First Look: 2022 Toyota bZ4X
The Japanese giant’s fully electric take on its RAV4 has us asking one question: what’s the price?
LOS ANGELES, California—For a company that’s under some criticism lately for not buying into the automotive industry’s zero-emissions future , Toyota Canada’s looking pretty green these days. Not only has the Canadian distributor signed deals to sell fleets of its hydrogen-powered Mirais — to zero-emission courier company Geazone and ride-hailing giant Lyft — it’s just taking the wrappers of its latest battery-powered electric vehicle, the bz4X.
The first of seven BEVs that will wear its new “beyond zero” branding, the 4X feels suspiciously like a RAV4 with full battery power. Though details are scant, it appears that the bZ4X is just slightly larger than Toyota’s extremely popular sport-cute.
But although its basic silhouette speaks to Canada’s favourite utility, there does seem to be a hint of the angular styling — though thankfully not the gaping maw of a grille — of Lexus. Toyota officially calls the overall effect “hi-tech and emotional” with “a hammerhead shark-like shape that runs from the hood to the top of the headlamps.” I don’t see much Sphyrnidae or the cephalofoil from which the hammerhead derives its catchy appellation, but it is amongst the most attractive of Toyota SUVs.
That’s an unusual arrangement. Typically, AWD variants of otherwise single-motored EVs simply add an extra motor while keeping the first at full power. The end result is that the AWD version is always the muscle car of the portfolio. Not in the bZ4X’s case, especially since its 14-hp advantage is offset by some 85 kilograms of avoirdupois , the result being almost identical power-to-weight ratios. The addition of AWD, then, appears to be simply a case of building a variant for those seeking more winter-beating traction, while those opting for the FWD model instead get more range.
We know that because the one performance spec has given for the Canadian bZ4X is that the XLE FWD variant will have an expected range of 400 kilometres. That’s a far cry from the 500-plus klicks promised by Japan’s wildly optimistic WLTC rating system for their domestic 4X. Nonetheless, inferring a similar reduction in range once Transport Canada gets its grubby hands on the electrified Toyota, the AWD version should be rated for about 345 km. Two motors might be better than one when it comes to clawing for grip on icy Canada roads, but there is a price to be paid in efficiency.
Speaking of price, not a word from Toyota Canada on this last. The big question, of course, is whether the bZ4X can sneak under the $45,000 threshold so it can garner the $5,000 federal EV subsidy. An awful lot is riding on this, not the least of which is how successful this first mainstream EV will be for Toyota.
On a larger front, however, is the fact that we have been promised that EVs will be able to compete on price with ICEs for many years now, and if a giant of auto engineering like Toyota can’t manage to make EV pricing competitive, then the price parity we’ve all been promised is going to start looking mighty elusive indeed.
On the positive front, it’s obvious the bZ4X’s relatively modest battery size is a sop to affordability. On the other hand, it still probably cost in the neighbourhood of ten grand just for that battery. Estimates out of the U.S. see the base version of the new Toyota starting in the high $30,000s. Does that translate into $44,999.99 Can-bucks? Time will tell. But as I said, I think if anyone can do it, it’s Toyota.
In the meantime, we have a creatively sculpted mid-sized ute with what I am sure Toyota would call a “right-sized” battery and modest 150-kW charging ability. Can those compromises translate into a full-bodied battery electric vehicle that mainstream EV intenders can afford? We’ll likely find out sometime early in the new year.