It’s a Lexus spaceship on wheels

The Paris Auto Show is right around the corner, so new car and concept announcements are flying off our printers at record speed. Lexus already gave us a teaser shot of the UX Concept that is set to be the highlight of its stand in Paris, but the luxury brand has finally dropped more details about it and given us a good look at the interior. In Lexus’ original release, it said that the concept showcases "imaginative technologies for an immersive driver experience, while the interior marries traditional craftsmanship with high-tech manufacturing techniques." The first part of that statement is right, but after looking at the inside, there’s nothing traditional about that craftsmanship. In fact, it’s the most futuristic concept that we’ve seen in quite a while.

When I say futuristic, I’m not just talking about technology. There is a lot of that, and this model does have a few holograms inside, but the overall design of the cabin itself is out of this world. It looks like a combination of a personal space shuttle and a futuristic race car all tied together.

Stephan Rasmussen, a designer at the ED2 European Design Center, said, “Our brief was to create a new genre of compact crossover; a vehicle that could create something unique from a customer’s point of view—an innovative, three-dimensional, fully immersive user experience.”

Well give him credit, as this concept is about as unique as you can get, and it’s definitely three-dimensional. Does it preview a compact SUV of the future as Lexus says it does? Maybe in the distant future, but let’s dive on in and take a better look.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lexus UX Concept.

Exterior

2016 Lexus UX Concept High Resolution Exterior
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A quick glance at the one exterior shot we have shown that there are bits of DNA from Lexus NX SUV, but the concept is heavily exaggerated. The side profile is dominated by wide wheel arches, with the rear quarters being excessively muscular. The wheels are massive and are far from anything I would expect to see on a production vehicle anytime in the near future. Waves in the bodywork give the concept the appearance that it’s moving even when it’s sitting still. The front doors are normal sized, while the rear doors are somewhat small and look to lack a proper door handle. However, upon closer inspection, it looks like these may be suicide doors with a handle that meets in the middle.

There are bits of DNA from Lexus NX SUV, but the concept is heavily exaggerated.

I never thought I’d say this, but this SUV has such an interesting slope to its roof. It almost has a fastback like appearance. The rear hatch it’s remarkably small and terminates just inches below the rear glass. The rear fascia is pretty stylish and looks to support some kind of ambient LED technology at the top. Down below rectangular exhaust pipes are integrated into the fascia’s center insert. The most interesting thing in the rear is that wild taillight setup. While there are stationary units mounted to the rear quarters that are separate from the lens on the rear hatch, the clearance between them is so tight that it looks like one really wide light. It features a unique LED matrix that is stylish by way more futuristic than anything I expect to see on a production vehicle in the foreseeable future.

All told, it’s a sexy and bold design, at least from what we can see. When we finally get a look at the front, I expect to see some slim headlights and a large Spindle grille. There will probably be fairly small LED fog lights to go with an aggressive front fascia design. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s really going on up front.

Interior

2016 Lexus UX Concept High Resolution Interior
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Despite the fact that Lexus claims there is some traditional craftsmanship inside the cabin, I can’t seem to find any. This thing is about as futuristic as it gets. First off, and most noticeable, is the holographic globe that makes up the instrument cluster. It is said to display a combination of analog and digital information and is a “functional yet unexpected” user interface. And then there’s that weird “crystal structure” on the center console that displays a holographic representation of the air conditioning and infotainment system. The lettering on the faceted crystal structure likely represent touch buttons to control certain features of the aforementioned systems. There’s also a traditional display that is recessed into the dash, however, it’s layout gives it a 3D appearance as well.

The holographic globe that makes up the instrument cluster said to display a combination of analog and digital information and is a “functional yet unexpected” user interface.

Next, let me just say that this concept has the wildest looking steering wheel that I’ve ever seen in my life. The central hub is small and sports the Lexus “L.” From the sharp geometric figures bend and curve to make up four small but noticeable spokes. The steering wheel itself isn’t exactly round, taking on more of an oblong or oval shape as opposed to that found on most vehicles. Down below the steering wheel, there are two metal pedals. The dash itself has a two-tier layout of sorts that is primarily wrapped in leather with that infotainment display recessed heavily in the center. There’s a very weird design to the dash on the passenger side that features a number of triangular-shaped plates stacked next to each other. On each corner of the dash, there is a display screen that shows video from the side view mirrors attached to the outside of the doors.

