The 2023 Toyota bZ4X is the best family-budget battery-electric choice today, and much more is on the way
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The 2023 Toyota bZ4X is the company’s first dedicated lightning strike in the mainstream EV segment. Launched under the global “Toyota bZ” brand umbrella, the bZ4X is the first model in the series. “BZ” stands for “beyond Zero;” the number 4 is its class-size designation, and X is for SUV.
Toyota’s electrified lineup of vehicles, in total, accounts for more than 40 percent of all alternative powertrain vehicles sold in the U.S. Toyota sells almost a dozen electrified models, including the hydrogen fuel-cell Mirai sedan, hybrids (including the 2022 Tundra full-size pickup), plug-in hybrids and now the bZ4X. In addition, Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, currently markets six hybrid models. And the brand will get a version of the bZ4X called “RZ.”
Globally, Toyota says it will debut around 70 electrified models by 2025. The corporate plan is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. And also by 2050, Toyota plans to introduce 15 battery-electric vehicles in North America, including seven new Toyota bZ EV models by 2025.
Through the rest of 2022, Toyota expects to sell 7,000 bZ4X models and is anticipating that 60 percent will be all-wheel-drive.
To feed the expected demand for its electrified vehicles, Toyota announced in late 2021 its plan to build a $1.3 billion automotive battery manufacturing plant in North Carolina. When it comes online in 2025, the plant will have four production lines, each capable of delivering enough lithium-ion batteries for 200,000 vehicles, Toyota said in a release. Plans include expanding production to at least six lines for a combined total of up to 1.2 million batteries a year.
The bZ4X is built on Toyota’s e-TNGA BEV-dedicated platform and was a joint development project with Subaru. The partnership leverages Toyota’s vehicle electrification while Subaru contributes its expertise in all-wheel-drive technologies.
Subaru’s version is called Solterra, Latin words for “sun” and “earth.” With minor exterior changes, the Solterra is expected to go on sale this summer.
The bZ4X is close in size and styling to the Toyota Venza hybrid but on a longer wheelbase. The 112.2-inch wheelbase provides length for the skateboard-style battery and other electrical components.
Toyota went with a standard front-wheel-drive format because the driving characteristics are more familiar to most drivers.
With an AC synchronous electric generator mounted at the front axle, the front-drive powerplant has 201 horsepower. Front-drive models have a maximum output of 150 kW, and 160 kW with AWD.
The drive battery has 355 total voltage and total power of 71.4 kWh, increasing to 72.8 kWh for AWD. The liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack is stored flat under the floor, which gives the vehicle a low center of gravity. Cross-bracing of the battery-pack housing is designed to withstand a collision from any angle.
Toyota cites a driving range of up to 252 miles for front-drive models and 228 miles with AWD. The driving range is somewhat short of some competitors, Toyota admits, but the battery pack and drivetrain were engineered for reliable range and durability. Toyota has targeted battery-capacity retention of 90 percent after 10 years of ownership.
X-Mode All-Wheel Drive
Subaru’s most notable contribution to the bZ4X is the all-wheel-drive system with X-Mode. The system is suited for everything from daily driving to light off-roading, Toyota says. A standout feature of the AWD system is Grip-Control.
The five-stage software program works in addition to the all-wheel-drive system.
Among its capabilities is to use lower gear ratios to generate extra power at the wheels that have grip. In addition, the X-Mode system makes the traction control system extra sensitive so that it intervenes earlier during wheel slippage. And the system works with Hill Descent Control for added braking on steep slopes.
Charging at a public high-output charger can restore an 80 percent charge in about an hour, Toyota says. (That is a longer charge time than either the Hyundai IONIQ 5 or VW ID4, which can charge to 80 percent in 35 to 40 minutes.)
A Level 2 home or public charger can add up to 25 miles of range an hour and fully charge the battery when plugged in overnight.
ChargePoint Home Flex Charger
ChargePoint Home Flex is Energy Star certified and Wi-Fi enabled. It can be installed indoors or out and includes a 23-foot charging cable. Toyota says the Level 2 system can charge electric vehicles up to nine times faster than a standard household outlet.
The ChargePoint Home Flex Level 2 charger also can be bought at the dealership or online from ChargePoint.
1 year of free charging. New owners will get a year of free, unlimited charging at EVgo public charging stations nationwide. Using the Toyota App, owners can locate EVgo stations and initiate charging for the vehicle.
Front-seat radiant foot-and-leg heater. The option, a first for Toyota, along with a heat-pump system for interior warmth, heated seats, and steering wheel, helps reduce energy drain in cold weather.
