Test Drive: 2023 Toyota bZ4X XLE
2023 Toyota bZ4X XLE AWD
Class: Electric Vehicle
Miles driven: 280
Battery capacity: 72.8 kWh
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||B+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||214 horsepower|
|Engine Type||Electric motors|
EPA-estimate MPGe: 114 city/94 hwy/104 combined
EPA-estimated driving range: 228 miles
Consumer Guide range estimate (ideal conditions): 270 miles
Base price: $44,080 (not including $1215 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: “Heavy Metal” silver paint ($425); XLE Weather Package ($500); carpet floor mats ($169)
Price as tested: $46,389
The great: Better-than-expected passenger and cargo room; feature-rich big-screen infotainment interface; nicely designed small-items storage spots
The good: Decent ride/handling balance; respectable level of standard equipment; competitive pricing for an EV
The not so good: Some odd control-layout choices; doesn’t offer true “one-pedal” driving like many EV rivals; limited availability, at least for now
More bZ4X price and availability information
Honda has its Passport and now Toyota has a password. At least that’s what you might think the bZ4X is (minimum four characters, including a capital letter and a number) if you didn’t know it was a pure-electric compact-crossover SUV that bows for the 2023 model year.
Created in collaboration with Subaru—the Solterra is its version of the vehicle—the 5-passenger 4x is the first of seven bZ-branded EVs Toyota plans to introduce globally by 2025. The “beyond zero” (as in exhaust emissions) vehicles are designed from the jump as battery-electrics built from Toyota’s new “e-TNGA” architecture. A liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack is integrated into the floor structure, which protects the integrity of the pack in the event of a collision. The location lowers the center of gravity and the cross-braced construction of the battery pack contributes to chassis rigidity, both of which improve driving dynamics.
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The bZ4X’s overall size puts it between Toyota’s RAV4 compact crossover and 3-row Highlander midsize SUV (even though it has the same wheelbase as the latter). It comes in two trim levels, XLE and fancier Limited, and with a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Consumer Guide tested an all-wheel XLE with a starting price of $45,295, including delivery, that hit $46,389 with options.
AWD models put out a total 214 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque via two 80-kW motors powering the front and rear wheels, respectively. The battery-pack capacity is 72.8 kWh. (Front-wheelers have one 201-horse/196 lb-ft motor fed by a 71.4-kWh battery.) Not only is range affected by driveline—front-wheelers go further—but, curiously, by trim level. For instance, the XLE AWD that we drove is estimated by the EPA to have a range of 228 miles, which is six miles more than a similarly powered Limited is predicted to go.
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Those projections may just represent worst-case scenarios. When this driver started his 137.2-mile turn in the bZ4X, it was with a full charge and an indicated range of approximately 270 miles. At the end of this stint (carried out with 67 percent city-type driving) charge was not quite half depleted yet another 146 miles of range was still left in the “tank” for a possible 283 total miles. However, that was with ideal spring temperatures that didn’t put any strain on the battery or require much cabin cooling. Cycle through either the normal air conditioning or even the “Eco”-mode climate control and considerably lower residual range estimates loom, so midsummer or dead-of-winter driving with almost-constant climate-system use might yield ranges closer to the official figures.
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The AWD’s torque allotment is plentiful enough for alert standing-start getaway. Our tester cruised easily (and quietly, of course) on the highway with plenty of passing power on hand. Regenerative braking to recapture lost energy when “off throttle” comes in two levels—basically on or off—that can be summoned via a console button. Note that resistance with the feature on is not sufficient for “one-pedal” driving. When this reviewer plugged in to CG’s 240-volt charging unit needing to fill roughly half of battery capacity, the vehicle reported it would take 4 hours, 40 minutes to do the job. Customers who purchase or lease a new bZ4X will get one year of unlimited free charging at EVgo public charging stations nationwide.
Toyota has selected MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar for the front suspension and multilink geometry with stabilizer in back, and perched the bZ4X on a 112.2-inch wheelbase. The one we tested rode well with good bump absorption on street-pavement cracks and highway expansion joints. Bend it into a corner with its decently responsive steering and the solid body structure offers no discordant countermoves. One clear sign of Subaru’s participation in the project is the X-Mode driving-surface system found in AWD models. It provides “Snow/Dirt,” “Deep Snow/Mud,” and “Grip Control” modes.
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The bZ4X XLE (don’t you just want to insert an understrike in that space?) costs $4700 less than a Limited and may be just fine for folks who can get by without things like 20-inch alloy wheels (the XLE has 18s), some chrome exterior trim, full synthetic-leather upholstery, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel (they are optionally available), hands-free power liftgate, Digital Key compatibility via smartphones, and a 360-degree camera. Any bZ4X comes with the Toyota Audio Multimedia system that shows on a big 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s easy to read and reasonably simple to operate. The audio system has six speakers and standard satellite radio. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone hook-ups are wireless. Separate climate controls are a mix of capacitive-touch and repetitive-push buttons. Also built in is the 3.0 version of Safety Sense with improved versions of lane-trace assist and the pre-collision system added to the existing suite of safety monitors.
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Passengers will find good headroom and legroom in both rows. Three kids—maybe even three svelte adults—will fit in the back seat. The dash is covered in the same attractively textured fabric found on the XLE’s seat inserts. A small, distant display of information (speed, trip odometer, etc.) is mounted near the windshield. Unfortunately, we suspect most—if not all—drivers will find some part of this window obscured by the steering wheel.
Cabin storage alternatives are about average. There is no conventional in-dash glove box but an open “purse porch” below the console will hold some things. The console-box space can be small or large depending on whether a removable tray is used. Door pockets, pouches on the front seat backs, and console and rear armrest cup holders round out the field. The 27.7 cubic-foot cargo bay suffers some loading compromises under the sloped tailgate. Rear seats fold very slightly above the level of the load floor but a flap maintains a smooth transition. If you can leave the Level 1 emergency charging cord at home, a small underfloor space becomes available.
The bZ4X offers a glimpse into Toyota’s EV future. If you want access to it, you know the code.
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