Making a turn in any current vehicle requires a hand-over-hand process to go where you want. Lexus has a new way of doing things.
Steering wheels offer tons of functionality and help us calmly direct our cars where we want, but there are drawbacks. Because the steering wheel is directly connected to the vehicle’s components, you might not turn fast enough to avoid a crash with the current system. A wheel also partially obstructs your view, especially if you’re shorter than the average person. Lexus offers a new approach to making steering better and more intuitive.
Racing Influence in the Luxury Market
For years, yoke-style steering wheels have been part of some race cars. These steering items help racing drivers feel the wheels and have a more direct influence more quickly over where a vehicle goes. The small quarters of Formula 1 cars require drivers to keep their hands and arms low. This is accomplished with the yoke and a steer-by-wire system. This is a system that uses electronics to steer the car rather than a mechanical connection to the steering systems of the front wheels.
Another Company Already Offers a Yoke
Tesla started putting yoke-style steering wheels in its vehicles recently. A yoke offer handles on either side of a central area but no bottom or top rounded places. Turning a yoke using a hand-over-hand process is nearly impossible, so a steer-by-wire system is necessary. For most drivers, using a yoke feels unnatural and takes some time. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long for some drivers to figure out how this system works. Instead of turning the wheel repeatedly, this system barely requires a half-turn of the wheel.
How Does the Steer-by-Wire and Yoke Wheel Work Together?
Lexus is heading in the direction of becoming an utterly electric luxury brand. The first EV with the spindle grille on the front is the RZ450e. This new electric SUV offers some serious upgrades and modern features that will make it one of the most exciting vehicles we see. That’s a good thing since the RZ450e falls short in the driving range category with only 225 miles from a full charge when using 18-inch wheels. While we digress, it’s time to talk about the yoke and the advanced steering system of this electric SUV.
Much Easier Driving
The steer-by-wire system constantly adjusts the steering ratio to match the driver’s needs. Regardless of whether you’re in a parking lot or driving at highway speeds, the maximum rotation of the yoke is 150 degrees. When driving at higher speeds, the system has a slower ratio, allowing you to handle curves and turns quickly. When moving slowly in a parking lot, the balance is much quicker, making it easy to turn into space and park your SUV. These ratios change and adjust when the yoke is straightened.
Much Better than Tesla
Those who remember wrestling a car without power steering into a parking space can truly appreciate just how advanced this system is. The lack of a mechanical connection allows the system to adjust to make driving much easier constantly. Compared to the yoke system Tesla offers, this system from Lexus is fantastic. The drawback to the Tesla system is using a traditional electric power steering system, not the variable ratios provided in the RZ450e. Can you imagine going hand-over-hand without a top or bottom to the steering wheel? Well, that’s what Tesla expects you to do with its yoke.
It’s All Very Technical
Leave it to an engineer to take the magic away from this new steering system. As explained by the Chief Engineer, this system monitors the force on the steering rack based on the torque input from the tires. This measurement allows for lateral yaw gains to determine the force needed to make a turn. See, boring and technical. All you need to know is this system makes turns faster, and you won’t need to turn the wheel nearly as far as you do with a traditional steering system. This new steer-by-wire system could be the future of driving.
Adjustments Need to be Made
Two hands need to be on the wheel to properly use the new Lexus steer-by-wire system and the steering yoke. Of course, many of us will find a way to use this system with one hand, but this could be a problem without a top part of the steering wheel. In addition to placing needles at the 9 and 3 positions, you’re not supposed to drive inside the wheel area with your thumbs. If you have experience driving off-road vehicles, you might already understand the importance of putting your hands outside the wheel area.
The Yoke Wins in Testing
A team from Motor Authority recently tested the new Lexus RZ450e, and the brand was nice enough to bring two different models of this SUV. One model uses a traditional steering wheel with a power steering system, while the other has the new steer-by-wire system with the yoke-style wheel. After a few turns, many test drivers enjoyed the yoke-wheel better than the traditional model. Without the need to go hand-over-hand, this system offers smoother and more direct steering of the vehicle.
Will We See This New System in the United States
This new steering system is currently scheduled for launch in European versions of the Lexus RZ450e, and it’s called “One Motion Grip” rather than steer-by-wire and a yoke. We don’t expect to see the name of this system carryover from Europe to the United States, and we don’t know when this system will be offered here. Lexus does tell us the first versions of the RZ450e won’t have this system in North America, but it should arrive in later models.
Will we get used to steering with both hands on the wheel? This could be a challenging adjustment for many drivers around the country.
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