The world’s first flagship crossover?

Back in 2014, Toyota got us excited with the FT-1 concept, an aggressive-looking sports car that many believed it previewed the next-generation Supra. The spy shots suggest that the production model won’t get that many styling cues from the radical concept, but the FT-1 remains the company’s greatest flagship car to date. Four years have passed, and Lexus is using a similar nameplate, now revised to LF-1, to showcase its own future flagship vehicle. But unlike its parent company, Lexus wants its range-topping luxury model to be a crossover. Meet the LF-1 Limitless, Lexus’ idea for a new genre of luxury vehicle: the flagship crossover.

Unveiled at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, the LF-1 Limitless preview a brand-new niche in the premium market. Or at least that’s what Lexus claims. Just like it established the luxury crossover segment with the RX 300 some two decades ago, the Japanese firm thinks it could invent a new class with the LF-1, the flagship crossover. Yes, it sounds a bit confusing, mainly because "flagship" is usually associated with the largest vehicle in a lineup, so the LF-1 would make more sense as a model placed above the LX, but hey, it’s the 21st century and rules have changed. Actually, the current automotive market no longer works by the book, so it’s not as awkward as it seems at first glance.

But it’s all PR talk so far, as Lexus hasn’t confirmed actual production plans for the LF-1. But this crossover looks gorgeous, and it’s packed with the company’s latest technology. Let’s have a closer look below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lexus LF-1 Limitless.

Exterior

  • Massive "spindle" grille
  • Coupe-like roof
  • 22-inch wheels
  • Sporty diffuser
  • Split rear spoiler
  • LED lights
  • Glass roof
2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Exterior
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It’s athletic and muscular, it has a powerful appearance no matter the angle, and it blends performance and practicality

"Like molten metal being forged into a fine Japanese sword, the lines of the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept have the potential to shape the future of a flagship luxury crossover for Lexus," that’s how the Japanese carmaker described the crossover. Quite fancy, huh? Well, I’m not a big fan of fancy PR talk, but I’m so impressed with the LF-1’s design that I’m going to let Lexus get away with this one.

Just look at it. It has the ride height of an SUV, the width of race car, the roof of a coupe, and the overall stance of a full-fledged sports car. It’s athletic and muscular, it has a powerful appearance no matter the angle, and it blends performance and practicality. If this is the future of luxury SUVs, sign me up!

2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Exterior
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It’s the LED lighting around the grille that sets it apart!

The front fascia is somewhat familiar, with the "spindle" grille being the core element of the front end design, just like on all production Lexus models. But the grille is far from regular. Featuring a three-dimensional design with colors developed in-house by CALTY, its ridges are radiating away from the central emblem, suggesting magnetism guiding metal filings into shape. Interestingly enough, there’s not an inch of chrome on the mesh of the frame, but the grille still looks as imposing as they get. It’s the LED lighting around the grille that sets it apart! It lights up to greet the driver on arrival, and it’s a feature we might see on production models soon.

2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Exterior
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The rear features a split spoiler and a glass section that extends above the rear seats

The headlamps are thin and sharp, with two separate LED stripes extending toward the fender and into the bumper, respectively. The muscular hood rounds off the powerful appearance. The profile is a mix of clean and sculpted surfaces. While the front fender line extends from the hood all the way to the bottom of the C pillar without changing direction, the side skirts and the rear fenders have a more organic look with deep creases and sharp lines.

Around back, the thin taillights that seem to float over the rear fenders meet in a slender stripe that runs across the tailgate. The latter includes a split spoiler and a glass section that extends above the rear seats. Below we can see a big diffuser with a Formula One-style red light in the middle and big vents at the corners. Shaped like large exhaust pipes, these vents are actually functional, channeling the air coming past the rear wheels. That’s a big deal now with all production models featuring fake vents in the rear bumper.

Interior

  • Clean layout
  • Top-notch craftsmanship
  • Clutter-free center stack
  • Big display on the dash
  • Sporty steering wheel
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Metallic trim
  • Cocoa Brown leather
  • Chiffon White perforated leather seats
  • Rear seat entertainment
  • Chauffeur mode
  • 4D navigation
2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Interior Wallpaper quality
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Much like the exterior, the interior is a work of art

Much like the exterior, the interior is a work of art. The layout is clean and simple, but the craftsmanship is top notch. The detailing is tasteful, and everything seems to be in the right place.

The dashboard sports a multi-tier design. There’s a main element covered in white leather, a big screen in the background, shiny trim on the center stack, and a black lower section. The instrument cluster sits high behind the steering wheel, just like in a race car. The cockpit was designed to allow the driver to concentrate on driving the car, so all analog knobs and buttons seen in regular cars have been removed in favor of motion-activated controls. An additional touchscreen is placed in the center stack, but the infotainment display was moved in front of the windshield, just like a head-up display.

2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Interior Wallpaper quality
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The center stack and center console wrap around the driver seat

The center stack and center console wrap around the driver seat, with the champagne-colored trim emphasizing that effect. The steering wheel has controls on all three spokes, enabling the driver to use all features without having to look at the dashboard. The "park" and "reverse" functions can also be activated from here.

