Yoked steer-by-wire system works and is an interesting tech development
It’s otherwise a rather generic, expensive electric SUV
What is it?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the new Lexus RZ is just another generic electric SUV, and if we’re honest, you’d be mostly correct. It’s Lexus’ first ever purpose-built EV – the UX300e was born as a combustion car and only had its innards stuffed with batteries later in life – but it is built on the same eTNGA platform as both the Toyota bZ4X (otherwise known as the fax machine) and the Subaru Solterra.
So far, so generic, right? And yet, there is one aspect of the RZ that sets it apart from its ever-growing list of rivals – the futuristic-looking yoked steering system.
Wait, a yoke like a Tesla?
Not quite. While Tesla simply fixed a silly-shaped steering device to a standard Model S column and told those ‘early adopters’ to have at it, Lexus has developed an all-new steer-by-wire system that it is calling One Motion Grip. You better believe that we’ll be shortening that to OMG.
Now, steer-by-wire means that there isn’t actually any physical connection between the steering wheel (or yoke in this case) and the front wheels. Instead, your inputs are transferred electronically at a rapid rate. Sounds odd, but it means that Lexus can constantly change the steering ratios depending on the car’s speed, so at low speeds a small turn of the wheel will give much more steering angle than the same turn of the wheel at high speeds. This means with OMG – unlike in the Tesla – you never need to remove your hands from their usual position on the yoke to make tight turns.
“The result is instant response and more precise steering control,” claims Lexus.
“The driver will also notice less steering wheel sway when travelling over rough roads; stable control and correction in strong crosswinds; and stable straight-line performance on angled surfaces.”
Click over to the driving tab of this review to read our thoughts.
So, do I have to have the yoke?
You do not. In fact, the OMG system is still under development and won’t actually be an option on the RZ until 2025. The first cars will arrive in May 2023 and for the first couple of years you’ll only be able to spec an RZ with a round steering wheel and conventional rack-assisted electric power steering system. Technophobes rejoice.
What about the rest of the car then?
Ah yes, we should probably have got into that before we got bogged down in how the wheels turn. Anyway, there’s just one powertrain option at launch in the form of the RZ 450e. Like its Toyota and Subaru siblings the RZ uses a 71.4kWh battery at its heart, but whereas the bZ4X can be had with either two- or four-wheel drive, Lexus has followed Subaru in going all-wheel drive only.
That means there’s a 201bhp electric motor on the front axle and a 108bhp motor on the rear axle for a combined output of 309bhp. Max torque is 321lb ft and 0-62mph takes just 5.3 seconds.
And the range?
Good question. The answer is that it very much depends on spec – if you want the larger 20-inch wheels you’ll get a WLTP range of 252 miles, but if your ego can cope with 18-inchers then you can up that to 272 miles.
What’s it like inside?
It’s very Lexus. And that’s all you’ll get out of us here – click through to the Interior tab for more.
How much will it cost me?
When the RZ 450e reaches the UK, prices will start from £62,600 for the entry level ‘Premium Pack’. That will jump to £66,600 for the slightly better-equipped ‘Premium Plus Pack’, whilst the fully-loaded ‘Takumi’ will start at a hefty £72,100.
What's the verdict?
Clearly a huge amount of effort has gone into Lexus’ new steer-by-wire system, and although it won’t be hitting our streets until 2025 and we’re not fully sold on its effectiveness just yet, at least it provides the RZ with an interesting differentiator.
Unfortunately, the standard version is just a little too ‘generic EV SUV’ for our liking right now, and it’s an expensive one at that. We’ll have to drive one on UK roads in order to determine whether those traditional Lexus values of comfort, quietness and refinement shine through. But for now, we’re not sure it’s worth the extra outlay over some impressive competition.