Center hub console. The broad console has the functionality of a table. The setup includes storage for a smartphone, wireless charging (optional), and a transparent lid. There are a pair of USB ports (A and C), and a total of five throughout the cabin. There is a spacious open area under the center shift console.
Drive Connect. With a subscription, the bZ4X navigation system reaches into the cloud to get traffic information and parking space availability in real-time. And a digital key function allows owners to lock, unlock, and start the vehicle with a smartphone. Digital keys can also be handed over between smartphones for family and friends to borrow and lend vehicles remotely.
Over-the-air wireless software updates. Various improvements for performance, safety systems, and multimedia will be made via app.
The 2023 Toyota bZ4X will be arriving in dealerships later this month, but Toyota says there will be “extremely limited to no inventory available.” Updates on the new EV can be found here.
Toyota plans to produce the Toyota bZ4X in Japan and China. Suggested retail pricing, includes the $1,215 freight charge from Aichi, Japan.
- $43,215 XLE FWD; XLE AWD $45,295;
- $47,915 Limited FWD; Limited AWD, $49,995
Early adopters could qualify for up to $10,250 in federal and state rebates or incentives.
The bZ4X will qualify for the full $7,500 Federal Electric Vehicle Tax Credit at launch, but it is expected to begin ramping down through next year, a Toyota spokesman said. “We are expecting to hit the 200,000 vehicle threshold soon.”
According to EVadoption.com, the federal tax credit is phased out over time beginning the second quarter after the quarter in which a manufacturer reaches a total of 200,000 BEV or PHEV vehicles sold since 2010.
California Clean Fuel Reward: $750. Available toward the purchase or lease of a new electric vehicle with a battery capacity greater than 5 kWh. The vehicle must be registered in California and the customer must reside in California.
California Clean Vehicle Rebate: $2,000. Participants are eligible based on gross annual income, as stated on their federal tax return.
Find federal and state laws or incentives here.
And in California, the bZ4X qualifies for High-Occupancy-Vehicle freeway access, with the green DMV decal.
bZ4X will be the first to feature the latest Toyota Safety Sense safety package, called TSS 3.0. This system has an expanded detection range of the millimeter-wave radar and monocular camera.
The pre-collision system now provides low-light cyclist detection, daytime motorcyclist detection, and guardrail detection. Also, lane recognition was improved while in the lane-tracing-assist mode.
Standard bZ4X safety equipment
Toyota Safety Sense: features include: a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, Lane Tracing Assist, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, and road sign assist
Star Safety System includes: 8 air bags, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking assist with automatic braking, stability and traction control, brake-force distribution, brake assist, and Smart Stop Technology
Toyota calls the bZ4X design theme “hi-tech and emotional.” The exterior and interior are also statements of shock-and-oh! to help reaffirm its status as an electric vehicle.
The body has pronounced wheel flares of an SUV, a “hammerhead” front fascia (referencing the shark species), and the rear is busy with trapezoidal angles and dramatic lighting, split mini roof spoilers, a decklid spoiler, and a sculpted lower fascia to release air drag.
The door handles are a specialized shape designed to be more ergonomic, to grip.
Inside the bZ4X cabin
The interior design is more space shuttle than traditional car. Using the digital controls is Toyota 1-2-3 easy and most drivers will adapt without frustration.
Front headroom of 38.6 inches includes the standard panoramic roof. But the steep rake of the windshield could cause a duck-and-fold maneuver for some big-and-tall drivers. Legroom is long at 42.1 inches.
The tall glass of the cabin greenhouse creates a light-filled cabin. Sightlines are unobstructed at the side mirrors and over the shoulder.
The wide cabin, 59.6 inches from door to door, provides an open feel and generous shoulder room. Soundproofing glass and wind-noise-reduction features help quiet the cabin.
One of the first things new drivers will notice is the steering column. The cab-forward dashboard features an extended steering column and smallish steering wheel, which is at least a foot removed from the digital gauges of the 7-inch multi-information display. Shorter drivers, such as me, might have to decide between seeing the entire MID or being comfortable. I split the difference. In a few miles of driving it became a non-issue, but the text font in the MID is thin and somewhat challenging to see in bright sunlight.
(Note: In a product briefing last year, Toyota showed a yoke-style steering wheel, which likely would have made it easier to see the MID. However, the steering yoke will not be available for the U.S., but it has been previewed in photos of the Lexus RZ.)
Back Seat and Cargo Space
Back-seat space feels more compact than midsize. Headroom of 37.1 inches could be a tad short for 6-foot-tall passengers. And max legroom of 35.3 inches will be a squeeze when tall people are seated in front. Sitting on the bench seat feels perched, and it has a short seat bottom, making it better for family use than executive transport. But the 60/40 folding seatback has a few clicks of recline, which parents appreciate for sleeping youngsters.
