Autocar

Toyota BZ4X starts BEV era

SUV concept shows the brand’s bz-badged battery-electric future

- FELIX PAGE

The forward-looking BZ4X concept provides a long-awaited preview of Toyota’s first production battery-electric car, which will go on sale in the middle of next year.

The ‘bz’ element of its name refers to the Japanese brand’s ‘Beyond Zero’ electrific­ation strategy, through which it will launch at least 15 pure-electric vehicles by 2025, including seven that use the bz moniker.

Spearheadi­ng this roll-out, the BZ4X will be the first model to use the new E-TNGA electric vehicle architectu­re developed in collaborat­ion with Subaru, whose own first e-tnga-based EV will be a Forester-sized SUV.

The defining characteri­stics of the platform include short overhangs and a long wheelbase, which is said to provide a “spacious and open cabin”. In fact, Toyota says rear leg room is comparable to the near-900mm offered by Lexus’s LS flagship luxury saloon. Here, the platform underpins a four-wheel-drive crossover (hence the ‘4X’ suffix), which is claimed to major on comfort, connectivi­ty and openness.

Heavily angled styling cues, chunky black wheel-arch trim, a familiar silhouette and contrastin­g roof hint at the influence of the strongsell­ing RAV4 SUV, which has recently been made available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. However, various characteri­stics, including an all-new front-end design, point to a different design language for bz-badged EVS.

In place of a convention­al grille, a narrow black strip houses sensors for autonomous driving features, while sharply styled headlights and sculpted air channels are part of Toyota’s new “hammerhead” look, which aims to generate “a new attitude and road presence”.

The cabin, shown in what appears to be nearly production-ready guise, has been designed primarily to give the driver “a sense of direct connection to the road and to important informatio­n”. The instrument panel is mounted low for improved forward visibility and to minimise distractio­n. The large central display, wide centre console and textured dashboard can be expected to feature on the production car.

Toyota chief engineer Koji Toyoshima explained the philosophy behind the new-look cabin design: “Our target customer is someone who places importance on time spent together with family and friends. When they want to enjoy such times, Toyota’s BZ4X concept can serve as a hub for them.”

Technical details of the dual-motor electric powertrain remain largely under wraps, but the system is said to draw on Toyota’s 20-plus years of offering electrifie­d powertrain­s, and to possess “class-leading efficiency and a very competitiv­e driving range”. With power sent to all four wheels, the BZ4X is said to deliver genuine off-road capability, as well as “peace of mind” in all on-road situations.

The SUV’S range is optimised courtesy of an on-board solar charging system that helps to ensure colder weather has minimal impact on usability – a noted drawback of convention­al battery tech.

Like the radical LF-Z concept shown by sibling brand Lexus recently, the BZ4X uses an innovative steer-by-wire system, which removes the mechanical link between the steering wheel and front axle. Toyota claims this enhances control while minimising the directiona­l influence of rough surfaces and braking.

Toyota plans to take the car’s distinctiv­e yoke-style steering device to production as a result, in select global markets, given the driver has less cause to move their hands around the wheel. The BZ4X will, said Toyoshima, make “driving easier and more fun”.

Another part of the Beyond Zero strategy is to achieve carbon neutrality of all vehicles throughout their entire life cycles – from supply chain to disposal. To date, Toyota has sold more than 17 million electrifie­d vehicles, which, it says, equates to 140 million tonnes of CO2 saved. Between 2010 and 2019 alone, Toyota reduced its fleet CO2 emissions by 22%.

 ??  ?? SHANGHAI MOTOR SHOW
New BZ4X paves the way for a production EV due next year
SHANGHAI MOTOR SHOW New BZ4X paves the way for a production EV due next year
 ??  ?? Toyota claims the BZ4X has “class-leading efficiency”
Toyota claims the BZ4X has “class-leading efficiency”
 ??  ?? Cabin has strong production intent – even the yoke wheel
Cabin has strong production intent – even the yoke wheel

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