- The Lexus LF-Z concept showcases a dual-motor layout and Direct4 torque vectoring, as well as a longitudinally mounted battery.
- The interior and exterior preview Lexus’ evolving design direction and ergonomics, including steer-by-wire tech.
- Lexus plans to field 10 electric and electrified models by 2025, aiming to offer an EV version of each model it offers.
Lexus took the wraps off the LF-Z concept this week, giving a world a glimpse at its electrified—if not entirely electric—future. The luxury brand, along with parent company Toyota, has faced criticism over its reluctance to embrace EVs more fully, and while the latest concept is a step in the right direction, Lexus is still leaving itself some room to maneuver, powertrain-wise, while making this nod to industry trends.
The LF-Z concept is meant to dispel some of the skepticism, but is this a preview of Lexus vehicles of the near future?
First, let’s look at the design of the concept itself. Perhaps in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary step, the “spindle” grille is still there, but now it’s been sculpted over and filled in, gaining some intricate border surfacing in the process. The profile of the concept is a reflection of current industry trends, perhaps too many of them all at once, including a contrasting black greenhouse, a D-pillar pyramid stretching to the roof, and angular arrows along the door sills. Head- and taillights have been reduced to sharp horizontal lines, just as we were told they would be once everything became LED-based, while the greenhouse itself has been flattened quite a bit to suit the rakish profile of the concept.
“The LF-Z Electrified, as a study model that suggests the direction of the evolution of Lexus styling, aims for a simple and captivating shape rooted in strong proportions and a distinctive appearance,” the automaker says. “Specifically, the overall form, which starts low in the front and peaks toward the rear, as suggestive of a BEV, is composed of a continuous silhouette centered on a smooth cabin. Large-diameter wheels that transmit the power of the high-power electric motors to the road surface are situated as much as possible at the vehicle’s four corners for a wide stance with a low center of gravity.”
On the inside, a yoke has replaced the steering wheel, while the seats are very angular and sci-fi-like, a two-tone look giving the interior an elegant but still minimalist appearance. In a further nod to current interior trends, most if not all switchgear has migrated to the wraparound screens angled toward the driver—a theme that we’re about to see in a substantial number of production cars.
Lexus has dubbed its approach to interior design of the EV with the word “Tazuna,” which is Japanese for “rein.”
“Inspired by the relationship between horse and rider, who communicate through a single rein, steering wheel-mounted switches and the vehicle’s head-up display have been highly coordinated to create a space in which various functions, such as the navigation system, audio system, and driving mode selection, can be performed while concentrating on driving and without movement of the driver’s line of sight or need to operate complicated switches,” Lexus notes.
Overall, there is nothing particularly whimsical about the exterior, except perhaps the amount of headroom occupants might wish for. Concepts aren’t meant to be practical, though, and this goes for the steering yoke as well—which Tesla is experimenting with at the moment (on its drivers, per company custom).
Under the skin, the LF-Z Electrified’s battery is positioned longitudinally under the greenhouse, lending the box extra rigidity. The concept features a dual-motor layout with a torque vectoring system Lexus calls Direct4, which can switch between all-wheel-, rear-wheel-, and front-wheel-drive modes, while also varying the amount of power sent to each individual wheel.
Just what does the LF-Z say about Lexus’ electrification plans?
The automaker says that it plans to introduce 20 new or improved models by the middle of the decade, 10 of which will be electric or electrified, which indicates Lexus is not going all in on EVs. It’s keeping a role for its gasoline-engined offerings and hybrids, reiterating that it needs to take into account each region and country where it offers its models, in accommodation of EV-averse markets.
The more substantial bit of news is Lexus’ plan to offer electric (not just electrified) versions of all of its models by 2025, at which time it also expects electric models to outsell its gas-engined vehicles. This means the automaker has quite a lot of work cut out for it, because it doesn’t offer a single EV in the US at the time. Working in its favor is the fact that Lexus doesn’t have all that many segments to worry about. It also helps that Toyota will do the heavy lifting beforehand when it comes to platforms, with the first EVs from Toyota due to arrive later this year.
“In addition to strengthening and expanding its core sedan models and SUV lineup, Lexus will pursue the possibility of rolling out models such as sports models that continue to provide the fun of driving, a car that redefines the concept of having a chauffeur, and new genres that have never before existed. In doing so, it will take on the challenge of providing new value that exceeds the expectations of its diverse customers,” the automaker adds.
If Lexus plans to offer an electric version of all of its models by 2025, as it says, this means we should also see a battery-electric Lexus LX, sharing a platform and most of its hardware with the Toyota Land Cruiser. Rolling out Land Cruiser and Lexus LX EVs would make for interesting moves, especially given poor sales for both in the US in recent years. Meanwhile, an EV that “redefines the concept of having a chauffeur” certainly sounds like a reference to autonomous tech, which Toyota and Lexus also have neglected in recent years.
Will we see battery-electric version of all the current Lexus offerings, or is Lexus likely to drop some models before 2025? Let us know in the comments below.