2023 Toyota bZ4X First Look: An Impressive Start to Toyota’s New Electric Car Lineup

Toyota Bz4X With Some Pretty Trees. Photo By Kristin Shaw
Toyota bZ4X with some pretty trees. Photo by Kristin Shaw

And also, what the heck does the bZ4x name mean?

As of today, Toyota offers 11 ‘electrified’ vehicles in its lineup – cars with some semblance of electrification, including hybrids and plug-in electric hybrids – and the brand clearly understands its strength in the market. They also have big plans for the future with its Beyond Zero line, revealing the first vehicle in the series with its bZ4X crossover. Personally, I prefer proper names to alphanumeric car names, but this one does have a story. The “bZ” stands for Beyond Zero, of course, and while I thought “4X” refers to the fact that all-wheel drive is available, it’s actually about the size of the vehicle in relation to the other vehicles coming in the bZ line.

Toyota made a big splash back in 1996 with the very first Prius with a $20,000 price tag and an impressive 41 miles per gallon. Prius, which means “to come before” was revolutionary in many ways; however, the bZ4X leads the next stage of Toyota’s strategy to roll our 15 battery-electric vehicles by 2025.

Related: Learning to Love Electric Driving in the Toyota RAV4 Prime

Toyota Bz4X Rear 3/4 Shot. Photo By Kristin Shaw

Toyota bZ4X rear 3/4 shot. Photo by Kristin Shaw

What'S The Name, Again? It'S Bz4X! Photo By Kristin Shawwhat'S The Name, Again? It'S Bz4X! Photo By Kristin Shaw

What’s the name, again? It’s bZ4X! Photo by Kristin Shaw

Striking Looks and A Big Liftgate

With a nose inspired by a hammerhead shark and body accents all its own, the bZ4X strikes a chord that is both new and familiar. It shares a wheelbase with the Toyota Highlander, leaving plenty of room in the back for passengers. It also has a power liftgate that opens wide like a big-mouthed bass so that even your tallest teens can reach in without bonking themselves on the head.

Capable of what Toyota says is “light” off-roading, the new bZ4X will come with an X mode, which allows it to handle slippery and muddy routes and works like multi-terrain select in some of its other vehicles. With its long wheelbase and adequate ground clearance, you won’t have trouble tackling most dirt roads as long as you’re not attempting to climb Hell’s Revenge in Utah. The bZ4X comes in all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, and I’d highly recommend the all-wheel drive version for more confidence on a variety of road surfaces and weather situations.

Related: The Greatest Change in the 2021 Toyota Sienna Minivan? Amazing Hybrid Fuel Economy in an Even Sportier Package

Toyota Bz4X Steering Wheel Photo. Photo By Kristin Shaw

Toyota bZ4X steering wheel photo. Photo by Kristin Shaw

Soft-Touch Interior and New Tech Inside

Inside, I love the new user interface, which was created by Lexus to replace the old touchscreen/mouse feature most Lexus models used to sport. It’s much improved, with voice commands and intuitive features that bring both Lexus and Toyota into the here and now. In front of the driver, the information screen feels like a physical version of a head-up display, situated to keep your eyes on the road. Say “Hey Toyota” and the system wakes up quickly; you can tell it to do things like “turn the temperature up” or “turn on the seat heaters” or “play channel 34” which is really convenient and requires no distraction.

The bZ4X has some unique soft-touch features on the dashboard that are new. It feels kind of like corduroy and will resist both fingerprints and stains from the little ones as long as they’re not tossing Gatorade straight at it. The steering wheel telescopes out manually with plenty of flexibility for various heights. There’s a fixed panoramic sunroof that doesn’t open but has a full-length shade. For wireless charging, a translucent cover allows you to see if it’s powering up but keeps the phone out of sight (and out of mind, hopefully, while you’re driving). Storage in the bZ4X is clever, with room under gear shifter for laptop, tote, or purse.

Related: Learning to Love Electric Driving in the Toyota RAV4 Prime

Toyota Bz4X Cockpit Shot. Photo By Kristin Shaw

Toyota bZ4X cockpit shot. Photo by Kristin Shaw

Updated Drive Assist Features

Safety is a big deal to Toyota, and along with features like the driver’s display, the bZ4X is also the first vehicle to get Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, the brand’s latest version of driver-assist features. The TSS has been improved and enhanced across the board, adding low-light cyclist detection, daytime motorcyclist detection, and guardrail detection.

Toyota doesn’t want you to worry about battery safety, either, so it constructed a non-conductive coolant that runs through separated flow channels to keep the battery temperature steady. And the bZ4X also has a battery pack housing designed to withstand a collision from any angle.

Related: Technology that Looks Out for You on the Road? Toyota Safety Sense  Driver Assistance and Safety Technology, At Your Service

Toyota Bz4X Cargo Space Photo. Photo By Kristin Shaw

Toyota bZ4X cargo space photo. Photo by Kristin Shaw

Should You Buy One?

With an estimated 250 miles of range with the 150-kilowatt motor and front-wheel drive, the bZ4X includes enough miles to run several errands a week before you’ll have to charge it again. The all-wheel-drive model features dual 80-kilowatt motors, but range estimate isn’t available quite yet.

Toyota has been hedging its bets with electrification; even Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda expressed some concerns about pushing for all-electric cars too quickly in regards to the power grid. The brand is smartly put a lot of money and time into making sure its offering a wide variety of cars for different types of buyers, including hybrid, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric models. The bZ4X is riding the wave of EV hype, and built on the Toyota platform it’s almost guaranteed to succeed.

As for me, I’m not quite ready for the all-electric boom with the charging infrastructure in its current state and the long road trips I like to take. However, I like where Toyota is going with this and I’m impressed by the innovations.

You can’t purchase the bZ4X yet, but you can expect to see it in dealerships soon. If you’re a fan of Toyota hybrids and crave the high-tech interfaces this crossover has included, you’ll want to take this for a spin as soon as you can.

Toyota Bz4X Front Fender Shot. Photo By Kristin Shaw

Toyota bZ4X front fender shot. Photo by Kristin Shaw

Disclosure: I was Toyota’s guest to meet the bZ4x; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.  

Writer. Car fanatic. Mom. Kristin is the co-owner of auto review site Drive Mode Show and a nationally-published writer... More about Kristin Shaw