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Some automotive vehicle segments continue to be popular among consumers. For example, the increased demand for electric vehicles is only making automakers more competitive. Tesla may have initiated an interest in cool tech, innovative engineering, and electrification concepts. But others, including Toyota, are gaining ground.

As Toyota and others continue to roll out EV and hybrid models, they’re taking a page or two from the Tesla playbook as they go. In fact, Toyota may have sent the Musk-founded giant a message when it copied this controversial feature in its latest EV entry, the Toyota bZ4X.

The EV market is getting more and more competitive

With more global demand for electrification, consumers can expect all kinds of innovation and EV introductions in the coming years. Right now, you have your pick of the litter, too, with Tesla’s Model 3 and Toyota’s bZ4X as worthy contenders. Move Electric shared that another EV model will join the bZ4X in the Japanese automaker’s lineup. The bZ3 is slated to open in China next year, with a massive market for “saloon cars.” And the bZ3 is intended to compete head-on with the Tesla Model 3.

Here in the states, you’ll likely compare the bZ4X with the Tesla Model 3. And you’ll spot a few key differences between these rival EVs. But more notably, you’ll spot one feature that looks the same. And it’s a controversial detail that Tesla introduced and Toyota nabbed for its designs.

How Toyota sends a message to Tesla that it’s coming

Toyota logo with red cars in front of it.
Toyota logo | Getty Images

It’s not uncommon for rivaling auto brands to try and capitalize on another’s innovation. If someone creates a feature that is well-received by consumers, soon, they’ll all have some iteration of that feature. But with the Toyota bZ4X, this new feature might also send Tesla a message. That message is that brace yourself, Tesla. Toyota is coming for its share of the EV market.

So, what controversial feature did Toyota mimic? Business Insider shares the details and the specs behind the Toyota bZ4X’s airplane-style steering yoke. Tesla pioneered this steering yoke design with its Model S and Model X EVs.

But Toyota is taking it a step further, saying their yoke will use a “steer-by-wire” system, eliminating any mechanical links to the bZ4X’s wheels altogether. Programmed to respond electronically, you’d only have to steer side to side to achieve full vehicle turning movements.

It’s a controversial addition, and Tesla already felt the critics’ stings. The industry responded to Tesla, saying this steering yoke design would be too awkward to effectively make sharp turns. And it would be clunky for drivers to make several rotations with the airplane-style grips.

Toyota heard those complaints and introduced the “steer-by-wire” design, which essentially eliminates those maneuvering concerns. In a way, it’s almost like Toyota is saying to Tesla, “that’s how you do it.”

Comparing these two EV rivals

Edmunds describes the 2023 Toyota bZ4X as familiar and comfortable, especially if you like driving the RAV4. This newest version of the bZ4X will produce 201 horsepower as a FWD version and 214 hp as an AWD version. Depending on the configuration you choose, you can expect a driving range of 222 to 252 miles. It’s loaded with standard tech and safety features, as you’d expect from Toyota.

If you’re considering the Tesla Model Y, you’ll enjoy the better range with estimates of 303 miles and 330 miles if you opt for the Long Range variants. But you’ll spend more on the Tesla, with starting MSRPs of $58,990 for the Toyota and $64,900 for the Tesla. The Toyota bZ4X has higher ground clearance, too. Add in the federal tax credit eligibility for the Toyota, not available for the Tesla, and your decision might just be made for you.

Check out the steering yoke design on the new Toyota bZ4X for yourself and see how it handles. It’s an improvement over Tesla’s design and a sign that Toyota may be closer to Tesla’s review mirror than initially predicted.


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