What Is Lexus Direct4 Technology and How Does It Work?

Erin Riches-Wong | Jan 04, 2021

We're used to thinking of cars, SUVs and trucks as front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, or four-wheel-drive. But as the ranks of hybrid and electric vehicles (EV) grow, those distinctions might not matter as much. 

Lexus Direct4 ES Hybrid Testing Vehicle

Lexus offers a preview of that electrified future with its new Direct4 technology. When equipped with Direct4, Lexus vehicles will have a both a front and rear electric motor, while an electric drive control system continuously adjusts how much power and braking force goes to each of the four wheels. Depending on how the automaker applies its Direct4 technology, a Lexus EV could behave like a front-wheel-drive car in one moment and a rear-wheel-drive one in the next.

Lexus Direct4 is All About Control - Find the best Lexus deals!

There's nothing groundbreaking about using separate electric motors to power a vehicle's front and rear axles. This is the setup you'll find on EVs like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Jaguar I-Pace, and Tesla Model X/Y. And Lexus already uses front and rear electric motors on hybrid versions of its UX, NX and RX crossovers to provide light-duty all-wheel drive.

The story here is not the electric motors themselves. Instead, it's that Direct4 drive control technology will bring more precision and sophistication to how the electric motors work together in future Lexus EVs and hybrids. Lexus says it can shift power around in response to typical variables like vehicle speed and steering input while also providing more intangible satisfaction for the driver. 

Better Performing Hybrids with Direct4 - Find the best Lexus deals!

On hybrid Lexus vehicles, Direct4 should allow the automaker to use a larger, more powerful rear-axle electric motor in combination with the gasoline engine and electric motor up front. Lexus released a video of a hybrid test car (cloaked in current-generation Lexus ES sedan bodywork) equipped with the Direct4 system and an 80-kilowatt rear electric drive motor. Compare that to the 50kW rear electric motor used on the current RX 450h and NX 300h.

Built for development testing, this hybrid is still primarily a front-wheel-drive vehicle. But with the adjustments made possible by Lexus Direct4, the hybrid can split power 50/50 between the front and rear wheels and, in some situations, rely primarily on its rear motor with a 20/80 front-rear power distribution.

This would be a big deal on a hybrid RX or NX, especially in winter driving conditions when AWD is desirable. This added capability will also make a difference in places like Western Europe, where hybrids account for 96% of all Lexus sales.

EVs Will Benefit More from Direct4 - Find the best Lexus deals!

Lexus has been selling hybrids for so long, it's hard to believe the company hasn't yet produced an all-electric vehicle for mass consumption. But that day is coming. And the first EV will use the Direct4 system. 

Lexus has briefly previewed what the car might be like, as an EV development test vehicle featuring powerful front and rear motors, each rated at 150kW (about 201 horsepower).

We don't know other relevant details like battery capacity or total horsepower, but Lexus engineers note that the Direct4 system could quickly reapportion power between the wheels in an EV application. A single driveshaft connects each drive wheel to its electric motor (no conventional transmission here), so response would be instantaneous.

Lexus hasn't announced timing for its first EV. But the company will unveil a new concept car in early 2021 that previews the styling direction for a car that won't need room for an internal combustion engine or a radiator.

Summary - Find the best Lexus deals!

Eventually, every vehicle in the Lexus lineup will have some form of electrification. And each one of them will use Direct4 electric drive control technology, which Lexus says its compatible with hybrid, conventional EV, and fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) applications.

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