NEWS

Up Close With the 2023 Toyota bZ4X: Terrible Name, Decent Effort

Two new electric vehicles introduced at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show look a lot alike, and that’s because they’re basically the same. This is the new 2023 Toyota bZ4X, and no, that’s not the catalog part number for the engine oil cap on a 1972 Chevy El Camino; it’s actually the SUV’s name. It’s part of Toyota’s new bZ sub-brand, which stands for “Beyond Zero” — which doesn’t make much sense either, given that everything is beyond zero; a Dodge Viper is beyond zero. Anyway, if this thing looks familiar, it’s because it was jointly developed with Subaru. Just like the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86 sports cars, there’s a Subaru version called the Solterra. Each company contributed some expertise to developing this new EV, creating an interesting entry into the nascent compact EV SUV category.

Related: More 2021 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

Alike, But Not Identical

So how can you tell a bZ4X from a Solterra? There are a few subtle differences. First, the fender pieces are painted on the bZ4X, while they’re molded gray plastic on the Subaru. The bZ4X has no grille — the Subaru does, even if it is a phony one. Beyond that, there are some badging and wheel differences to tell them apart, as well as differences in headlights and taillights. The look is attractive and modern, and the bZ4X looks just as good as the Solterra.

The same electric powertrain is found under both the bZ4X and the Solterra, but with one major difference: you can get the Toyota in front-wheel drive with optional all-wheel drive, compared with the Subaru that only comes with AWD. That means that the Toyota will have the longer range at an estimated 250 miles for the FWD XLE trim, with AWD trims and other models getting closer to the Subaru’s estimated 220 miles of range. Like the Solterra, there’s a 71.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack underneath driving the front wheels, but Toyota says you’ll get a 72.8-kWh capacity if you go AWD, so maybe the Toyota AWD range will look a little different than the Subaru’s range after all. If you do opt for AWD, you’ll get Subaru’s X-Mode system, which should allow for decent all-weather capability. Recharging can be done with a Level 2 AC or DC fast charger, with Toyota saying you can reach 80% of charge in 30 minutes with a 150-kilowatt DC charger.

Much More Alike Inside

The interior is very similar to the Solterra, even down to the dash fabric trim. The most prominent features are the two screens, a very high-mounted instrument cluster you view over the top of the steering wheel and a 12.3-inch multimedia system that uses Toyota’s latest cloud-based navigation system that’s customizable with various profiles. The interior is plenty spacious up front and in back, surprisingly so for a vehicle this size, roughly the size of a Toyota RAV4, if a bit lower in the roofline.

We don’t have a price for the new Toyota bZ4X yet, which will likely come closer to the SUV’s on-sale date in early 2022, but we expect it to start somewhere in the high $30,000-range, a bit lower than the Subaru Solterra, but without standard AWD. While the range is less than impressive (final EPA numbers are still coming), there’s a lot to like about Toyota’s first big mass-market full EV, with plenty of neat tech and safety features. We’ll have a first drive for you sometime in early 2022.

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