buyers keep coming back for.
Motor Setup: Front Mounted | Dual Motor AWD
Battery: 71.4 kWh | 72.8 kWh
Horsepower: 201 | 214
Torque: 248 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
EPA Range: 252 miles | 228 miles