The new 2023 Lexus RZ 450e has made its official production debut, and I recently had the opportunity to drive it. I enjoyed its overall driving experience and found it to be an excellent first step into the EV market. One particular angle in the brand’s plan of attack is to provide familiarity in its driving experience, making the transition to plug-sourced-power, exclusively, easy for consumers.

A significant portion of that revolves around its brake pedal.

As we reported back in May of last year when we drove the RZ prototype, Lexus decided to specifically not include one-pedal driving. When asked for comment, Lexus chief engineer Takashi Watanabe said, “We believe in the fact that the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal each play an individual role in the vehicle operation. The throttle is meant for speed control; braking is its own thing.”

Peter Nelson

The RZ’s brake pedal still performs regenerative braking duties when pressed, like Lexus’ current crop of hybrid vehicles. But as far as utilizing the one-pedal strategy for maximum regeneration, that is not a part of the equation. This seems to be what designers call its own thing—you must always operate two separate pedals.

“There are many customers that will be transitioning from a traditional vehicle into an EV,” said RZ Assistant Chief Engineer Yushi Higashiyama. “And we have many customers who have hybrid vehicles already and are considering this. So, we want to ensure it has similar operational capabilities as a traditional vehicle.”

Peter Nelson

What’s the Traction Control Button For?

I wanted to learn more about several other components’ design intentions, particularly regarding the RZ’s traction control button. Conventional ICE vehicles have these and enable the driver to fully or almost fully defeat traction control, which can be good in certain low-traction scenarios, or not letting the ECU rain too much on your oversteer-filled parade. 

Could the RZ be driven the same way?

“Because it is a BEV, the traction control capabilities and performance metrics of it are much more improved than traditional ones,” Higashiyama said. “However, we’re accommodating the fact that when you want to exit [certain low traction] predicaments, we want to keep that an option as well.” He then added that traction control is never completely off, though. So, any form of prolonged slide appears to be off the table. 

Though, fully defeatable traction control—in regards to performance driving—might be in the cards.

“The possibility would be there in an application like a sports car where you need that for ultimate performance, but that varies greatly between the thought processes that go into [each car’s] development,” Higashiyama said. 

I then felt compelled to ask for more details; you know, to keep an eye out for the enthusiast market. “The necessity of that would really depend on the different circumstances when you’re driving the car. One of the possibilities might be when you go to the track, you give it a track mode; the expandability and different possibilities there is something we’re definitely looking at now.”

Though, Lexus was quick to add that nothing is confirmed; should it ever actually develop something like that, theoretically it would have that capability.

Peter Nelson

Steer by Wire For Enthusiasts

Plus, there’s the fact that since Steer by Wire has no mechanical connection to the front wheels, the steering wheel could theoretically be placed anywhere in the cabin. Just imagine Lexus taking a page from the McLaren F1 for a future EV supercar and putting it in the middle. (This wasn’t stated in any way by Lexus, it’s just a daydream of mine.)

Not only that, but when you take Steer by Wire and rear steer—like in the new RX—into consideration, Higashiyama said, “Steer by Wire adds a very bright possibility and all kinds of potential” regarding total vehicle management and control.

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