This week, Lexus confirmed that it’s working on a new software-based manual transmission experience for electric cars. Seriously. Manual transmissions account for less than 2% of automotive sales today, and many thought EVs would spell their death, but maybe not.
Interestingly, Lexus, a luxury car brand, never made all that many manual transmission vehicles. Its last was the 2013 IS 250 C. But for whatever reason, Lexus is hanging on to yesteryear and recently started teasing a prototype version of its Lexus UX 300e, complete with a gear lever and a “clutch” pedal. And yes, it’s all software-based, even if it looks, feels, and sounds like the real thing.
The British site EVO Magazine posted a video on Twitter, giving us our first glance at a Lexus prototype. The vehicle has a fake tachometer to watch the RPMs, plays artificial engine noises over the speakers, and the driver can engage the clutch and shift gears when necessary.
And yes, you can even “stall out” the manual transmission EV like the good old days. As you can see in the video, the 300e prototype has a little shake and jerk as the driver shifts gears. Lexus says it’s developing the technology to make EVs more engaging and give drivers a personalized experience. Here’s what Lexus engineer Takashi Watanabe had to say:
“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.”
I learned to drive on a 1995 Ford Ranger with a manual transmission, which I eventually sold with 289,000 miles running strong with nothing but one clutch replacement, along with regular maintenance and oil changes. I understand the love for a clutch and manual transmission, but this seems odd.
It sounds like a fun marketing ploy, but I’m not sure how much real-world usage this has. Then again, plenty of old-school drivers have no interest in buying a vehicle with an automatic, let alone an EV, so maybe this could help get some over the hump and attract new customers.
Additionally, it’s odd that we’re seeing this on a casual SUV instead of a sportscar or coupe. If I did want a fake manual transmission on an EV, it’d be an enthusiast-style vehicle.
On the plus side, if this ever does come to market, Lexus mentioned it is an optional customization setting. Owners can choose to have some fun when feeling nostalgic, then switch back to regular EV mode for daily driving.
via The Verge