Editor’s Note: Motor1.com’s German edition recently got a shot at a prototype of the Toyota bZ4X electric crossover. We’ll be driving the production-final car at the end of March and will produce a full rated first drive then. While you’re waiting for that, check out Germany’s review of the bZ4X prototype.
This piece was converted from German to English and has been edited for clarity. All pricing conversions were correct at the time of publication. Range figures are on the WLTP scale.
The Toyota bZ4X is not the brand's first electric car. Toyota already has the ProAce Electric in its lineup. However, that model is a commercial vehicle riding on the Citroen Jumpy’s platform and is also available with gas and diesel power. The bZ4X, on the other hand, is based on Toyota's own e-TNGA electric platform. Is that convincing? We were already able to drive the e-SUV for a short round as a prototype to find out.
With a length of 4.69 meters, a width of 1.86 meters, a height of 1.65 meters, and a wheelbase of 2.85 meters (185.6, 73.2, 65.0, and 112.2 inches), the future benchmarks of Toyota's newcomer are clear. It's up against models like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y, Kia EV6, the Volkswagen ID.4, and its Volkswagen Group siblings, the Audi Q4 E-Tron and Skoda Enyaq iV. Toyota needs to put up a hell of a fight against such stout competitors.
We weren’t able to gain any new insights into the design thanks to Toyota’s camouflage, so we don't know any more than we can see from the official press photos. But if we let the coverings of the prototypes disappear in our mind's eye and imagine the bZ4X on the road without camo, the design (especially for fans of Prius, C-HR, and the like) could already be good. The manufacturer calls this "Hammerhead" design. Okay.
The interior, on the other hand, is no longer hidden under camouflage fleece or any kind of stickers. Comparable to the models that will be in dealerships from early summer 2022, however, the cabins are not quite final yet. After all, these are handmade prototypes and not series products manufactured with machine precision. Nevertheless, it can already be said that the first product of Toyota’s bZ sub-brand will be spacious.
More On The Interior, Please
The cabin is very spacious. There's more than enough room in all five seats, even for larger folks. The trunk holds a good 452 liters (16.0 cubic feet). The Toyota doesn't have to fear a comparison with the competition.
The cockpit is characterized by a large touchscreen in landscape format and a small instrument display (7.0 inches). The area between the steering wheel and the driver's display has a very unique design, kind of like a shell. It's not really attractive. On the other hand, everything looks quite clear. Both in terms of the arrangement of the buttons and switches and the visualization of the infotainment content. And that is not a matter of course for a Japanese vehicle.
By the way, we can't say anything more precise about the complete usability based on our test drive. Prototype and all. Many functions were not properly implemented, and it was not yet possible to scroll in the navigation menu, for example. However, the smartphone connection already worked, the inductive charging function and heated and cooled seats were also available. And the adaptive and semi-autonomous driving aids were already working. Flawlessly, we might add.
Now, before we hit the road, the technical data:
|bZ4X FWD||bZ4X AWD|
|Output:||150 Kilowatts / 195 Pound-Feet||160 Kilowatts / 248 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type:||Front-Wheel Drive||All-Wheel Drive|
|0-62 MPH:||7.5 Seconds||6.9 Seconds|
|Efficiency:||15.9-18.2 kWh/100 km||17.4-19.3 kWh/100 km|
|Battery:||71-Kilowatt-Hour Lithium-Ion||71-Kilowatt-Hour Lithium-Ion|
|Range (WLTP):||243-279 Miles||229-254 Miles|
|DC Charge Rate:||150 Kilowatts||150 Kilowatts|
|Base Price (European Market)||$54,807||$68,018|
As you can see from the still very short overview, Toyota hasn’t confirmed too many of the bZ4X’s figures and some are still subject to change. For example, final ranges, charging speeds, or the unladen weight remain unknown. Currently, there is only talk of charging to 80 percent in 30 minutes, a three-phase 11.0-kilowatt on-board charger charging in the fourth quarter of 2022, and a WLTP range of "more than 450 km (280 miles)".
But How Does It Drive?
We drove the all-wheel-drive model, with an 80-kilowatt motor on each. Equipped like this, the Toyota is about as spry as a Kia EV6 with similar engine power. However, since the Kia only has an electric motor on the rear axle at this power level, the Toyota seems a bit more balanced and stable in faster curves. The differences are not great, however. After all, the heavy battery in the vehicle floor ensures a low center of gravity in both models, and the high weight itself builds up good grip.
Otherwise, nothing about the Toyota seems particularly striking, negative or positive. The bZ4X is comfortable, quiet and significantly fuzzier than the design might suggest. But this could change in 2023. After all, the model will then be Toyota’s first to be equipped with a steer-by-wire system after vehicles from Lexus and Infiniti. Without a physical connection to the wheels, vibrations are to be significantly reduced and the adaptive system requires only 150 degrees from lock to lock. That could be pretty cool.
For the all-wheel drive, Toyota has teamed up with engineers from Subaru. Both manufacturers have a certain history when it comes to AWD vehicles. And that should continue for Toyota in the bZ brand and with the Solterra (Subaru's bZ4X) as well.
The driving program system is called X-Mode. There are driving modes for Snow/Mud, Deep Snow/Mud (below 20 km/h), and Grip Control for hard off-road use below 10 kilometers per hour (6 miles per hour). Adaptive hill start and hill descent aids are also on board. Digging silently in the dirt? That's fun! But it's probably just as far removed from realistic everyday driving for the Toyota as the off-road capabilities of a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. A dirt road? Sure, but ankle-deep mud or rocks are rare in the urban and even suburban jungle.
Toyota is proud, nonetheless. And it can be. Of the way the bZ4X drives on this early test, but also of the hermetic sealing of the battery and all the electronics. Toyota was so confident of this that it let us drive into a 35-cm (13.8-inch) deep pool of water. Up to 50 cm (19.7 inches) would be feasible, but even the shallower depth leaves its impression, especially acoustically. Have you ever driven an e-car through deep water? The gurgling and splashing comes across that much more intensely without engine noise.
And Now The Price
And it is precisely this waterproof battery that is supposed to provide 90 percent of the original power even after ten years or 240,000 kilometers (149,000 miles), whichever comes first. However, only at least 70 percent is guaranteed after ten years. However, this 70 percent should still be achievable after one million kilometers (620,000 miles). This mileage is in fact the other parameter of the battery warranty. And that is quite unique to give such a warranty.
But at the this price, that guarantee is more than necessary, because as already listed in the table above, Toyota demands over 60,000 Euros ($67,600 at today’s rates) for the AWD model. Here we are curious whether it really needs this performance in everyday life, because if you leave out the rear motor, the performance only drops by 10 kW while the price sinks by around 12,000 euros ($13,500).
Then add the current subsidies and we're moving towards around 40,000 euros ($45,000). Still a lot of money, but with the competition mentioned at the beginning, we are on a similar level depending on the equipment and drive.
Whether the Toyota can keep up with its strong rivals in the future, however, must finally be clarified by a test of the production vehicle. So far, the chances are still fifty-fifty. Only in the off-road sector, the Subaru partnership should bear fruit and the bZ4X could outrun other electric cars.