Toyota’s first full EV

The bZ4X, an all-electric mid-size SUV and the first model in Toyota’s new bZ range of battery electric vehicles, as well as the first EV model to feature the eTNGA modular architecture, was recently previewed at Toyota South Africa’s State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) function. See our summary of the event on page 66.

The bZ4X, or a related BZ (Beyond Zero) family model, is slated for local introduction early in 2025. Based on a dedicated platform, the model range is the first BEV from Toyota and breaks new ground by bringing genuine SUV off-road driving capability to the BEV market. 

Both front and all-wheel drive versions are available. The FWD model features a front-mounted eAxle motor that produces 150 kW and 266 Nm maximum torque. The AWD model uses front and rear eAxles (80 kW at the rear) for a combined output of up to 230 kW and 337 Nm of torque to gain genuine off-road performance with X-Mode.

The front-wheel drive bZ4X accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds, while in the AWD model, with separate front and rear motors, the zero to 100 km/h acceleration time is reduced to 6.9 seconds. The lithium-ion battery unit in the bZ4X has a 71.4 kWh capacity and comprises 96 water-cooled cells.

The bZ4X has an official driving range (WLTP standard) of 510 km for the FWD version and 460 km for the AWD model. It is equipped with an 11 KW onboard charger, enabling rapid charging from 10 to 80% capacity in around 45 minutes.

Its styling is smart and devoid of unnecessary decoration. The front design is characterised by a brand-defining “hammerhead” shape with slim LED headlights. The silhouette view is sleek with a low overall height, slender front pillars, and a low axis line. Wheel arch mouldings, large wheels (up to 20” diameter) and thick rocker panels express its SUV character.

Compared to the Toyota RAV4, the bZ4X is lower by 85 mm, has shorter overhangs, and at 2,850 mm, its wheelbase is 160 mm longer. The bonnet line is also 50 mm lower, it has up to 452 litres (VDA) of luggage space, and its overall agility is reflected in a class-leading 5.7-metre turning radius. More model details will be made available closer to its launch date.


Opel’s Crossland replacement

The imminent replacement for the Opel Crossland SUV will revive a nameplate last used 20 years ago by the manufacturer from Russelsheim. The newcomer will be called Frontera, recalling the first Frontera model range based on the Isuzu KB range, sold from 1991 to 2004 with great success.

Interestingly, the Frontera was never made available locally, but we did have the long-wheelbase version of the same vehicle here, badged as an Isuzu, available in 4×4-guise, and called the Frontier. This bakkie-based SUV-type vehicle proved very popular, although it was only available for a few years.

The new Frontera is a cousin of the future Citroën C3 Aircross (not the recently unveiled model now available here but a new version developed specifically for Europe), and besides a hybrid version, it will also be available as a full-electric model. Codenamed CC24, the Crossland replacement is said to be based on a reworked CMP platform and will have a specific Opel design, incorporating the famous Vizor grille and the new Opel Blitz insignia.

In terms of dimensions, the Frontera, with a length of around 4.37 m, will be bigger than the outgoing Crossland. Ironically, it will most likely have the same measurements as the original Zafira MPV, and its bigger size will make it easier to fit into the current Opel SUV line-up above the B-segment Mokka. 

This will pitch the Frontera against the Peugeot 2008, the new Renault Duster and the Renault Grand Captur (both expected to be introduced this year). The Frontera Electric will most likely receive the same powertrain used in the Astra Electric, consisting of a 116 kW E-Motor and 54 kWh capacity battery, for a range of over 400 km (WLTP cycle). 

However, the Frontera may also be equipped with the 100 kW/50 kWh powertrain used in the latest Corsa. However, the model most likely to be introduced locally, will be the version with a 1.2-litre mild hybrid 48V engine delivering 100 kW. The new Frontera, like the C3 Aircross, will be built in Slovakia, and not in Spain, and the model range is expected to be imminently introduced in Europe.