The cargo area has a wide and low opening with a capacity of 27.7 cubic feet behind the seat (or 25.8 with the JBL audio system). The slant of the tailgate crops space for big-box items but fold the seatback for what looks like about 5 1/2 feet in length.
One of the most distinctive elements of bZ4X engineering is its well-calibrated driving response. This car does not drive like an appliance or functional conveyance. Driving the bZ4X feels much like a “normal” car.
The electric steering actually feels organically hydraulic with no dead spots in the revolution of the wheel. Acceleration uptake is smoothly responsive and the torque gives near-immediate pull, despite a curb weight pushing 6,000 pounds with a pair of occupants.
Braking force seemed very capable without nosedive. And the stopping force engages without regeneration lag, which can be common in an EV. The four-wheel vented discs have 12.9-inch rotors front and 12.5 inches rear.
There is also a regenerative B mode to capture more energy when slowing or on downhills. To activate, the driver must press a button on the center console to engage B mode. It is not quite an “e-pedal” function., and it will not bring the vehicle to a stop, as do some e-pedal systems (which I prefer). Toyota says it is a safety intervention to keep the driver engaged.
Managing the hefty weight of an EV is an engineering challenge. Clunks and pothole jolts are somewhat common in the mainstream electric SUV with a steel-spring suspension. But the independent steel suspension of the bZ4X (front MacPherson struts and multilink rear with stabilizer bars front and rear) filters out all but the harshest road conditions.
Overall, the bZ4X is not particularly sporty to drive, but the suspension makes graceful weight transfers without falling all over itself. Its 40-foot turning circle, however, could be unwieldy in tight parking situations.
The bZ4X might have the outward appearance of a galaxian space traveler, but its drivability is traditional and reassuring. I preferred the nimbleness and responsive power of the front-drive XLE model. All-wheel-drive typically adds noticeable acceleration force, but it seemed lacking in the Limited AWD model I tested.
Critics will point to a driving range that is less than some of the competitors. Unless you are planning a road trip, a Level 2 home charger mitigates the worry of running out of juice. The discharge rate seemed to be real-world mile-to-mile, and not overly sensitive to bursts of speed. That type of steady battery reserve is important to hypermiling commuters, who will quickly learn their comfort zone and when not to panic.
The Toyota bZ4X might not have the longest driving range of its EV competition. It might not have the fastest recharging capability. It might not be the quickest to 60 mph. But it has been built with Toyota’s engineering mantra of “Do It Right The First Time.”
And build it with that Toyota badge of reliability.
Body style: 5-seat, 5-door midsize SUV, in front- or all-wheel drive
Motor type: AC synchronous electric generator
Battery type: lithium-ion, 355 volts
Total Battery Capacity: 71.4 kWh (FWD), 72.8 kWh (AWD)
0-60 mph acceleration: 7.1 seconds FWD, 6.5 seconds AWD
EPA Estimated Range
- 252 miles (XLE FWD);
- 228 miles (XLE AWD)
- 242 miles (Limited FWD);
- 222 miles (Limited AWD)
EPA Estimated MPGe Fuel Economy, (city/highway/combined MPGe)
- XLE FWD 131/107/119;
- XLE AWD 114/94/104;
- Limited FWD 125/103/114;
- Limited AWD 112/92/102
Maximum power output
- Front motor: 201 hp (150 kW) 196 foot-pounds torque;
- Dual motor AWD: 214 hp (107/107 hp) (80 kW/80 kW); max torque 124/124 lb.-ft. 124/124 lb.-ft.
SAE J1772 / CCS1 charging port compatibility
AC Level 1 (120-volt household current), AC Level 2 (240-volt) and DC Fast Charge compatibility
AC charger maximum input: 6.6 kW
DC charging maximum input: 150 kW (FWD), 100 kW (AWD
bZ4X BY THE NUMBERS
Length/wheelbase: 184.6/112.2 inches
Height/width: 65 (inc. antenna)/73.2 inches
Front head/legroom: 38.6/42.1 inches
Rear head/legroom: 37.1/35.3 inches
Cargo space: 27.7 (25.8 w/JBL audio)
Turning circle: 40 feet
- XLE FWD 4,266 pounds;
- XLE AWD 4,332 lbs.;
- Limited FWD 4,398 lbs.;
- Limited AWD 4,464 lbs.
Basic limited warranty coverage
8-years/100,000-miles battery (10-years/150,000-miles in California)
3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper
ToyotaCare: 2-years/25,000-miles free factory scheduled maintenance 24/7 roadside assistance
Where assembled: JapanRead more