The Subaru Solterra is actually a Toyota bZ4X in disguise, or vice versa of course. Until now, Toyota had nothing to do with battery EVs, perhaps that’s why they came up with a name that no one can remember. Nevertheless, the bZ4X, the first electric passenger car from the Japanese, is not only a good car on public roads. Read in our Toyota bZ4X test how the first plug-in Toyota fares.
For years, Toyota showed a picture at press events. A man was charging his electric car in the pouring rain. Plug in one hand, briefcase over his head in the other, so as not to get too wet. The picture was clear: here is a loser and you don’t want this as a driver. Toyota was proud of its hybrid technology. Economical driving, but no hassle with plugs.
According to Toyota, a fully electric car was possible, but then it had to be self-sufficient, with a fuel cell. That’s why the Japanese came with the Mirai. Only we are still waiting for the definitive breakthrough of the hydrogen car and the Toyota Mirai leads a wallflower existence. While battery-powered electric cars (BEVs) seem to be making an unstoppable advance, so too is Toyota tacking on. The brand presents its first fully electric passenger car, although the production version will not come until the end of 2022 at the earliest. Seat will then be the only major car brand that will soon have to go through life without EV in the Netherlands.
Before we can drive the real bZ4X, Toyota invites us for a ride with a camouflaged model. The car is not yet fully production ready, but almost. Surprisingly, the bZ4X is not an SUV, but a real all-terrain vehicle. Although that is less coincidental when you consider that the Subaru Solterra is actually the same car. Toyota promises us a test drive that partly goes through unpaved terrain.
Before that, let’s get some numbers. The Toyota does not have a frunk, an extra storage compartment for the charging cable in the front of the car. At least one electric motor. The bZ4X with only front-wheel drive is good for 204 hp and 265 Nm and has a range of 450 kilometers. We drive the 4WD version, which has a second electric motor on the rear axle. Both engines together deliver 218 hp and 336 Nm. Its range is 410 kilometers.
Whichever version you choose, the battery pack has a capacity of 71.4 kWh and can be charged with a maximum of 150 kW. Since the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 are on the market, that is no longer so impressive. They achieve more than 200 kW. On the other hand, the bZ4X has a modern CCS plug, in contrast to the antique Chademo plug with which the electric Lexus UX has yet to do.
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At the start of production, the bZ4X will receive an 11 kW on-board charger, which makes three-phase charging possible. Our pre-series model does not go beyond 3.5 kW, making charging an exercise in patience. It is nice that the Toyota can be equipped with a roof full of solar panels, so that you can generate electricity from solar energy.
The dashboard looks unusual, because the instrumentation sticks out above the steering wheel, just like with Peugeot. The bZ4X is based on the steer-by-wire technology with which it will be available from next year. As a result, there is no longer a mechanical connection between steering wheel and wheels. Maneuvering should then be a piece of cake, because you no longer have to turn around. The bX4X will get a so-called Yoke steering wheel in 2023 – just like the Tesla Model S Plaid – where the top part is missing.
The steering wheel is therefore no longer round, and this immediately explains the position of the instruments. That is now partly hidden behind the wheel, but no longer with the ‘yoke’ steering wheel. The infotainment system does not work very well in our pre-series model. For example, we cannot yet see whether charging points are included in the route of the navigation system. You can charge your phone wirelessly in the production version.
The rear passengers have an above-average amount of space. The eTMGA platform, developed together with Subaru, is extremely friendly to tall people and allows a wheelbase of 2850 millimeters. That is eighty millimeters more than the already not cramped Skoda Enyaq iV. But you don’t just sit comfortably in the back. The front seats offer a lot of comfort, although you do not have to rely on much lateral support.
And then the chassis tuning. It is soft, and unevenness is smoothed out nicely on smooth asphalt without the body moving afterwards. Due to the excellent body stiffness and the low center of gravity, you can enjoy this Toyota on mountain roads. It has to be, because Toyota boss Akio Toyoda has promised that no boring car will leave Japan under his leadership. Too bad the steering is very light and that one pedal driving initially leads to a battle with the pedals that are difficult to dose.
The suspension comfort of the bZ4X also remains at a high level on unpaved roads. Vibrations often penetrate to your fingertips, but that is not the case in this Toyota. Like staying admirably neatly strapped to your seat when the terrain gets inhospitable. The car has an X Mode program for snow and mud. This allows you to drive the motor up and down the mountain at a constant speed and computer technology ensures that the power is nicely dosed over the individual wheels. That also works very well in practice.
However, we end with a disappointing announcement. Colleague Bart Smakman tried to get rid of the pulling weight of the Solterra at Subaru. Subaru kept tight-lipped, but Toyota does tell… and the answer is a disappointment to caravaners. 750 lazy kilos, that’s what you’ll have to do. Even a Kip Compact caravan is heavier.
Surprisingly, the first electric Toyota is a real all-terrain vehicle, although the range of 410 kilometers is only nice and charging with 150 kW is only average. The comfort is above average, although you have to take into account an indirect and light control and moderately doseable pedals. Surprising bouncer: Toyota is planning a sporty GR version of the bZ4X.
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