2018 Detroit Auto Show: Lexus Envisions Flagship Crossover with LF-1 Limitless Concept

January 15, 2018 by Carly Schaffner, @carlyschaffner

Lexus carved out a new segment in its lineup with the introduction of its LF-1 Limitless concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.

The concept showcases the brand’s next step in design and innovation, which takes the form of one of the most sought after vehicles on the market – a crossover.

“This represents a new genre – a luxury, high-performance crossover,” said Jeff Bracken, Lexus’ general manager. “It blends innovative technology beyond the limit of what’s available today.”

Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota Motor Corp., used the name Limitless to represent an open end of powertrain possibilities and advanced technology options. The LF-1 could run on electricity, hydrogen or gasoline. The autonomous system in the LF-1 might know its driver better than their friends and family, the automaker said.

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The LF-1 concept sits atop muscular 22-inch wheels that prioritize performance, and lines along the sides are meant to give an impression of movement. (Photo: Brian Williams/Trucks.com)

The LF-1 Limitless was developed at Calty, Toyota’s Newport Beach, Calif. design operation that focuses on future innovation and creativity.

“The LF-1 has a nice presence as an ultra-premium crossover,” said Kevin Hunter, president of Calty Design Research. “It’s lower than the RX, but taller than the LS. It’s like the LS’ crossover cousin.”

The profile is accentuated by an extended hood.

“The cabin is set back so it feels more exotic, more provocative,” Hunter said.

The front fender line spans almost the entirety of the crossover. It has a sportier stance and sits atop muscular 22-inch wheels that prioritize performance. Lines along the sides also give an impression of movement.

Lexus said the styling of the LF-1 is meant to “fuse the organic shapes of liquid metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword.” Calty used the concept of “molten katana” to guide the design process.

While the curvatures appear fluid-like, the color is arguably the best part of the end result. The rose gold color – inspired by high-end cookware – would undoubtedly be a top pick for fashion-forward female customers.

“Lexus is a warm brand,” Hunter said. “The color is warm and premium.”

A rear wing splits down the center to allow a clear view of the glass roof from front to back.

While the rear shape of the vehicle resembles classic Lexus genealogy, the front wows. The grille is an exaggerated version of the signature hourglass-shaped spindle grille Lexus has incorporated throughout its lineup.

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Designers of the Lexus LF-1 evolved the signature spindle grille to have a more architectural look. (Photo: Brian Williams/Trucks.com)

The chrome outline has been replaced with LED lighting for a futuristic look. A web of metallic detailing in the grille appears, well, limitless.

“We are evolving the spindle grille to the next level,” Hunter said. “This is the ‘architectural spindle.’ It’s integrated completely into the hood design and the body.”

The interior is also performance oriented. There are four bucket seats – the back-row passengers remain connected with sizable screens affixed to the back of the front-seat headrests. Instead of mirrors, the LF-1 has cameras that project onto the interior display. There are fiber optics in the wood door panels. And of course, the car lights up to welcome the driver upon approach.

The LF-1 is positioned within one of the fastest growing segments in the industry. Last year, crossovers represented nearly half of what is categorized as the light truck segment, which also includes pickups, vans and SUVs.

Luxury crossovers have become an increasingly popular choice among consumers looking for a premium option, Bracken said.

Sales of Lexus’ luxury utility models surpassed 200,000 vehicles in 2017. It is an increase of 3 percent compared with 2016, according to industry research firm Autodata Corp. The popular RX recently added a third-row option. Though sales of the popular SUV were flat last year compared with 2016, Lexus still topped 108,300 vehicles.

Lexus also added a two-row option to its lower-volume, premium LX, which sold 6,000 units in 2017, an increase of 5 percent. Sales of the smaller NX jumped 8 percent, hitting nearly 60,000 units last year.

But the RX, NX and LX are all focused on utility. The LF-1 Limitless is focused on drive experience.

“We want to be the most innovative premium brand on the planet,” Hunter said. “We’re a young brand so we can take more chances.”

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