The steer-by-wire calibration is being refined until it exceeds expectations.
The Lexus RZ's steering yoke and steer-by-wire system is considered by many to be its coolest feature, but fans of the brand and its tech will have to wait to get their hands on this option as the Japanese automaker refuses to launch the tech until it exceeds all expectations.
At the international press launch of the first dedicated Lexus BEV and the first EV from the brand to be sold in the US, engineers and executives from the company explained to CarBuzz the reasoning behind the delay. The first thing to clear up is that this is not an issue of the tech not being usable or reliable. "There's nothing wrong with it," and Sakiko Aono, Manager of Lexus Product Marketing. Instead, the automaker simply wants to make sure the tech is "perfect" before it reaches customers.
Yushi Higashiyama, assistant chief engineer on the RZ project, expanded a little more.
"There are certain points [when developing] a new, pioneering technology, sometimes you will feel like, is this really natural or not?" says Higashiyama. "That's the kind of thing they [the engineers] are looking at. At this point right now, they want to refine it. Technically, they're not ready… it's not worthy [for release yet]."
Steer-by-wire systems are notoriously finicky, and in combining the setup with a steering yoke, Lexus didn't want to rush the system to market like other EV manufacturers without it being perfect and intuitive. The steer-by-wire technology is crucial to making the butterfly-shaped yoke function as intended in the RZ. Steer-by-wire is aimed at improving the driving experience by taking out excess road sway caused by poor surfacing, and because it relies on software, it can be calibrated specifically to make its responses work better with the yoke.
We've already seen Tesla attract negative press for an ill-conceived yoke-style tiller, and the brand has subsequently offered a conventional wheel once more on the Model S and X. It's clear that Lexus doesn't want the same reception.
Waiting for this feature will likely not impact sales. The main selling point is the RZ - the brand's first-ever EV in the US market. As the electric alternative to the Lexus RX, one of the most popular luxury SUVs in the USA (selling 96,000 units in 2022 alone), its job isn't to be a volume seller but to give buyers the option of experiencing what an electric Lexus can do. It's a taste test, if you will, for early adopters. However, those early adopters will have to make a few concessions.
The RZ has already made the news for the wrong reasons. A standard RZ 450e can only do 220 miles on a charge and 196 miles when equipped with 19-inch wheels. It's also not the cheapest EV in its segment, but we're reserving overall comment until we've driven it. Lexus does, however, have a workaround for range concerns.
To get around the range problem, each RZ is sold with the new Lexus Reserve Program, which gives owners access to an ICE or hybrid model for 30 days over a three-year period.
Lexus prides itself on building the most reliable and satisfying cars to own. A manufacturer only receives these accolades thanks to insane attention to detail.
The delay in the system's arrival may be a disappointment, but it bodes well for ensuring it's perfect when it does launch Lexus has said that One Motion Grip - the name of the system in foreign markets - will launch as an option in 2025, but its timeframe for the US has not been confirmed. In the meantime, the Lexus RZ will ship with a conventional rack-assisted electric power steering system and a conventional three-spoke steering wheel.
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