As we begin a new year, here’s another sign that the automotive industry is transitioning to a new era: Lexus has developed a concept for a new flagship vehicle, and it’s not a forward-thinking variation on a luxury sedan.
Rather, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless — unveiled Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit — is a luxury crossover.
“There’s no doubt that luxury crossovers are an increasingly popular choice for luxury customers,” says Jeff Bracken, group vice president and general manager, Lexus division. “This LF-1 Limitless concept illustrates what could happen if we were to add a flagship crossover to our lineup. It’s a gorgeous execution and we’re anxious to see our customers’ and dealers’ response.”
Lexus invented the luxury crossover segment two decades ago with the debut of the RX 300, also at the Detroit show. It’s still the top-selling luxury crossover, despite the entry of nearly 50 competitors since. But this groundbreaking brand has never been content to rest on its laurels. So Lexus commissioned a crossover concept to continue pushing the segment forward.
The LF-1 was created at CALTY Design Research in California, guided by two words: “molten katana.” Simple yet elegant, this design philosophy aims to fuse the organic shapes of liquid metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword — giving rise to a fluid, yet aggressive, concept.
“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,” says Kevin Hunter, president of CALTY. “The LF-1 Limitless concept incorporates imaginative technology while creating a strong emotional connection by improving the human experience for the driver and passengers.”
It starts with the right proportions. The LF-1’s exaggerated dash-to-axle ratio gives it an athletic appearance that’s more sports sedan than station wagon. And it strikes a powerful stance, due to a cabin that sits deep within the rear-wheel drive chassis and aggressive 22-inch wheels barely contained under bulging fenders.
In profile, the LF-1 has a clearly defined flow from front to rear, starting with the fender line that extends from the hood all the way to the bottom of the C pillar. That line contrasts with more complex surfaces, such as the wide and crisply creased fender that transitions to the smooth and deeply scalloped front door.
The front of the vehicle is set apart by a bold variation on Lexus’ iconic spindle grille theme. At the rear, a split spoiler grabs your eye, as do beautifully sculpted openings at each corner that appear to be exhaust pipes, but are actually vents for air coming past the rear wheels.
A Minimalist Interior
Innovative surprises also abound within the passenger cabin. Take, for instance, the elimination of distracting analog knobs and buttons in favor of motion-activated controls and a minimalist display. The front passenger space is open with fewer controls and a wide unobstructed dashboard. Rear passengers get the same seats as those in the front with expansive legroom and individual display screens for adjusting the climate control system and choosing entertainment options.
Creative use of technology also sets the LF-1 apart. Most notable is the concept’s Chauffer mode, which allows hands-free operation thanks to the vehicle’s by-wire steering, braking, acceleration, lights and signals. Choose sporty, hands-on driving and you can take advantage of powertrain controls incorporated into the steering wheel, including paddles to manually advance the multi-stage transmission.
The LF-1’s “4D” navigation system not only provides directions but adds the element of time to the equation. As such, it serves as an electronic concierge that anticipates the needs of the driver and passengers based on traffic and road conditions, suggesting fuel stops, rest breaks and restaurants — and can even make hotel reservations along the way.
Want to take a deeper dive into Lexus’ vision of the future of luxury crossovers? Just click here
By Dan Miller