The Largest Hybrid Car Company Goes Electric
Toyota announced its all-new, all-electric compact SUV, the 2023 bZ4X—wait, what?!
bZ” = “beyond Zero”; “4” = “mid-size”; “X” = SUV.
This is the first of several “bZ” vehicles between now and 2025, when Toyota will offer 70 electrified vehicles, 15 of them being full battery electric. Then, by 2030, 80 percent of Toyota’s global sales will be electrified with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Town and Country
The 4WD 2023 Toyota bZ4X has two electric motors powered by a 72.8 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery (the front-wheel drive [FWD] model’s battery is slightly smaller at 71.4 kwh). The FWD has an estimated 250 miles of range while the AWD is expected to get 220 miles, reflecting the weight difference of 4,232 pounds versus 4,420 pounds.
The twin 80 kilowatt (kW) motors, rated at 160 kW combined, produce 215 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Consumers have a choice of either front-wheel drive or symmetrical all-wheel drive, which includes the latest generation of X-MODE to increase grip and traction in icy, sloppy and off-road conditions. Toyota aims to make the bZ4X ideal for those who spend most of their time in town, but may do a bit of off-pavement driving in the country.
Charging is through Level 1, 2 or 3 (DC Fast Charging) plus regenerative braking. The DC charging should translate into an 80-percent charge in about an hour. We’ll test that when we get behind the wheel to write a more in-depth article on the bZ4X sometime in early 2022.
The aerodynamic front end, with a curved bumper, has narrow LED head and daytime driving lights, and what Toyota calls a “hammerhead shark-like shape” that runs from the hood to over the acoustic glass windshield. There’s cladding over all wheels and across the lower rear fascia. The front, side and rear overhangs are short, and the low profile roof rails frame the power sunroof. The rear hatch has an interesting dual-wing top spoiler with a more conventional lip spoiler at the bottom of the steeply sloped glass. The modern design features narrow LED tail lights with a connecting light strip, taking up little space.
Driver visibility is very good with thin A pillars, a sloping hood and tall windows. Even without the chance to drive the bZ4X, the front seats felt supportive. The rear seat holds three with ample shoulder head and leg room, but expect many bZ4X owners to lower the 60/40 second row split seat flat, increasing the cargo space to 30 cubic feet.
The all-new multimedia system has an optional 12.3-inch touchscreen that houses navigation, and SiriusXM/AM/FM radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. USB ports and wireless phone charging are standard. For all the standard or optional safety systems on the bZ4X, Toyota could help keep the driver’s eyes on the road by simply adding a channel and volume knob for the radio.
Safety and Convenience
The 2023 Toyota bZ4X comes with active and passive advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), including multiple airbags, and third generation Toyota Safety Sense technology. This package includes range detection through millimeter wave radar and a monocular camera for a pre-collision system that includes low-light cyclist, daytime motorcyclist and guardrail detection.
Pricing and Availability
Pricing has not been released for the 2022 bZ4X that is scheduled to be in dealers mid-2022.
Observations: 2023 Toyota bZ4X EV
This all-new, all-electric compact SUV is an important step for Toyota. With the limited volume 2012 RAV4 EV the last all-electric model offered by Toyota, they’ve been conspicuously absent from growth of the electric propulsion market, focusing instead on hybrids and fuel cell electrics. But no more, as their commitment to converting much of their models to some sort of electrification shows they are serious about being a worldwide leader in zero emission transportation.
Toyota’s Mike Tripp, vice president vehicle marketing and communications, says increasing consumer awareness and acceptability of EVs is one of the main goals they have as part of their marketing plan for the bZ4X. Mike says that “in the consumer’s minds today, EVs are intimidating and overwhelming. There needs to be an intuitiveness of the ease and functionality (of an EV), plus the spaciousness of a SUV with all-wheel drive capability. There needs to be a better understanding of the charging process at home and the charging infrastructure. We need to give them a peace of mind about what they need (to charge) at home and from a public charging standpoint.”
The importance of the bZ4X to Toyota cannot be understated. Consumers are aware of Toyota as an environmentally friendly company with its leadership in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technology. So “it is important we bring a Toyota EV model to the market that rounds-out our portfolio with four different electrified powertrains.”
The 2023 Toyota bZ4X is now part of the Toyota SUV family of CH-R, Corolla Cross, RAV4, Venza, Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia and Land Cruiser. The bZ4X not only needs to find a place within this stout line-up, but also needs to differentiate itself through performance, efficiency and lower cost of ownership.
[Ed note: If you’re thinking there’s something vaguely similar to the also just-introduced Subaru Solterra EV, that’s because they’re both based the same new Toyota EV platform-eTNGA. We’ve got the Solterra story here. See if you can tell the difference.]
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Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Toyota.