Lexus has advanced its stellar reputation as a premium automotive pioneer with its latest concept model – the LF-1 Limitless – which is said to propose a new genre of luxury vehicles, just like the RX did when it appeared in 1998. The company says that the RX remains the world’s top-selling luxury crossover despite nearly 50 competitors that have since entered the segment.
The fluid lines of the LF-1 point to the potential for a flagship luxury crossover for Toyota’s luxury brand, combining high performance with technology, innovation and the latest evolution of design. The name of the concept vehicle – Limitless – suggests being ‘limitless in its potential and possibilities’ and envisages fully autonomous driving.
Likewise, the possibilities for powertrains are vast. The LF-1 concept could be powered by fuel cells, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, petrol or even all-electric. What is already certain is that, by around 2025, every Lexus model around the world will be available either as a dedicated electrified model, or have an electrified option.
“Lexus models such as the RX had helped drive the global popularity of the luxury SUV category,” said Lexus International President, Yoshihiro Sawa. “This new crossover concept captures a future that involves a high level of dynamic capability and utility matched by a more exciting, emotional design that we hope challenges expectations in the category.”
The innovative spirit and captivating styling of the LF-1 was created by Toyota’s CALTY in California, a facility which has been involved in advanced design work since the mid-1970s. The design language is rooted in the simple yet elegant design concept of ‘molten katana’ – fusing the organic shapes of liquid (molten) metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword (katana).
CALTY Design Research President Kevin Hunter said imagining that shift – from a smooth, flowing mass into a solid, chiselled shape – formed the basis for the fluid, yet aggressive design of the LF-1. “This is our vision for a new kind of flagship vehicle that embraces crossover capability without giving up the performance and luxury delivered by today’s top sedans,” he explained. “The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept incorporates imaginative technology while creating a strong emotional connection by improving the human experience for the driver and passengers.”
The LF-1’s exaggerated dash-to-axle ratio (long bonnet, short front overhang) gives it an athletic profile that evokes classic grand touring cars. Combined with a cabin that sits deep within the rear-wheel-drive chassis and aggressive 22-inch wheels under bulging fenders, the LF-1 has a powerful stance that conveys its performance intentions at a glance. The low roofline and elevated ride height further emphasise that this is a crossover designed for performance with practicality.
Like all current Lexus models, the spindle grille on the LF-1 is a core element to the overall design. On the LF-1, it has been taken even further: details suggest that the start of the spindle forms at the rear of the vehicle, then continues forward toward the nose. The grille itself features a three-dimensional design with colours developed in-house by CALTY. Ridges radiating away from the central emblem suggest magnetism guiding metal filings into shape. There is no chrome, as the LF-1 instead uses LED lighting around the grille that greets you on arrival.
In profile, the LF-1 has a clearly defined flow from front to rear starting with the fender line that extends from the bonnet all the way to the bottom of the D-pillar. That line contrasts with the more complex surfaces below it like the wide, crisply creased front fender that transitions to the smooth, deeply scalloped front door. From there, the bodywork slowly builds back out again to envelop the rear wheel, giving the LF-1 a contoured shape evocative of classic muscle cars.
The rear features a split roof spoiler and there are interesting curves and details along every inch of the rear fascia. The beautifully sculpted openings at each corner might look like exhaust pipes, but they’re actually vents for the air coming past the rear wheels. The shoulders above those wheels provide sturdy mounts for the sculptural taillights that extend well past the metalwork. Above the lights is the huge expanse of glass that extends over the rear seats to offer an uninterrupted view of the scenery thanks to the split spoiler on each side.
Luxurious comfort for every passenger was CALTY’s goal for the cabin. The LF-1 adheres to the Japanese tradition of omotenashi, or hospitality, welcoming all who enter with equal enthusiasm. The cockpit is designed to allow the driver to concentrate on the task at hand: distracting analogue knobs and buttons have been removed in favour of motion-activated controls and a minimalist display directly ahead.
The front passenger space is far more open, with even fewer controls and a wide unobstructed dashboard. Those in back get the same seats as those in front with expansive legroom and individual display screens for adjusting the climate control or entertainment options.
The metallic interior trim is finished in the same tinted titanium colour as the exterior, but with a satin finish for a warmer feel. Accents around the instrument panel and on the steering wheel further enhance the cockpit feel for the driver. Additional metallic accents throughout the interior contrast with the dark Cocoa Bean leather trim and seats covered in Chiffon White perforated leather.
Lighting also plays a key role in the look and feel of the interior. Engaging the start button initiates a dramatic lighting sequence that differs depending on which of the several available driving modes is engaged. For a more subtle effect, the wooden door trim has tiny perforations that allow indirect light from miniature LEDs to shine in a variety of colours that complement the more direct overhead lights.
Technology enhances the luxurious feel of the LF-1 by expanding the options offered to the driver. It starts with the LF-1’s Chauffeur mode, which allows for hands-free operation, thanks to the vehicle’s by-wire steering, braking, acceleration, lights and signals. The result is smooth, carefree driving with maximum efficiency and reduced risk of accidents.
For engaged driving, all powertrain controls are on the steering wheel to keep the driver focused on the road. Paddles mounted to the steering wheel control the transmission in manual mode for sporty driving while buttons on the lower section of the steering wheel engage standard drive mode options like park and reverse.
There is also a 4-dimensional navigation system which builds on traditional systems by adding the element of time to the equation. It acts as a concierge for the occupants by anticipating the needs of the driver and passengers based on the progress, traffic and road conditions along the programmed trip, suggesting fuel stops, rest breaks and restaurants, even offering to make hotel reservations. Navigation and route information are displayed on the in-dash monitor, the rear seat entertainment screens, or wirelessly connected to passengers’ tablets and smartphones.
Touch-responsive haptic controls easily reached from the steering wheel link provide a seamless interface with the 4D navigation system and integrated comfort and entertainment systems. A touch-tracer pad embedded in the leather-covered centre console supports character recognition for data entry. An additional haptic controller in the rear-seat centre console allows passengers to make their own comfort and entertainment choices.
Officially, this is just a concept model which shows what Lexus could offer in future as a challenge against the flagship SUVs from the German companies. It might be in showrooms within a few years or it might take longer but from the model presented, it certainly looks ready for production tomorrow.
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