This is the all-new Toyota bZ4X, the Japanese giant revealing its 1st-ever purposed-designed battery electric vehicle (EV) and starting a new sub-brand in the process, ahead of a full European unveiling of its latest product in December.
The letters ‘bZ’ stand for ‘beyond Zero’ and the bZ4X will kick-start an entire range of Toyota EVs under the nomenclature, in much the same way that Volkswagen has ‘I.D.’, BMW uses ‘i’, Audi employs ‘E-Tron’ and Mercedes goes with ‘EQ’.
The bZ4X follows on from a concept car revealed earlier in 2021 and takes much the same physical form as that predecessor. It also sits on the new e-TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) chassis, which is a dedicated EV platform that Toyota has developed in conjunction with Subaru.
This is not the first time Toyota and Subaru have collaborated, by the way – the 2 Japanese companies worked together on a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe, which launched in 2012 as the GT86 (Toyota) and BRZ (Subaru) respectively. The follow-up model, which will still be called BRZ by Subaru but which switches to GR86 for Toyota, is due out any time now.
Anyway, for the bZ4X, a slimline 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack sits in the floor of the Toyota EV and forms an integral part of the chassis. Toyota cites great handling as a result, due to the bZ4X’s low centre-of-gravity, balanced front-rear weight distribution and high body rigidity that all come about from this configuration – and the company also says this battery will still be operating at 90% of its performance after 10 years or 150,000 miles, due to sophisticated water-cooling systems and thermal management prolonging its life.
Charging times will be swift, with 80% of the battery’s capacity replenished in just 30 minutes on the maximum CCS Combo 2-enabled 150kW DC charging rate. At launch, Toyota will offer the bZ4X with a 6.6kW onboard charger (OBC), but from the end of 2022 that will be upgraded to an 11kW, 3-phase OBC.
Additional measures include a solar-panel roof to help charge the battery while the bZ4X is driving or parked, and a range of more than 280 miles is theoretically possible on the WLTP cycle.
In terms of performance, 2 versions of the bZ4X will be offered by Toyota – a single-motor, front-wheel-drive (FWD) variant and another with a pair of 80kW (109hp) motors, 1 on each axle, for all-wheel drive (AWD). The bZ4X FWD will have 204hp and 265Nm, enough for a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds, while the AWD model improves those numbers to 217hp, 336 Nm and 7.7 seconds. Both versions will be limited to a 100mph top speed.
Regenerative braking will allow for a 1-pedal driving style on the EV, while a steer-by-wire system makes this the 1st production Toyota to feature such technology.
In terms of the styling, Toyota calls the bluff front end of the bZ4X the ‘hammerhead’, as it focuses on a broad, wide face and defined corners with slim lights. The low-mounted battery pack allows for a longer wheelbase and therefore greater interior room for passengers, while further design details include wheel arches capable of taking 20-inch alloys and also a full-width light strip at the back.
Physically, the bZ4X is lower than Toyota’s own RAV4 by 85mm, has a 160mm-longer wheelbase, and yet also has shorter overhangs front and rear as well as a 50mm-lower bonnet line. The sharp body is also aerodynamically optimised to ensure wind resistance is as low as possible, allowing for greater 1-charge driving range from the lithium-ion battery.
Inside, Toyota has adopted a thematic approach called ‘lagom’, from the Swedish word for ‘just right’. The idea is for a passenger cabin that is comfortable, airy and spacious, so there are soft, woven textures for the trim and upholstery, satin-finish detailing in places and also the option of a panoramic sunroof up top to let in more light.
A low-set instrument panel also features a 7-inch TFT instrument and information cluster directly in the driver’s eyeline, above the steering wheel’s circumference – perhaps Toyota’s own take on the Peugeot iCockpit layout.
When it comes to roominess, class-leading legroom for all occupants and a 1-metre gap between the front passengers’ hip points are both claimed, while Toyota says the bZ4X’s boot space stands at a minimum 452 litres with all 5 seats in use.
The bZ4X EV will also use Toyota’s 3rd-generation Safety Sense suite of advanced driver assist systems, so it should be a very secure vehicle to travel in.
As to the EV sub-brand’s name, Toyota says the fact it has been making the hybrid (HEV) Prius since 1997 and its dedication to HEVs, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), EVs and fuel-cell electrics (FCEVs) shows that it wants to significantly reduce CO2 emissions – but it also adds that zero-emissions driving is only 1 part of its philosophy for a greener future, hence the ‘beyond Zero’ tag.
Toyota is committed to delivering ever-better mobility for everyone, with a range of products and services that keep all road users – not just car drivers – safe, while also helping to ‘build better societies around the world’ and also enhancing the ‘pleasure of driving’. Noble aims, we’re sure you’ll agree.