2023 Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An Ambitious Electric SUV

The 2023 Toyota bZ4X will be the Japanese company’s first attempt at an electric vehicle that will be available in all 50 states. It’s an admirable machine that looks as good as it rides and comes with updated technology – but Toyota is going to have to make a ground hard work to land this $42,000 vehicle with the public in the non-luxury electric SUV market.

Full disclosure: Toyota invited Jalopnik to drive the Toyota bZ4X around a posh California resort. All opinions are mine.

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

What is the Toyota bZ4X?

The Toyota bZ4X is the Japanese company’s attempt at an all-electric SUV designed to usher in a new era of electric vehicles for the company, and it will be Toyota’s first electric vehicle sold in all 50 states. This is also another collaboration with Subaru; Both the Solterra and the bZ4X share the same platform and are nearly identical except for a few mechanical tweaks and cosmetic changes.

This crossover was announced in November last year to mixed reviews. The ‘bZ’ in its name stands for ‘beyond zero’, meaning the EV hopes to be more than carbon neutral, but actively Well For the environment. The naming convention unfortunately remained in place; Toyota noted that it already has plans for a bZ5X – a real downside for anyone who has to type that naming convention, for example, into a review.

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

How does the Toyota bZ4X drive?

I admit it: I love a good electric SUV. Where your traditional gasoline-powered machine might feel a little slow and heavy, the electric version of these larger vehicles delivers instant, linear torque application as soon as you touch the throttle. I’d be lying if I said I don’t like running away from stoplights like I’m on the drag strip.

However, that brings me to one of the first issues I noticed with the bZ4X. I had a chance to drive the XLE and Limited trims in both FWD and AWD formats—and wheel spin was almost unavoidable in the FWD models if you weren’t careful. Just a little too much pressure on the throttle and you’d lose traction for a moment. It’s not something a driver can’t get used to, but it’s true that it’s a little confusing at first.

Once cruising, however, the bZ4X is, more than anything else, comfortable. We’re not talking a performance car here, so if you want beefed-up suspension and instant response from your steering inputs, you probably shouldn’t go for an SUV anyway.

But the bZ4X is competent. On the highway, it’s child’s play to drive. On the winding mountain paths you can always have a little fun. On gravel, it holds up (although, again, be careful with throttle application on these FWD models). It doesn’t stand out in terms of driving dynamics, but Toyota is marketing this vehicle as a commuter – and it will do just fine. If you enjoy navigating the RAV4, you’ll enjoy the bZ4X.

I will note, however, that I haven’t had the opportunity to do any significant off-roading in the bZ4X, so I haven’t been able to test the AWD’s X-Mode system, which offers settings of additional traction for snow/dirt, snow/mud and hill descent. However, I played around with Boost mode, Toyota’s name for its regenerative braking setting. It’s not exactly a one-pedal ride (you have to use the brakes to come to a complete stop), but you’ll notice dramatic deceleration. Also note: you can use Boost mode with any X-Mode setting.

I had one other minor criticism about the bZ4X. The gauge cluster is sleek, but it’s so integrated into the dash that I found the top of my steering wheel obscured the view of the speedometer. After talking with fellow journalists during the trip, I found that this was not a major problem for many drivers while it was a significant annoyance for others. This seems to depend on your riding position; I was able to readjust and still feel comfortable, but it was admittedly a little disorienting not being able to sit in my standard riding position.

And yes, I have to talk about the design – in particular, the black coating on the outside which admittedly looks better in real life than in photos. This unique design element is likely going to be the death knell for a lot of buyers, as the upholstery tends to look cheap, and I would expect a bit more exterior luxury from a 40,000+ vehicle. $ which is not intended for off-road driving. The interior too replaced plastic or leather with gray fabric which I couldn’t decide if I liked or hated. It’s going to be, I think, one of those things you can’t figure out until you’ve driven it for a while.

Fortunately, you get Toyota’s upgraded infotainment system in this bad boy, the same on the new Tundra. On the other hand, I quickly grew tired of seeing my own fingerprints in the piano black trim.

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

How does the Toyota bZ4X compare to the competition?

The Toyota bZ4X is ready to do battle with other non-luxury electrified SUVs like the Chevy Bolt EUV, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Kona Electric and Ioniq, Kia Niro EV and EV6, Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4, and, of course, its twin, the Subaru Solterra.

The bZ4X will sit in the middle of all these vehicles in terms of price, size and appearance, but it benefits from the very fact that it is a Toyota, a brand associated with a philosophy of respect for the environment. environment and reliability. It’s more comfortable and looks more like a traditional petrol car than, say, the Model Y or the ID.4

The big thing here, however, is that the bZ4X doesn’t exactly offer anything to make it stand out from the pack. It’s a nice, relaxing ride, and it benefits from its Toyota nameplate – but we live in a world where people are hesitant to embrace electric vehicles, and the competition offers better range, lower prices, more interiors. luxurious, faster charging or better technology. And to make matters worse, Toyota is about to lose its federal electric vehicle tax credits, which means you can opt for the Subaru Solterra and receive a strikingly similar machine with the guarantee that you can get a return. important on your taxes.

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Specifications to know

  • Starting MSRP: $42,000
  • Range: between 222 and 252, depending on the version
  • AWD and FWD options
  • 201 hp front-wheel drive, 214 hp all-wheel drive
  • 196 lb-ft of torque
  • Battery 71.4 kWh front-wheel drive / battery 72.9 kWh all-wheel drive
  • Two versions: XLE and Limited

XLE

  • MSRP front-wheel drive: $42,000
  • AWD MSRP: $44,080
  • FWD Range: 252 miles
  • AWD Range: 228 miles
  • 18 inch alloy wheels

Limit

  • MSRP front-wheel drive: $46,700
  • AWD MSRP: $48,780
  • Forward range: 242 miles
  • AWD Range: 222 miles
  • 20-inch machined alloy wheels
  • Additional paint colors
  • Available split-roof rear spoiler
  • Chrome-accented grille and window trim
  • Multi-LED headlights
  • Electric tailgate

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Image for article titled Toyota bZ4X First Drive: An ambitious electric vehicle, but will it land with the public?

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

The verdict

The 2023 Toyota bZ4X is a completely capable electric vehicle that stands out in the EV SUV category for its comfort…but that’s about it. If you’re a Toyota enthusiast looking to go all-electric, you’ll love this. If you want better prices, higher luxury, more range, faster charging, more capable technology, better tax credits, better off-roading or sportier driving, you can find that elsewhere in this ever-growing market niche. . I really liked the bZ4X – it hasn’t given me a reason to buy it yet.

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