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Production Toyota BZ4X EV details: 300-mile range and Tesla-style yoke wheel

Toyota is getting in on the yoke-style wheel trend, but promises it'll work well with a steer-by-wire system.

Toyota BZ4X
Coming next year.

Toyota's first electric vehicle is prepping for launch next year, but on Thursday, the automaker revealed numerous details on the production version of the new BZ4X electric SUV. They include some surprises, such as the introduction of a steer-by-wire system married to a Tesla-style yoke. For Toyota, known for being a conservative automaker, this is pretty shocking.

We'll get back to that wheel in a moment, as there are more details to discuss. That includes an estimated 300-mile range on the WLTP cycle, which comes from a 71.4 kilowatt-hour battery. No matter if drivers choose front-wheel drive or an all-wheel-drive system on loan from partner Subaru, the battery stays the same. Stick with FWD and the battery supplies juice for 201 horsepower. AWD models make 214 hp. 

When it's time to plug the BZ4X in for a charge, Toyota said the SUV accepts rates up to 150 kilowatts. That will top the battery off in as few as 30 minutes for an 80% charge. All of these figures may seem a little meh, but the automaker's targeting long-term reliability with this electric powertrain. Toyota specifically said the battery onboard should hold onto 90% of its usable capacity after a decade of driving 15,000 per year. Battery degradation can be a real thing and it's clear Toyota wants to ensure future customers don't see their usable range take a nosedive.



Now, let's talk about that steering wheel. The futuristic yoke will launch with the BZ4X in China only to start, when Toyota begins production next year. The yoke will pair with a new steer-by-wire system, meaning there's no mechanical connection between the tires on the pavement and the wheel the driver controls them with. A yoke isn't exactly the easiest shape to maneuver, but Toyota said this system creates a lock-to-lock of 150 degrees. It should ensure drivers don't need to change their grip while steering, especially in tight areas such as parking garages. And with the by-wire system, various driver modes can change the steering's feel. Finally, without a steering column, engineers and designers opened up more legroom.

Toyota declined to comment on whether we'll see this yoke-style wheel for the US. We'll have to wait and see. The production information provided also shows the car with a standard steering wheel meant for other parts of the world, so it may be the US just sticks to the good ol' circular wheel. Toyota would certainly have to chat with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make sure the steer-by-wire system is suitable for US regulations.

Other highlights of the BZ4X production SUV include an optional solar roof for some countries, over-the-air software updates, Toyota's Safety Sense driver-assist systems and the funky dashboard that maximizes visibility for drivers.

Production of the SUV will take place in Japan and China. The US should see the first BZ4X models in the middle of 2022. By then, the Volkswagen ID 4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y and others will gain a new rival. And, Subaru's version of this SUV, the Solterra, should launch next year as well.