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One vehicle I was looking very much to driving is the bZ4X which is Toyota’s first all-new battery electric vehicle (BEV) which has launched the company’s bZ sub-brand, bringing genuine SUV off-road driving capability to this sector of the market for the first time. In order to get the feel of this newcomer, I took to roads which are in the area of Loch Lomond, which over the years has proved popular with tourists and popular for test routes for new vehicle launches. It would be remiss me of me not to forget the hospitality of the Scottish. The quality and performance of this new EV are founded on Toyota’s world-leading experience in electrified vehicle technology, a heritage that spans more than a quarter of a century. The company has also worked with Subaru as its development partner for bZ4X, benefiting from the manufacturer’s renowned expertise in areas such as all-wheel drive engineering. We in Ireland know too well the AWD capability of Subaru through the sport of rallying.

The bZ4X is not derived from an existing model; it is the first of what will be a series of different bZ vehicles to be constructed on a new Toyota platform dedicated to BEVs. eTNGA integrates the battery unit into the chassis, entirely beneath the vehicle floor. This delivers ac strong and highly rigid framework and a low centre of gravity, defining factors in the car’s stable and rewarding dynamic performance. The modular design allows it to be easily adapted for use in a wide range of different vehicle types, spanning small to larger segments. Front and all-wheel drive versions are available; the FWD model features a 150kW front-mounted eAxle that produces 201bhp and 266Nm maximum torque, while the AWD model uses front and rear 80kW eAxles with a combined output of up to 215bhp and 337Nm of torque to gain genuine off-road performance with X-MODE. The lithium-ion battery unit has a 71.4kWh capacity and comprises 96 cells which are water cooled and constantly monitored individually for any signs of abnormality or degradation. The quality of the battery is reflected in a guarantee it will retain at least 70 per cent of its capacity up to 10 years or one million kilometres (620,000 miles) driven. With the EV, a principal concern is range and the Toyota engineers have really put in the effort to give their new vehicle a useful and workable range. The AWD version has a maximum range of 511km (318m) and just shy of 467km (290m) for the AWD. There is an 11KW onboard charger and it is possible on a fast charge, 10-80 percent in around half an hour.

Behind the wheel, I was not surprised to discover brisk acceleration, with the AWD version reaching 62km in less than seven seconds, the less powerful FWD version takes 7.9 seconds. High rigidity and the low centre of gravity play a major role in delivering sports like handling with comfort; to date this is the first EV that I could say I really enjoyed driving. Styling, the exterior is sleek with the hammerhead frontal design and the interior blends with the exterior to offer a pleasant travel experience. Immediately when I took control of the bZ4X for the first time I was greeted by thoroughly modern controls and a screen which reminded me of a video game. Toyota describes it well as “hands on the wheel eyes on the road”.

This EV comes from a company which has delivered more than 50 million Corollas, so no surprise to see the level of onboard technology, which most drivers now expect from their modern mode of transport. Travel can present many dangers and Toyota has put maximum effort into protecting all who travel in their new EV, which features the latest version of Toyota Safety Sense. The aim is not only to protect occupants, but also other road users. Summing up, the bZ4X points a clear direction to cars of the future, perhaps many will say that the future is already with us. I for one, who is not the world’s greatest EV fan, feel this is one car I could live with.  On a personal note however, I would very much appreciate a better range.

Ian Lynas

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