Lexus hints at personalised sports EV with ‘manual’ gearbox in future electric strategy
Lexus has hinted that its future electric vehicles could allow owners to customise their driving experience to mimic other vehicles and could even include a manual transmission and steering yoke rather than wheel.
The premium car maker said that advanced technology already being used or tested in its EVs could allow new levels of personalisation and would feed into its desire to use electrification as a means to improve the driver experience. This could include altering a car’s driving characteristics to suit an individual owner’s preferences.
At the brand’s annual Kenshiki Forum it showed off a concept version of the Lexus Electrified Sport - seen as a spiritual successor to the LFA - and a production version of its RZ450e SUV as well as confirming that it would continue to offer hybrid and plug-in hybrids for the foreseeable future.
While it remains a concept car, the Electrified Sport seems likely to make it into production in some form as the brand shifts towards a full BEV line-up in Europe by 2030. Lexus has said the car is expected to be capable of 0-62mph in around two seconds and will feature all-wheel drive and steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire systems. Bosses also hinted that these technologies could allow it or other future sports models to be configured to offer a driving feel tailored to individual owners.
They also confirmed that they were working on a manual-style gearshift that would enhance this customisation and offer the sensation of a traditional gearbox. Testing is already well progressed on a prototype UX300e fitted with a clutch, gear lever, tachometer and sound synthesiser. Takashi Watanabe, Lexus Electrified’s chief engineer, explained: “From the outside, this vehicle is as quiet as any other BEV. But the driver is able to experience all the sensations of a manual transmission vehicle. It is a software-based system, so it can be programmed to reproduce the driving experience of different vehicle types, letting the driver choose their preferred mapping.”
The One Grip Motion steer-by-wire system uses electronic rather than a manual connection between the front wheels and steering wheel and replaces that steering wheel with an F1-style yoke. Unlike Tesla’s much-derided efforts, Lexus says that the One Grip Motion system will feature variable steering ratios to eliminate the need for hand-over-hand turns and offer the right level of input depending on speed and steering angle.
One Grip Motion is planned for the Electrified Sport and all future Lexus EVs but will make its debut in the RZ450e next year. Lexus’s second all-electric model will sit above the UX300e and act as a battery-powered companion to the new RX hybrids. It features a 71.4kWh battery which Lexus says offers the right balance of weight, cost and range. It will offer up to 273 miles of range thanks to its segment-leading energy efficiency of 3.7 miles per kWh, while putting out 309bhp. It will also feature Lexus’s Direct4 all-wheel-drive system to instantly distribute torque between front and rear axles to offer optimum performance and comfort.
The same technology appears in the new RX500h hybrid. This turbocharged full hybrid model will sit above 460h and 350h models in the next generation of the brand’s flagship SUV, all of which feature new battery technology to get more power from the same-sized.