Lexus pioneers the luxury flagship crossover
Lexus has advanced its stellar reputation as a premium automotive pioneer with the world premiere of the stunning Lexus LF-1 Limitless – a concept that debuts a new genre of luxury vehicle, the flagship crossover.
Limitless in its potential and possibilities, the concept envisages fully autonomous driving and caters to the diverse lifestyles of Lexus customers.
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. By around 2025, every Lexus model around the world will be available either as a dedicated electrified model, or have an electrified option.
Lexus is repeating history by staging the world premiere of the Lexus LF-1 Limitless at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Two decades ago, Lexus established the luxury crossover segment with the global debut of the RX 300 in Detroit. The RX remains the world’s top-selling luxury crossover despite nearly 50 competitors that have since entered the segment.
Lexus International president Yoshihiro Sawa said Lexus models such as the RX had helped drive the global popularity of the luxury SUV category.
“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,” he said.
The innovative spirit and captivating styling of the LF-1 was created at CALTY Design Research in California.
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,” Mr Hunter said. “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 Lexus LF-1 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.