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2023 Toyota bZ4X Review | Best EVs 2022

2023 Toyota bZ4X Review |  Best EVs 2022

The takeaway: Toyota’s bZ4X is the all-electric successor to the brand’s RAV4 EV. I flew to Plano, Texas, for Toyota’s annual HQ Confidential media drive to log some time behind the wheel. And while it lacks some of the staples expected on the fringe of electric cars, nowadays – one-pedal drive is most noticeable – it is very approachable for newbies.

  • The four-wheel drive models offer additional off-road capability with X-Mode, which can mimic a limited slip differential to maximize traction.
  • The bZ4X feels agile, all thanks to the battery pack mounted as low as possible under the floor of the car.
  • The hatchback’s design – very similar to that of the Prius – allows for a spacious second row and plenty of space in the trunk.

    Specifications:

    • Price: $42,000 (base MSRP without destination fee of $1,215)
    • Motor: AC Synchronous
    • HP: 201 hp (single engine), 214 hp (dual engine)
    • Torque: 196 lb-ft (single engine), 248 lb-ft (dual engine)
    • Battery capacity: 71.4 kWh (single motor), 72.8 kWh (dual motor)
    • Range: 252 miles (single engine), 222 miles (dual engine)
    • Max DC charging power: 150 kW (single motor), 100 kW (dual motor)

      Learn more


      What’s in a name

      Matt Crisara

      You’re not alone if you think bZ4X doesn’t roll off the tongue so easily. It’s an odd name, but once we parse the etymology, it actually makes sense. Like many other automakers, Toyota has taken the initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, meaning its effective carbon footprint is zero. That said, the “bZ” actually stands for Beyond Zero, which is the name of Toyota’s new electric vehicle sub-brand; the 4 stands for the size class of the vehicle, and the X stands for crossover.

      The vehicle itself was developed alongside Subaru’s all-electric Solterra – both share the same platform. It’s very similar to how both brands designed and built the Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ. I’m pleased to report that the ad hoc nature of the development process of both electric vehicles (sometimes referred to as “Toyobarus”) makes them much stronger packages thanks to the inter-brand encounter.

      Front-wheel drive vs. four-wheel drive

      toyota bz4x in use

      Matt Crisara

      I rode both the front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) configurations of the bZ4X. Each does over 200 miles on a single charge – with the former capable of 252 miles and the latter about 222. Both the XLE and Limited trim levels are nearly mechanically identical; the Limited trim gets bigger wheels, LED headlights and a foot-activated lift gate, among other luxury additions. Here is a detailed comparison of the two disk layouts.

      FWD

      Starting at $43,215 for the base XLE trim, the front-wheel-drive bZ4X doesn’t feel blazingly fast. It has a single engine on the front axle that can propel the vehicle to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. However, after driving this spec on the highway[[looks like we introduced a dangler here.]†, it had a lot of getting up and going to do lane changes and navigate ramps with confidence. Despite being relatively geriatric in a straight line, it shares the same balanced handling characteristics as the AWD variant thanks to its low center of gravity. Can’t get much closer to the groundthe vehicle feels very nimble for a package that tips the scales at about 4,200 pounds (for the lighter front-wheel drive XLE model).

      AWD

      An extra $2,080 on top of the XLE or Limited trim levels gives you a two-motor setup: one on each axle. At first glance, the increase of only about 14 horsepower may seem insignificant. However, the end result is much more than the sum of its parts. The improved drive system feels much stronger from 0-20 mph. This isn’t really a surprise, as the AWD package shaves nearly a second off the FWD vehicle’s 0-60 time: 8.4 for the former compared to 7.7 for the latter. It’s not a Tesla killer in terms of straight-line speed, but it has the grunt to put you in the back of your seat on command.

      Unfortunately, neither configuration gets any type of single-pedal drive system. Most EVs have regenerative braking that can slow the car down significantly when you let go of the gas, meaning you can drive without having to use the brake pedal as often as you normally would. This EV-exclusive driver aid takes some getting used to, but makes city driving a breeze. That said, it’s not the end of the world that the bZ4X goes without. And better that than overly aggressive regenerative braking, which some EVs do have, giving the ride a choppy character. The vehicle feels very intuitive to drive, making it an attractive option for anyone looking to merge onto Electric Avenue.

      Relax. It’s just a yoke

      toyota bz4x in use

      Matt Crisara

      Like its call sign, bZ4X, the vehicle’s interior is quirky. One of the focal points of this car quirk is the steering wheel.

      Even in the highest position, the steering wheel sits hilariously low in the cockpit. That’s why it needs to be the size of a shirt button to keep off your knees. And yet mine often bumped into the steering gear during hard corners. This problem could easily be solved with a yoke style steering wheel…that drivers in other countries will get. Not so for us here in the States, which makes the small conventional wheel feel more like a band-aid. Anyone taller than my five-foot height will probably struggle to get quite comfortable in the standard riding position.

      toyota yoke

      Toyota

      The bZ4X with a yoke instead of a conventional handlebar gets a custom steer-by-wire setup that allows for tighter turns without taking your hands off the handlebars. The system itself actively changes the steering ratio (the number of turns from locking to locking), meaning that low-speed maneuvers require less steering and high-speed maneuvers require more[[just checking that we don’t really mean the wheels turn more at the beginning of the steering wheel’s rotation and less at the end?]†† The goal is to make the yoke much easier and safer to use. Fingers crossed that it will eventually become available here once the legal red tape is cut.

      Regardless of the wheel’s shape and position, the conventional circle feels comfortable in the hands and is easy to navigate. Those of you who have owned a Prius will feel very much at home behind this wheel, as it looks almost identical to that of Toyota’s iconic hybrid.

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      To upload[[need some additional takeaway or insight here]†

      A quick look at the bZ’s spec sheet shows it’s lacking when it comes to DC fast charging. Other EVs in its class, for example the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, have the upper hand when it comes to charging. Both are capable of handling more than 200 kW of power from a DC charger. However, this Toyota can only handle 150 kW for the single engine variant and 100 kW for the twin engine. The slower charging speed is likely due to the battery architecture, which runs on 400 volts rather than more advanced 800 volt systems that can flow a lot more juice.

      The verdict

      toyota bz4x in use

      Matt Crisara

      Regardless of the bZ’s shortcomings, it’s a very intuitive package to drive. Toyota’s funky EV is actually very approachable for those who may be new to electric cars. It’s also quite affordable, as you’ll see below; the bZ4X qualifies for the $7,500 federal tax credit.

      • XLE FWD: $42,000
      • Limited FWD: $46,700
      • XLE AWD: $44,080
      • Limited AWD: $48,780

        Toyota says vehicles will arrive at dealerships by mid-2022, basically now. All of the above prices are suggested retail prices, but it’s safe to expect dealer marks. Regardless, the bZ4X’s price and accessible nature should make it an attractive option for new EV buyers.

        Matt Crisara
        Matt Crisara is a native Texan with an unbridled passion for cars and motorsports, both abroad and domestically, and as Autos Editor for Popular Mechanics, he writes the bulk of automotive digital and print coverage.

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