Toyota, predictably enough, is gaga about the bZ4X, its all new battery-electric SUV. In a press release, it exclaims, “When it comes to SUVs, this all-new, all-electric model is breaking the mold. Futuristic styling and designs — like the curved front bumper and large hammerhead shark-like shape that runs from the top of the hood to the top of the headlamps — give the bZ4X an alluring silhouette that’s sure to stand out. The rear design commands attention thanks to the combination lamps, rear hatch and bumper’s trapezoidal theme, which extends all the way to the tires.
The edgy features don’t stop there. Bold details and refined styling abound inside as well.”
I don’t know about you, but when the first thing a car company has to say about a new model is a “large hammerhead shark-like shape that runs from the top of the hood to the top of the headlamps,” it suggests it has its priorities backwards. Apparently Toyota is more interested in convincing people the bZ4X is just another SUV, except with a battery and an electric motor. Maybe that’s smart marketing — “Nothing to fear here, just another SUV from the folks you know and trust.”
In the elegant executive offices on the 10th floor of CleanTechnica World Headquarters — it used to have 11 floors but that’s another story — we prefer to hear about battery size, range, charging speed, and performance. Cars shouldn’t look ugly, of course, but we don’t buy electric cars based on geegaws like novel taillight shapes and how many creases there are in the sheetmetal.
Autoblog sums it up this way: “Turns out the company that popularized the hybrid has been hesitant to join the all-electric revolution. The bZ4X speaks to that hesitancy. It’s an exceedingly safe effort with RAV4-like styling, as well as range, power and recharging specs that are hardly ambitious. Toyota even split the development with Subaru, which calls its AWD-only version the Solterra. For those wishing Toyota still sold a RAV4 EV today [which was last sold from 2012 to 2014], the bZ4X should probably satisfy. For everyone else, there are ultimately more compelling EVs.” Ouch! Hardly a ringing endorsement, is it?
Nevertheless, Autoblog does say the base model with front-wheel drive is a good value, as it has the highest EPA range (258 miles) and costs about the same as many gasoline-powered SUVs ($43,215). Add $4700 for the Limited edition and another $208 for all-wheel drive. The interior is a matter of taste, but it looks dated compared to other cars and features lots of shiny black plastic — not normally something one associates with premium automobiles.
It comes standard in XLE trim, which offers most of the amenities customers might want except for a power driver’s seat, and a 71.4 kWh battery. The AWD version has a 72.8 kWh (why such a trivial difference?) but can only manage 228 miles of range — about the same as a Nissan LEAF with a 60 kWh battery. The Subaru Solterra is a clone of the bZ4X AWD with identical specs.
In the interest of full disclosure, Toyota says in a footnote,”Charging times are estimated based on ideal charging conditions. As temperatures decrease below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, charging time will increase significantly. Drive battery level and condition, charger specifications and DC charging more than twice per day also can negatively affect charging time. DC charging may not work on AWD bz4x when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Well, AWD is the preferred drivetrain choice for cars operating on slippery or snow covered roads. But if the AWD version doesn’t charge properly if the temperature slips below freezing, that could make it a poor choice for people who live where AWD would be most needed. Doesn’t that seem a little odd to you? One other thing that seems a bit off with the bZ4X (beside its absurd name) is the shiny plastic bits at each wheel. It looks as though the Toyota design team was channeling the late and largely unlamented Honda Element.
Autoblog does have one thing it likes about the newest Toyota. Its standard configuration is front-wheel drive, whereas many similar vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Volkswagen ID.4 in single motor trim put the motor in the rear. FWD is preferred in slippery conditions, although the magazine notes torque steer can be an issue in the Toyota.
In the final analysis, you pays your money and you takes your choice. If the Toyota bZ4X floats your boat, go for it. Drive electric. Be happy.
UPDATE: Toyota reached out with this updated information:
[“Essentially, the disclaimer regarding DC charging rates for bZ4X in colder temperatures was inaccurate and has been updated to the below, as well as on Toyota Newsroom (link here: https://pressroom.toyota.com/
(2) DC charging times are estimated based on ideal charging conditions. As temperatures decrease below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, charging time will increase significantly. For the bZ4X AWD model, charging may slow down more than other models in weather conditions below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and may not be possible when the temperature drops to around -4 degrees Fahrenheit and below. Drive battery conditions, charger specifications and DC charging fully more than twice per day also can negatively affect charging time.
As with all EVs, certain conditions, such as weather, impact battery performance for both driving and charging. For DC charging, specifically, the bZ4X FWD charges at rates up to 150 kilowatts, while the AWD model charges at a maximum possible rate of 100 kW. With this performance, customers will be able to charge from low battery light ON to 80% in about 1 hour, depending on the conditions.”]
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