Tesla made the rumor with its “Yoke” steering wheel. But behind its rectangular, 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 net show. For this “hoop” to work, you need to keep your hands on the wheel at all times, without ever having to cross them. This is exactly what the 100% electric Lexus RZ SUV offers, which arrives later this year.
The first “cable” address
Toyota’s luxury label hasn’t given a special name to its steering wheel, but the technology is in more ways than one. Not only that, thanks to its variable reduction, the direction is limited to 150 ° per side (ie less than half a turn). But most of all, it’s the first steering wheel of a production car that isn’t physically connected to the front wheels! It is not seen, but the steering wheel is connected to an electric motor, itself connected by an electrical connection to another power block responsible for transmitting the motion to the steering rack. And as in a steering wheel designed for driving simulations on consoles or computers, the system generates “force feedback” to inform the driver of available grip and its changes. If the RZ does not arrive in France equipped with this type of steering until the beginning of 2023 – the classic steering wheel variants arrive at the end of 2022 – we had the opportunity to test this steering of the future in Spain, at the Castelloli circuit. located 60 km. northwest of Barcelona.
You get used to it in no time
It doesn’t take a long technical briefing to understand how it works. From the first lap, after a few bends you are surprised to move easily, the car taking the required trajectory. First of all, because unlike an inconsistent “video game” steering wheel, here the steering offers a pretty natural feel, showing real resistance (variable depending on the driving mode). Then, because the middle wheel reacts quickly and intelligently to the given angle according to the speed at which you drive. The most disconcerting thing, at first, is to get used to not making too big movements when coming out of forks and closed turns, but it tends to turn more than it wants. But once we understand that a little action behind the wheel is enough, we place the front wheels exactly where we want. Even at high speeds, where the accuracy of the direction around the midpoint convinces. The icing on the cake, the direction of Lexus calms when braking or braking with the wheels turned at a fixed angle, as in a highway exit, for example. While the variable steering ratio of the old Infiniti Q50 tended to increase steering dangerously as the speed slowed, the Lexus did not alter the steering ratio in this situation. In RZ, the electronics only change the transmission ratio (very quickly) once the wheels turn straight. Another good news, if this 100% electric SUV proves to be balanced and awkward on this dry track given its 2,300 kg, you can feel that the front axle loses and regains grip when exceeded. And by the way, we also hear, in this situation, the transmission that modulates the power between the front and rear engines of this four-wheel drive SUV, which is also “smart”. It should also be noted that this cable steering has the advantage of filtering certain unpleasant elevations with a classic system, and that it also helps, in theory, to compensate for the side winds – which we have not been able to verify.
Be careful in the parking lots!
As the pace increases, however, we notice that the direction shows a certain imbalance, especially in the rapid changes of support where it can be quite hard. But in general, the steering wheel does what it is asked to do, and never cares about its reactions, the transmission ratio 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 make several turns behind the wheel to park. Here you have to restart your brain to remember that you go from stop to stop in less than a turn! We are surprised to drive too fast and too fast, at the risk of rubbing a rim or body. We bet, however, that after a few days you will get used to leaving the car parks very quickly with a pleasant economy of movement … to the point of not wanting to go back to the classic direction!
The RZ is inserted into the template between the NX and the RX
RZ buyers will also have a choice, as a “normal” steering wheel (with a round steering wheel) will also be on the Lexus SUV menu. If not the first 100% electric in the range – there is already the UX 300e -, the RZ is the first to be based on a platform dedicated to watt technology. At 4.81 m long, it fits between the NX (4.64 m) and the RX (4.89 m). the only variant offered, called 450e, with 313 hp and a WLP range 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 to know that Lexus claims to have done everything necessary for its cable management, which required 10 years of effort, that is, impeccable reliability: redundancy of mechanical and electronic systems, small spare battery in case of a problem with the main one, etc. . In any case, we look forward to testing this RZ and its special address in normal conditions, on open roads. See you in the fall for the test!