The driver’s side of the dash wraps around just to the right of the steering wheel and turns into the center console. That center console looks to be wrapped mostly in leather, however, there is some Alcantara there with three elevated areas that may serve as an armrest of sorts. The same style of armrest can be found on the door trim panels as well, just behind the controls for the door windows. Despite its futuristic nature, the car does appear to have a traditional door handle of sorts inside, so there’s that.

And finally, there’s the seat. We can only make out a small bit of the seat cushion, but it looks like a frame wrapped with thick, black rubber bands. Thinking back, it could be another interpretation of the Kinetic Seat Concept that Lexus announced not that long ago. That seat used a man-made spider web of sorts to absorb kinetic movement and offer up better body support for passengers. Needless to say, this interior is about as wild as it gets, but I wouldn’t expect to see any of the features make their way into anything Lexus will offer in the foreseeable future.

Drivetrain

It does have exhaust pipes, though, so there is some kind of internal combustion engine hidden under the metal.

Lexus hasn’t said anything about what is lurking under the hood of this concept. It does have exhaust pipes, though, so there is some kind of internal combustion engine hidden under the metal. Considering it is a wild and exaggerated example of the NX, it could have the NX’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder. In the NX, it delivers a total of 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. In the NX, that’s enough for a 7.2-second sprint to 60 mph and a combined fuel economy of 25 mpg. Then again, it’s a futuristic concept, so it could have a hybridized drivetrain. This would likely be a 2.5-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor. In the NX, this setup produces 194 horsepower and a 9.1-second sprint to 60 mph. Fuel economy for the hybrid is rated at 31 mpg combined.

Then again, this concept may not be fully functional, so there may not be anything under the hood at all. We’ll just have to see what transpires when the car makes its official debut in Paris.

Conclusion

I have a soft spot in my heart for futuristic concepts – especially ones that look like spaceships on the inside. Then again I’m a big fan of science fiction and the dream of personal space travel. I’ve always felt I was born a few thousand years too early in that regard, so when I see concepts as outrageous as this one, it really gets the Trekkie in me going. I’ve really got to hand it to Lexus on this concept. The outside isn’t really that far off from designs that we may actually see in 15 or 20 years, and that interior is as bold as you can get. I wouldn’t expect to see anything like that weird triangular formation on the dash to end up in a car – imagine hitting your face on that thing in an accident… – but things like the holographic displays are certainly something that’s in our future at some point. Who knows, by the time your great grandchildren start driving, cars just might come with holographic drivers too.

  • Leave it
    • * Probably decades ahead of its time in design
    • * Expensive technology

Press Release

Photo Credit: Lexus

Showcasing Lexus’ vision for a compact SUV of the future, the UX Concept will make its world debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. Designed by ED2, Lexus’ design center in the South of France, the UX Concept represents a new step in the company’s design journey and a redefinition of the driving experience.

“The biggest challenge for any designer is always to create something new and original, yet with relevance to both the customer and the brand. Overall, this is a product which gives another hint of the potential for Lexus’ design approach to satisfy those criteria. The expression of a progressive, strong yet artistic, and premium product which further enhances Lexus’ unique and challenging brand position.” - Simon Humphries, President of ED2

A powerful reinterpretation of the Lexus design signatures, the UX Concept reflects the brand’s determination that each of its models should have a unique, standalone character with a strong concept behind it; represented here by the powerful, “inside-out” design concept and deconstructed interior styling. This bold design embodies imaginative, forward-thinking technologies to provide occupants with a fully immersive experience. This sensation is generated through cockpit ergonomics which flow from the driver’s body, and innovative three-dimensional HMI technology.

The vehicle also features a first design execution of a breakthrough seat technology, the Kinetic Seat Concept, designed by Lexus in response to a re-evaluation of the principles of car seat occupancy.

The entry luxury SUV segment is the fastest-growing luxury segment in the U.S. Thanks to two groups—young customers upgrading in the quest for distinctive styling, a versatile interior, and an engaging driving experience, and premium customers looking for an impressive, high-function interior in a vehicle sized for urban living. The UX Concept highlights Lexus’ intention to attract an ever-wider group of new, younger, ever-connected urban customers (“Urbanites”) to the brand for the first time.

