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Henry Payne: Smooth, comfy bZ4X is an EV for the Toyota faithful

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

Toyota turned RAV4 (Translation: Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel-drive) into a winner, so who am I to judge?

A bigger issue is bZ4X’s mixed bag of tech beneath an appealing interior design package. I ogled the center console’s striking tidal wave of black trim cresting in a broad 12.3-inch screen, then barked: “Hey, Toyota! Take me to Boulders Resort, Scottsdale, Arizona.”

Confusion.

The Tesla would have understood my Southern accent, mapped the 504 miles to destination, and included charging stops on the way complete with restaurants and shops where Mrs. Payne and I could graze while the car slurped electrons. Not the Toyota.

I turned to the trusty touchscreen keypad and located Boulders, but my e-guide hadn’t a clue where fast chargers could be found along the way. Finding fueling stations is my job, apparently.

Toyota says that charging station updates are scheduled for future over-the-air updates (another Tesla innovation), but it will be tough sell to California greens desperate for something different than the six Teslas on their block. Toyota knows its target audience; six-figure households with a multi-car garage that have a Nowhere-Near-Zero Land Cruiser for when family road trips are required.

 

BZ4x is for local trips after you’ve plugged into your home 240-volt charger for the night (estimated cost $2,000, including $700 ChargePoint charger, which Toyota helpfully offers as an accessory).

While competitors like Ioniq 5 boast quick-charging 800-volt platforms, Toyota has settled for a 355-volt platform that will fast-charge from 10-80% in a leisurely 60 minutes. Range puts it in the low end of the segment with 228 miles for my AWD XLE tester. That's better than a standard-battery, AWD Mustang Mach-E's 211 miles, but shy of an AWD Model Y's 330 miles and 256 miles for a comparable Hyundai Ioniq 5. Don’t even think about towing something behind the Toyota.

Like Mach-E, bZ4X features a clever recessed, unshrouded instrument display behind the steering wheel because EVs don’t need big displays with RPM dials. Essentials like mph, speed limit, adaptive cruise indicator and auto high beams (the Toyota is typically loaded with standard safety features) are displayed in what is essentially a non-reflecting head-up display.

Unfortunately, it is, um, obstructed by the steering wheel. I had to lower the wheel into my lap, which compromised aggressive driving maneuvers. Again, Toyota knows its buyers: this is city cruiser, not a corner carver.

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