Don't Call it a Yoke - Lexus Steer By Wire Review in the RZ 450e

The Lexus RZ 450e will eventually be available with something very different: a yoke in place of the steering wheel. However, it’s not just a yoke bolted onto the steering column for drivers to pretend they’re Batman. It is in fact an intrinsic part of an entirely new steering concept, officially called Steer by Wire, that could revolutionize the way we interact with the front wheels of a car. An angle sensor in the column senses how much you turned and sends that info to the usual electric power steering system, while the car determines how fast the car is going. Those two pieces of info are then used to radically alter the steering ratio and therefore how much you have to steer. In this video, Autoblog Senior Editor James Riswick climbs behind the wheel, err yoke, to tell you what the system and its yoke are like to drive.

Video Transcript

JAMES RISWICK: This is the new Lexus RC 450e, and I want to talk about something a little different about this car, the steering wheel. It doesn't have one.

So obviously this is a yoke, not unlike the Tesla yoke. However, there is a very big difference between that and this. This is what is called the Lexus Steer by Wire system. Basically what it does is it changes the steering ratio so that when you're in a low-speed situation while you're parking, you don't have to steer as much. So I'm not going to be, in theory, moving the steering yoke around as much as I would with a regular wheel or the Tesla yoke.

But I have never driven this before, so you are joining me on the maiden voyage. So OK, I've never used this thing before. I'm going to put it in drive. We're going to be in a little cone course here. So here we go into the future.

Oh, yeah, so immediately, like, you just turn just a little bit, and it's turning way more than you would expect it to at kind of like small steering angles. So, I mean, you-- yeah, this is kind of a trip, honestly. And again, this is a low-speed scenario, so I will have no idea what it does.

Yeah, so this is lock. Right here, this is lock on the steering wheel. That's as much as it does, which is crazy.

OK, so now I'm going to do, like, this hairpin turn. And see, even I want to do, like, a shuffle steer, but you don't need to in this car because of the crazy-small ratio. And because of that, you don't really notice the weirdness of the yoke. I haven't driven the Tesla yoke, but I do know that the problem with it is you want to grab this part because it's not a wheel. You don't need to in this because you can't literally turn it enough to do it.

OK, so that's our first lap here at the cone course. And again, we're going to be able to drive this on the road a little later. But from a standpoint of a parking lot, yes, it does work. I mean, it works pretty well. I think going back and forth between this and your regular car would be rather interesting.

And do I feel like Batman? Yes, I do kind of feel like Batman with this yoke.

Lexus is very aware of kind of the backlash against the Tesla yoke and is going out of its way not to use the word yoke, has asked us not to use the word yoke. I've now said yoke about 48 times in this video, so sorry. But they prefer the Steer by Wire because that is the key element here, not so much the Batman wheel but the insane ratio change.

So that's what this is like, and I'm going to now try and back up with this. So let's see how that goes. I'm going to go over here. I'm going to use the funky shifter. And see, I want to-- when I turn the wheel, I want to put my hand here. Obviously I can't. I don't need to. I think you do-- it's not just like-- you need to reprogram yourself to, well, park better, for one. I'm not doing a very good job. But, like, you have in your brain that your hands just do this, and, one, there's nothing to grab, but also you don't need to. So it's as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical exercise.

So those were my initial impressions of Lexus Steer by Wire. Don't call it a yoke.