Toyota finally has an EV and that’s OK



CNN

Electric cars have reached an important milestone on the road to becoming ubiquitous. That’s because Toyota, America’s best-selling automaker, is now selling one.

You may be surprised to hear that Toyota has not until now sold a widely available, genuine electric vehicle in america. But they do not have it. Not really. Toyota, a pioneer in hybrids with the Prius – the name means “to go before” in Latin – has not “gone before” with electric vehicles. Tesla, Nissan, General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Kia and others have all beaten Toyota in the electric vehicle market.

There were two generations of Toyota Rav4 electric cars, however they were not available throughout the country, and in addition, they were really just ordinary Rav4 SUVs equipped with batteries and electric motors. Second generation of Rav4 electric cars had Tesla, not Toyota, stuff inside. Toyota has long had a more conservative view of electric vehicles than some other automakers that have promised to go all-in, or almost so, on electric cars. Toyota promises to make nothing but electric cars on a specific date.

The BZ4X was designed from the start as an electric crossover SUV. It is not another vehicle equipped with batteries, a technique that usually results in products that do not live up to the standard. This SUV was developed in collaboration with Subaru, which offers its own electric SUV, the Solterra. Both are based on the same technique and they even look almost identical.

As with many Toyotas, the BZ4X has some aggressive design elements on the outside that contradict a refreshing everyday experience inside. Toyota, the United States’ best-selling automaker last year, has earned its place by giving customers what they want. And what Americans want most is not to be bothered. There’s nothing in this car there most cr owners would not be able to quickly figure out and adapt.

While some other EV manufacturers are aiming for brain-crushing acceleration, the BZ4X is taking about seven seconds, give or take, to get from zero to 60 miles per hour. And honestly, that’s fine. It’s pretty fast, actually. No one really needs to accelerate faster than that. Just over 200 horsepower from the BZ4X’s electric motor or motors, depending on whether you get four-wheel drive or not, is also quite decent and reasonable.

Other electric cars can give you over 300 miles range, maybe even 400 miles, on a single charge, but the BZ4X can give you up to 252 miles range on a single charge. Again, that’s fine. Most people drive less than 40 miles in an average day, and most buyers will have a charger installed in their home if they can before buying an electric vehicle. That means they will have more than 200 miles worth of batteries they carry around all the time, just for an occasional long trip. Why wear more?

I liked the BZ4X’s all-encompassing fine and normal behavior and even found it refreshing. It has a practical and straightforward volume button. The BZ4X has a large touch screen in the middle because everything has large touch screens now. But it’s not one of those huge pixel-sized TVs that makes you stretch your arm out to reach all the parts.

There are two things that really stand out BZ4X: the fenders and ride quality. The suspension on the BZ4X is surprisingly stiff and bouncy, much more than I would expect from a Toyota. Someone later explained to me that this was a result of engineers aiming for a responsive and fun driving experience, which requires firmer suspension, especially in a vehicle with heavy batteries and high headroom. That’s fine, except I really doubt anyone will buy the BZ4X for fun. That drives nicely, and electric vehicles, with their fast, responsive engines, lend themselves to fun. I just want to believe that given a choice between a smooth ride and excitement on a curvy road, most Toyota crossover buyers would rather be cozy. Also, I drove a couple of fun electric crossovers did not bounce me around this way.

The interior of the Toyota BZ4X is straightforward and easy to use.  Like some other electric SUVs, it has no storage under the hood, but there is plenty of space inside.

In one of the strangest car design choices of recent times, the BZ4X’s screens, the body panels around the wheels, are black. This comes standard on all BZ4X models and you can not deselect it. The idea was to make the SUV stand out from Toyota’s gas-powered vehicles, I was told. (Subaru Solterra has a similar design feature, but its screens are molded in dark gray plastic while the Toyotas are shiny.) I predict that this awkward boom will not last and that within a model year or two you will be able to to get your BZ4X in one color.

The BZ4X is initially only available in Toyota’s high-end XLE and Limited levels, which include plenty of features and options. Prices start at around $ 42,000 for a front-wheel drive model. Those who buy soon will be able to take advantage of an available tax deduction of $ 7,500 in electric vehicle tax. Each car manufacturer has a limited number of tax deductions for electric cars. They begin to phase out a few months after a given automaker’s credit number 200,000. In what seems like a cruel cosmic joke, Toyota is running out of credits shortly after the launch of its first electric vehicle. This is because these EV tax deductions also apply to plug-in hybrids, and Toyota has sold many of them. But in return for getting that tax deduction, I hope you like the black fenders.

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