As the electric car segment expands, the battle is heating up between iconic brands like Lexus and Tesla. Lexus recently revealed the 100% electric crossover RZ 450e that is ready to face competitors like the Tesla Model Y, not only in terms of electric propulsion, but also in terms of equipment. One part in particular – the stick’s steering wheel – has been a huge point of contention among automotive critics, as Lexus seems to have it right.
What is a fork steering wheel?
A steering wheel is a U-shaped steering wheel with two hand grips connected to a hub. It is most commonly used in aviation, where a pilot can make small right-left steering inputs in addition to forward inputs (push and pull) to steer a plane in different directions through the air. However, in a car, this doesn’t make much sense, as turns are easier to take on a round steering wheel.
Tesla tried to reinvent the wheel by offering the yoke on its models
Despite the obvious unique design of the steering wheel, Tesla decided to incorporate one into the Model S and Model X a few years ago. Fortunately, it’s just one option, as the idea has intrigued many customers and critics alike. Take a look at the steering wheel and you can understand the bewilderment.
We haven’t tried it, but apparently it’s not that smooth in its operation either. According to capital, “Tesla’s stick is physically connected to the front wheels and it takes more than two full rotations to turn it from lock to lock. This leads to a more choppy motion versus the smooth turning of a wheel, forcing drivers to remove their hands, change their grip and cross their arms during sharp turns, especially at lower speeds.”
In addition to the heavy driving experience, the Tesla fork also has touch-sensitive turn signals and horn buttons added to it. Consumer Reports editors noted that these buttons are confusing to use compared to a proper turn signal rod. Operation can be confusing if the steering wheel is positioned upside down – such as when you are about to make a turn.
Ultimately, Tesla’s yoke feels more like a novelty than a unique steering wheel with some added functionality.
The Lexus RZ 450e will have a fork steering wheel that works like it should
On the other hand, the stick steering wheel that can be found on the upcoming Lexus RZ450e is much more functional. Instead of rotating completely like Tesla’s fork, the Lexus fork can only be rotated up to 150 degrees in any direction. Rather than being mechanically connected to the front wheels, a computer interprets the driver’s input and controls the angles of the front wheels.
The system also incorporates variable ratio steering, which causes the front wheels to turn faster as the steering wheel approaches the lock. This function effectively eliminates the need for manual steering, but there’s still a learning curve to mastering it.
Regardless, while the Lexus RZ 450e may or may not beat a Tesla in terms of performance when it’s officially introduced to market, at least we know it got one thing right. And this thing can make the driving experience much better.