Three months after Akio Toyoda criticised the overly rapid transition to zero emissions, here’s something interesting – Toyota’s first battery-powered model, a mid-size SUV with a 4x4 layout, ample space, and an aircraft-inspired steering wheel.
A few months after Toyota’s big boss, Akio Toyoda, criticised those who had advocated the rapid transition to electrification, Toyota unveiled its first battery-powered model – the bZ4X Concept. Now, the ‘bZ’ (refer to the box towards the end for more) stands for ‘beyond Zero’, the number ‘4’ indicates its medium size, and the ‘X’ stands for SUV.
For the Japanese giant, it’s the beginning of a new phase, the first step towards a brand-new family of electric cars, ranging from full hybrids and plug-ins to fuel-cell-powered cars. The D-segment electric SUV, developed in collaboration with Subaru, will offer several goodies, such as steer-by-wire and solar charging, which will help increase its range. Albeit not yet confirmed, it’s expected to go on sale in European markets in the second half of 2022.
Officially a concept, the bZ4X already looks like a definitive car – the progenitor of a series of EV models built on the e-TNGA – a new platform dedicated to electric vehicles. Now, Toyota is a brand with an agenda – by 2025, it will produce over 70 electrified cars, of which at least 15 will be fully electric. An offensive in full swing then? Well, whatever may be the case, given the dynamics of various markets, the Japanese marque deems this route the most appropriate.
Chic & Reassuring
The new SUV, with shapes that are only apparently extreme, actually focuses on achieving a balance between design and proportions, without deviating from the brand’s current design language in any meaningful sense. The only exception perhaps is the front-end of the car, which unabashedly flaunts the absence of the classic grille and vertical design. In any case, the car is balanced and well planted, with an elegant glazed section, enhanced by the sloping C-pillar and a high, linear beltline.
The car has a long wheelbase – in fact, it’s longer than that of its sibling, the RAV4. However, we must say that, perhaps, we were expecting shorter overhangs from an EV built on a dedicated architecture.
Moving on, one of the advantages of the e-TNGA platform is that it makes it possible to have a lot of space in the cabin, especially in the second row, where, according to the company, the legroom is similar to that of the large Lexus LS sedan. What stands out, however, is the cockpit, which has been custom-designed for the driver and very similar to that of the Lexus LF-Z concept. In particular, the aircraft-inspired steering wheel, together with the compact digital instrumentation, allows the driver the sensation of a direct connection with the road.
The steering wheel – only the Tesla Model S has something similar – is linked to the steer-by-wire system, which is electronically managed and eliminates the physical connection between the steering wheel and steering box. And that, according to the manufacturer, ensures more precise driving, thanks to the elimination of interference from the road surface. What’s interesting is that it makes it possible to take a turn with a lower steering wheel angle than what’s required in a conventional car. And it’s precisely this aspect of the car that allowed Toyota to replace the traditional steering wheel.
Little has been made official regarding the technical aspects of the bZ4X concept, apart from the platform and power supply. For now, Toyota has stated that the new SUV will be equipped with an electric motor on each axle, without specifying power, torque, and performance figures.
The platform, which will ensure all-wheel drive, was developed by the Japanese manufacturer together with Subaru. What we also know about it is that it will have a very effective all-wheel-drive system. Now, this will allow the bZ4X to have authentic off-road qualities and a high level of safety in all circumstances during normal use.
- BZ equals EV
This SUV is the first Toyota to bear the new name bZ, i.e., ‘beyond Zero’. For Toyota, it not only means contributing to environmental protection with a zero-emission car but also going ‘beyond zero’ and making driving easier and more fun. Thus, bZ will become a sub-brand (in fact, the Toyota logo will remain clearly visible on the bodywork), for all future battery-powered cars from the Japanese manufacturer.
The cockpit, with the ‘cut-out’ steering wheel and small digital dashboard, will most likely be retained in the standard model.
Above: On the tunnel, the transmission and driving mode controls stand out. Below: The cabin is very spacious, especially the second row.