RADICAL COMPACT CROSSOVER PACKAGING
“Our brief was to create a new genre of compact crossover; a vehicle that could progress the user experience and create something unique from a customer’s point of view. Inspiration came from many sources, but the main source of inspiration comes from the key phrases representing the character of the car: ’robust yet agile’ and ’inside-out styling concept’. This comes from one of the Lexus fundamentals, the ‘Yet’ philosophy. We were looking for inspiration representing the synergy of contrasting values, in architecture, fashion design or nature, with a view to fusing lightness, structural, artistic and emotional values.” - Stephan Rasmussen, Exterior Designer, ED2

The UX Concept is a new variety of four-seater crossover which contrasts the appearance and 4x4 presence of an off-roader with a low ground clearance and a coupe-like driving position, reinforcing the dynamic performance promise embedded in the compact packaging of the design.

UNIQUE “INSIDE-OUT” DESIGN CONCEPT
“The ‘inside-out’ concept came from a lot of discussions within the team. We wanted to show the human-centric aspect of the concept in a visually as well as philosophically strong way. A strong symbiosis between the exterior and interior was felt to be important by all the designers involved. To create the anticipation from the exterior, which could then have a visual link and expand into the interior, was a key goal.”- Alexandre Gommier, Interior Designer, ED2

At the heart of the design lies a futuristic, “inside-out” concept which creates a strong synergy between exterior and interior styling. In top view, this is most strongly represented by an X-shaped movement in the architecture from the cabin outwards and vice-versa.

In the front, the car’s fenders flow seamlessly into the cabin to form housings for e-mirror screens showing the image from door-mounted, rear-facing cameras. The dashboard top sits lower than these screens to combine a deconstructed look with excellent forward visibility. To the rear, the bodywork again flows into the cabin, forming the main structure of the rear-seat headrests.

X-shaped movement from the inside outwards is similarly reinforced through the 4x4 style emphasis of the powerful fenders, with aerodynamically efficient wheel arch cladding adding a further dimension to the design.

VISIBLE INNER SKELETON
The “inside-out” styling theme is further emphasized by the wheel arches, roof bars, and door cameras. They are all finished in the same material, and represent a form of continuous yet interrupted bone structure. For example, the inner skeleton of the vehicle coming into view as the roof bar penetrates the cabin—creating the A pillar structure—and re-emerging as the door camera mounting.

HIGHLY SCULPTURAL FLUID DESIGN
“We worked extensively in clay as well as digital methods; not to be the most efficient, but to be able to achieve the best quality of surfacing and design. Having a highly skilled Takumi clay modelling team on the project allowed us to explore many ways to create the beautiful surface interactions that are a key element to this design’s muscular yet elegant boldness.”- Stephan Rasmussen, Exterior Designer, ED2

A further evolution of the Lexus spindle grille marks an important step forward, wherein the whole volume surrounding the grille creates the identity of the vehicle—a more three-dimensional starting point which informs the shape of the body shell. These key external elements are linked together by highly sculptural surfaces reminiscent of a classic sports car. This architecture is unique to Lexus; a bold horizontal design is achieved through volume rather than merely character lines, where the sum of those lines equals the horizontal axis of the car. From the side, the length of the hood further emphasizes the strong linear aspect of the design, while the peak of the cabin is deliberately set back to create a dynamic and characteristic profile.

FORM-DEFINING PAINTWORK
Even the body color has been designed to emphasize the shape of the car. In the absence of character lines, the multi-layered depth of the newly-developed “Immersive Amethyst” paintwork serves to highlight volume changes, giving definition to the sculpture and expressing the car as a volume rather than simply a line-oriented design.

INNOVATIVE DESIGN SIGNATURE DETAILS
The “inside-out” concept is not merely reflected in the overall architecture of the design, but also in numerous exterior and interior details throughout the vehicle, many of which represent a more challenging interpretation of several Lexus design signatures.

The L-shaped Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are now positioned to pierce the main lamps, and the rear lamp design is now more three-dimensional and integrated within the rear spoiler. Together, the front and rear lamps create a strong horizontal axis through the vehicle body. In an evolution of the DRL principle, light fibers spanning the air vents at the front bumper’s edges are a similar design to the grille pattern. The mesh pattern of the grille itself spreads radially outwards from the logo and is picked up by the adjacent light fibers, emphasizing the width of the car and giving it an even stronger road presence.