The New RZ

The RZ, as shown at the recent Toyota SOMI event, is the first model from Lexus to be developed as a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) from the outset. However, its intention is not simply to deliver zero-emission, all-electric driving but to reinvent the BEV driving experience, true to the Lexus Electrified philosophy.

To achieve this, the vehicle has undergone extensive track testing and refinement and has also adapted exciting new technologies to enhance performance and driving pleasure. The RZ marks the first application of the new Lexus e-Axles – compact front and rear motor units that work with the new Direct4 all-wheel-drive electronic torque control. 

The exterior design reinterprets the signature spindle shape in the vehicle’s body, while the interior is a light and open space that is both simple and luxurious, expressing Lexus Omotenashi hospitality and Takumi craftsmanship. The RZ is also set to offer an enhanced driving experience with an optional by-wire steering system called One Motion Grip, currently under development.

The styling of the RZ is an evolution of Lexus’ “Next Chapter” design. Measuring 4,805 mm long, with a 2,850 mm wheelbase, height of 1,635 mm, and width of 1,895 mm, the RZ sits between the mid-size NX and larger RX in the Lexus range. 

The front motor of the RZ 450e produces 150 kW and the rear 80 kW, together delivering 230 kW of power. The RZ achieves excellent energy efficiency, with consumption rated at 16.8 kWh or 18.7 kWh per 100 km in the combined WLTP cycle, depending on wheel size and car specifications. 

The lithium-ion battery pack comprises 96 cells with a gross capacity of 71.4 kWh, and most RZ variants should achieve a range of around 400 km in the WLTP combined cycle test. The Lexus RZ will be available in South Africa in early 2025. 


The All-new MINI Countryman

The third generation MINI Countryman is enhanced by a completely new exterior design and innovative materials that contribute to the comfortable atmosphere in the increased interior, with four new trim variants offering a wide range of customisation options. 

Even though the MINI brand is going all-electric, the new Countryman will still be available with internal combustion engines. With the introduction of the new models, MINI is describing the performance levels of its petrol engines for the Countryman with C and, as a more powerful model, with S. 

The new Countryman range will be available in South Africa from the second quarter this year, and derivatives will include the Countryman C, an entry-level model that combines a high level of driving comfort and spacious room with an efficient three-cylinder petrol engine.

The three-cylinder engine, with efficient TwinPower Turbo technology, delivers 125 kW and 280 Nm of torque, allowing the smallest Countryman model to accelerate in 8.3 seconds from zero to 100 km/h and reach a top speed of 212 km/h. According to MINI, the C model has enough power and spontaneity for brand-typical driving pleasure. 

The new Countryman is 130 mm longer and 80 mm higher than its predecessor, and now has a more upright silhouette and redesigned octagonal front grille with reduced body lines and delicate contours, giving the model a sleeker appearance. 

Distinctive LED headlights and rear lights accentuate the body design with optional new light signatures. Piano Black roof rails are now standard equipment. The new model has 202 mm ground clearance, and the Countryman C can be ordered with light-alloy wheels available in various designs and sizes ranging from 17 to 21 inches. 

Inside, a panoramic glass roof and sports seats with patterned multi-tone textiles are standard. At the centre of the minimalistic interior design is the round OLED display with a diameter of 240 mm. The new central instrument allows all infotainment and assistance systems to be operated conveniently via touch or voice command. 

The interior is roomier, thanks to an additional width of 30 mm in the shoulder and elbow area. The backrest of the three rear seats can be individually adjusted in six positions by up to 12 degrees. The back seat can be moved up to 130 mm to create additional legroom or cargo space. Trunk volume can easily be adapted from 450 litres to 1,460 litres.

The product structure of the new MINI Family offers a wide range of customisation options with the new Essential, Classic, Favoured and JCW trim variants. Depending on the trim, different paint and roof colours and various interior finishes are available.

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