Toyota engineers are investigating the feasibility of a GR-branded performance version of the new Toyota bZ4X electric SUV – but won’t commit to the project until they are sure it can live up to the badge.
The bZ4X is the Japanese firm’s first series production SUV. Toyota showed a bZ4X GR Sport concept at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January that imagined how a performance version could look, although it did not give any details of the powertrain.
While that was strictly a concept, Toyota’s GR Sport division, which developed the GR Yaris hot hatch, is looking at a production version. Daisuke Ido, the chief engineer of the bZ4X, told our sister brand Move Electric: “We are talking with the GR guys, but it’s still not a concrete idea yet.”
Ido said that the the biggest challenge of developing a performance variant was not achieving sufficiency power or torque from the electric powertrain, but on ensuring it offered handling and performance that matched other models in Toyota’s GR well-regarded line-up.
“That is a challenge, always,” said Ido. “We can control any profile with a battery EV, so the feeling is very important, and we have to work out how to offer a higher power with the same mechanism. That’s the challenge.”
The bZ4X is the first production model to use Toyota’s new E-TNGA platform, and will initially be offered with a single motor producing 201bhp, and a 215bhp twin motor set-up with that offers all-wheel-drive 215bhp.
The closely related Lexus RX450e will be offered with a twin-motor 309bhp set-up, which shows how the versatile E-TNGA architecture can accept increased power outputs. Ido is also in charge of developing Toyota’s other electric models, which are due to be launched in quick fashion following the bZ4X.
Four other E-TNGA models are due to arrive in the coming years – although not all will be offered in every market – and will include a compact SUV, a seven-seat large SUV, an Aygo X-sized urban crossover and a mid-sized saloon.
The E-TNGA platform is designed for C- and D-segment cars, and Ido confirmed that the firm is working on a new electric platform for smaller cars. When asked about future plans, Ido added: “With the E-TNGA platform for the bZ series we can offer some variety, and a wide range of products – maybe some sporty types of car, or maybe a big car for facilities. That’s not saying we will do those – that’s just my imagination for now.”