Even the unique tires blur the accepted boundaries of materials and continue the “inside-out” theme. The tire design is created using a hi-tech laser carving processes to express two unique aspects. The dynamic tread pattern maximizes road contact for grip, while the side wall emphasizes a crossover feel through unique sections and seamless integration with the wheel design. A section of the wheel continues into the rubber, making the spokes a visual joint between different sections of tire; the result is the appearance of the wheel and tire as one, rather than separate elements.

UNIQUE, SEE-THROUGH A PILLAR
A unique, “see-through” A pillar serves to blur the boundaries between the exterior and interior. While the creation of a fully-transparent polycarbonate A pillar is feasible, the UX Concept communicates the message of transparency through the use of polycarbonate fins attached to an aluminum member.

TWO PERCEPTIONS OF LUXURY IN ONE CABIN
Signaled by the sharp, aggressive front and softer, more welcoming rear fender exterior treatments, the cabin of the UX offers two different perceptions of luxury.

The front represents agile sophistication and driver engagement, the rear—styled as a welcoming, soft lounge sofa which wraps around into the hinged back doors—the comfort and spaciousness of a robust SUV. Linked both by a central axis console element which floats the full length of the cabin and the visual transparency of a unique front-seat design, interior space differences are further reinforced by color scheme. The front cabin is dark, to communicate a premium, driver-focused environment, while the back of the car is light and far brighter to create an attractive, welcoming space.

DECONSTRUCTED INTERIOR
“Deconstruction” is a second key design principle employed in the Lexus UX Concept. This is most powerfully represented in the front of the cabin where, in place of a conventional dashboard, sharp, angular forms overlap and flow past each other to create a strong interplay of shadows and contrasts, making it difficult to identify where they begin or end.

This particularly Japanese approach to design suggests that, to create a fixed point, you merely have to indicate its hypothetical position with converging lines and the brain fills in the gaps to create that point in the mind. Such “indirect expression”—the premise that you don’t actually need to be able to see something to understand it is there—lies at the heart of Lexus’ L-finesse design philosophy.

Within this unique, deconstructed interior, a strong “seat in control” principle remains a Lexus brand signature. And the front passenger area was deliberately not prioritized in order to emphasize the driver’s control of the environment.

BREAKTHROUGH SEAT TECHNOLOGY
The seats of the UX Concept are inspired by the Lexus Kinetic Seat Concept to further enhance the driver experience. This technology is explained more in detail here: http://www.pressroom.lexus.com/releases/lexus-kinetic-seat-concept-premiere-2016-paris-motor-show.htm

IMAGINATIVE 3-D TECHNOLOGY
A development of Lexus’ dual-zone instrumentation approach, all on-board HMI technology has been designed to offer progressive customers who live and work in an ever-connected environment an innovative and three-dimensional driver experience.

The upper display, for example, is projected in such a way that it appears at a far-distance, for ease of viewing when driving. The driver’s instrument binnacle houses a transparent globe, floating in the manner of a hologram, in which a combination of analogue and digital information express a functional yet unexpected user interface. And the center console houses a prominent, facetted crystal structure within which a hologram-style display of air conditioning and infotainment system is clearly visible to both driver and front passenger.

LATEST ADVANCED IN-VEHICLE TECHNOLOGIES
The latest advanced in-vehicle electrical technologies are also on display in the new Lexus UX Concept. It features electro-chromatic windows, and the door mirrors are replaced by e-mirror camera housings far slimmer than conventional mirror housing.

Left and right e-mirror images are displayed on internal screens, the integration of which—rather than serving as a mere detail—contributes to the entire “inside-out” architecture of the dashboard design. All switchgear is electrostatic, and housed under transparent covers. The front passenger, who has a different experience of the instrument panel to that of the driver, has a separate center display track pad control built into the door armrest panel.

As a final touch, the fin motif used on the A pillar is repeated on the dashboard to provide a new audio experience for the next-generation Lexus customer: a removable sound bar built into the passenger side of the dashboard.

A NEW APPROACH TO DRIVING ERGONOMICS
In a new departure for Lexus’ Human Machine Interface (HMI) concept, the ergonomics of the cockpit area flow from the driver’s body, via the seat, up to the steering wheel, rather than from a traditional dashboard layout. Combined with innovative, three-dimensional HMI technology, this design approach creates a uniquely immersive driving experience.

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