Tesla got buzzing with its “Yoke” steering wheel. But behind its rectangular style, Formula 1 style, the steering mechanism remains classic, with a steering column and several turns of the steering wheel from stop to stop. This is what makes parking maneuvers dangerous, as many videos on the web show. For such a “hanger” to work, you must always have your hands on the steering wheel, without ever having to cross them. That’s exactly what the 100% electric Lexus RZ SUV, coming late this year, offers.
The first direction “by wire”
Toyota’s luxury brand has not given its steering wheel a special name, but the technology is in more ways than one. Not only that, thanks to its variable reduction, the steering is limited to 150 ° per second. side (ie less than half a turn). But above all, it is the first steering wheel of a production car that is not physically connected to the front wheels! It can not be seen, but the half steering wheel is connected to an electric motor, which itself is connected to an electric connection to another watt block, which is responsible for transmitting the movement to the control rod. And as on a steering wheel designed for driving simulations on consoles or PCs, the system generates “force feedback” to inform the driver of the available grip and its modifications. If the RZ first arrives in France in early 2023 equipped with such a steering wheel – classic steering wheel variants will arrive in late 2022 – we would have the chance to try this future steering in Spain, on the Castelloli track, which is 60 km away. northwest of Barcelona.
You get used to it in a snap
There is no need for a long technical briefing to understand how it works. From the outset, after a few turns, you are surprised to move easily and the car takes the necessary trajectory. Firstly, because unlike a “video game” steering wheel without consistency, the steering here gives a rather natural feel, showing real resistance (variable depending on the driving mode). So because the half wheel responds quickly and intelligently at the given angle depending on the speed you are driving at. The most disturbing thing in the beginning is getting used to not making too big movements when you get out of hairpins and narrow turns, otherwise you tend to turn more than you want. But once we understand that a little action at the wheel is enough, we place the front wheels exactly where we want. Even at high speeds, where the steering precision around the center is convincing. The icing on the cake, the Lexus steering calms down when you slow down or brake with the wheels turned at a fixed angle – such as at a motorway exit. While the old Infiniti Q50’s variable gear steering tended to steep the steering dangerously as speed dropped, Lexus did not change the steering ratio in this situation. In the RZ, the electronics only change gear ratios (very quickly) when the wheels are back straight. Other good news, if this 100% electric SUV turns out to be balanced and not clumsy on this dry track considering its 2,300kg, you may feel the front axle lose and regain grip when you overdo it. And by the way, we also feel in this situation that the transmission modulates the power between the front and rear engines of this four-wheel drive SUV, which is also “intelligent”. It should also be noted that this wiring direction has the advantage that it filters out certain unpleasant lifts with a classic system, and that in theory it also helps to compensate for crosswinds – which we have not been able to verify.
Be careful in the parking lots!
By increasing the pace, however, we notice that the direction shows some imbalance, especially in the rapid changes of support, where it can get quite hard. But overall, the steering wheel does what it’s asked to do and never worries about its reactions, as the gearshift changes are mostly imperceptible. Finally, the hardest part is getting used to moving at low speed. We are all conditioned, I the first in years, to do several laps with the steering wheel to park. Here you need to reset your brain to remember that you go from stop to stop in less than a lap! We are surprised to steer too early and too fast, at the risk of rubbing a rim or body. However, we bet that after a few days you would very quickly get used to leaving parking spaces with a comfortable movement economy … to the point that you no longer want to return to a classic direction!
RZ is inserted in the template between NX and RX
RZ buyers will also have a choice, as a “normal” direction (with a round steering wheel) will also be on the menu in the Lexus SUV. If it is not the first 100% electric in the series – the UX 300e already exists – the RZ is the first to be based on a platform dedicated to watt technology. With its 4.81 m long, it fits between NX (4.64 m) and RX (4.89 m), the only offered variant, dubbed the 450e, which shows 313 hp and a WLP autonomy of at least 400 km with its 71.4 kWh battery. The latter is not the most generous of its kind, but has a solid guarantee (90% capacity retained after 10 years). It is reassuring, knowing that Lexus claims to have done everything necessary for its control via wire, which required 10 years of effort, i.e. Impeccable reliability: redundancy of mechanical and electronic systems, small backup battery in case of a problem with the principal, etc. In any case, we can not wait to try this RZ and its very special steering in normal condition, on open roads. See you in the fall for the test!