Toyota has long led the charge for electrified powertrains…just not fully electrified powertrains. Save for the very limited production RAV4 EV from years ago, its focus has been on Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrids. Well that changes with an all-new, dedicated battery-electric vehicle, the bZ4X. Toyota invited me out to San Diego, California for a quick First Drive.

"Alright so we should probably address the name, bZ4X. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but there is meaning behind it. It’s not just a random assortment of numbers and letters. So, let’s start with bZ, which stands for “Beyond Zero.” And that is going to be the moniker that all the full EVs for Toyota are going to use. 

Then you get to the 4, which signifies the size of the vehicle. It can go up, it can go down from here. We’ll see in the future.

And the X, which stands for crossover, SUV. So I don’t think you can get away in the future by just calling this the “bZ” because there will be more bZ’s coming from Toyota."

Now that we’ve cleared that up. Let’s talk about the specs. Riding on Toyota’s new eTNGA EV platform, the base XLE model uses a 201 horsepower motor to drive the front wheels and gets its juice from a 71.4 kWh battery pack placed under the floor. AWD is just a $2,000 option and adds a second motor driving the rear wheels. AWD models also get a slightly bigger battery at 72.8 kWh. Regardless of size, batteries are covered under an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty.

If you want to see the bZ4X’s max range of 252 miles, you’ll have to stick to the base front-drive XLE.

Upgrading to all-wheel drive boosts horsepower to 214 with 248 lb.-feet of torque, but drops range to 242 miles. Following that trend, jumping up to Limited trim knocks range down to 228 and 222 for front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive respectively.

In exchange for a shorter driving range, Limited trim adds 20” wheels, heated steering wheel, as well as heated and ventilated front seats. 

The interior is highlighted by Toyota’s newest infotainment system, including a 12.3” touchscreen. A wealth of safety features like blind-spot monitoring, lane departure alert with steering assist and rear cross traffic alert are also standard.

"Of course you can’t talk about an EV without talking about the acceleration. Here it’s pretty stout. The all-wheel drive version will get you to 60 in under 7-seconds. Front-wheel drive is a little over 7-seconds around that area. And it feels quick. It’s about that instant torque and that’s what makes it feel like you’re getting more performance than you actually are if you’re looking at the numbers.

So left in its standard mode, the bZ4X when you let off the accelerator acts just like a normal car. You just coast. There’s a little bit of regen happening it looks like as I see some charge going back into the battery, but you don’t feel it.

Now, there is a Regenerative Boost Mode and I know “boost mode” should get you excited but it’s actually kind of the opposite of extra power, so it just slows you down faster. This does not have one-pedal driving. It will not bring you to a complete stop. You have to actually push the brake pedal like this and that’s how you get to a stop.

This Toyota at low speeds, I hear hardly any motor noise. And this is an all-wheel drive version so there are two motors and really at about 40 MPH right now, I don’t hear much of anything. Once you get up to highway speeds, you’re approaching 50-60 MPH then a little bit of electric whine comes in, but pretty happy with how quiet it is and even the road and wind noise aren’t much of an issue."   

The bZ4X  hits dealers next month with a starting price over $43k after destination and before tax incentives. All-wheel drive models in Limited trim take off just under 50 grand before any extra packages.

And we’ll have more on the 2023 Toyota bZ4X soon on MotorWeek.