The metallic trim matches the exterior color and adds a pleasant contrast to the dark Cocoa Bean leather on the center console and door panels and the Chiffon White perforated leather on the seats. The individual seats in the rear are identical to those in the front for similar comfort and enhanced legroom. Rear-seat passengers have access to an individual display screen for adjusting climate control and entertainment options.

2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Interior Wallpaper quality
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The LF-1 is also equipped with Chauffeur mode, which allows for hands-free operation

The LF-1 is also equipped with Chauffeur mode, which allows for hands-free operation thanks to the vehicle’s by-wire steering, braking, acceleration, lights and signals. Yes, it’s similar to Tesla’s Autopilot system and not yet available in production models.

The tech package also includes a four-dimensional navigation system which adds the element of time. It acts as a concierge for the occupants by anticipating the needs of the driver and passengers based on the progress, traffic and road conditions along the programmed trip, suggesting fuel stops, rest breaks and restaurants. It can even make hotel reservations. Navigation and route information can be displayed on passenger tablets and smartphones using the car’s wireless system.

Well, it’s a concept car, so I’m not surprised that Lexus debuted so many new technologies with it.

Drivetrain

  • Rear-wheel drive architecture
  • Could use hydrogen or electric drivetrain
  • Gasoline and hybrid also possible
2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Exterior Wallpaper quality
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It could use fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline, or all-electric drivetrains

Lexus left the drivetrain section open for the guessing game, saying that the possibilities are limitless and could include "fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline, or even all-electric" drivetrain. A V-8 engine in this crossover would be great news for the gearhead in me, but I’m well aware that this won’t be an option when this vehicle goes into production. Lexus is already dropping V-8 engines in favor of smaller, twin-turbo V-6 powerplants and it’s already a fact that by around 2025, every Lexus model will be available either as an electrified model or will have a hybrid option.

But this isn’t necessarily bad news. Electric motor and battery technologies have come a long way, and they can now deliver solid performance. So an all-electric or hybrid LF-1 could be just as good as a V-8 model. Heck, Tesla also delivers incredible performance with the Model X, and I don’t see why Lexus won’t be able to do the same five years from now. The really big news here is that the concept crossover rides on a rear-wheel drive chassis. AWD would be nice as an option, but I’d take RWD over it any day of the week.

Conclusion

2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Exterior
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The LF-1 Limited was my favorite concept vehicle from the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. And I have to point out that I’m not a big fan of crossovers. This vehicle just seems perfect. It has the sporty design of a fastback sedan, the increased ride height of an SUV, and all the technology you could want in a modern vehicle. Sure, it doesn’t have a specific drivetrain, and it won’t go into production in this form anytime soon (or never?), but it previews a bright future for Lexus. And while it may seem a bit wild design-wise, the gap between the LF-1 concept and Lexus’ current production models isn’t that big. It’s actually very doable a couple of years from now. It just needs a cool interior and a powerful drivetrain, be it hybrid of fully electric. Okay, Lexus, where and when can I sign up for the LF-1?

  • Leave it
    • * Just a concept model for now
    • * Do we need a new crossover niche?

References

2018 Lexus LF-1 Limitless Exterior
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There’s Space For The Lexus LF-1 Limitless Concept in the Lexus Lineup

The Lexus LF-1 Limitless Is the Ultimate Luxury Crossover Exterior
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The Lexus LF-1 Limitless Is the Ultimate Luxury Crossover

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Read more Lexus news.

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Read more Detroit Auto Show news.

Press release

Like molten metal being forged into a fine Japanese sword, the lines of the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept have the potential to shape the future of a flagship luxury crossover for Lexus.

Lexus established the luxury crossover segment two decades ago with the global debut of the RX 300 at Detroit. It remains the top-selling luxury crossover despite nearly 50 competitors that have since entered the segment.

Now, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept introduces a new genre of luxury vehicle: the flagship crossover. Combining high performance with unrestrained luxury, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless is a showcase of technology, innovation and the latest evolution of design at Lexus.

Like its name, the possibilities for powertrains are limitless. The LF-1 concept could be powered by fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline, 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.

The innovative spirit of the LF-1 was created at CALTY Design Research in California. The design language is rooted in the simple yet elegant design concept dubbed “molten katana”. This design visualization fuses the organic shapes of liquid metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword. Imagining that shift from a smooth, flowing mass into a solid, chiseled shape formed the basis for the fluid, yet aggressive design of the LF-1 Limitless.

“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,” said Kevin Hunter, president, CALTY Design Research. “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 Lexus LF-1’s exaggerated dash-to-axle ratio gives it an athletic profile that’s more sports car than station wagon. Combined with a cabin that sits deep within the rear-wheel drive chassis and aggressive 22-inch wheels barely contained 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 emphasize 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’s been taken even further, with details that suggest the start of the spindle form at the rear of the vehicle that then continues forward toward the nose. The grille itself features a three-dimensional design with colors 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.

“There’s no doubt that luxury crossovers are an increasingly popular choice for luxury customers,” said Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken. “This LF-1 Limitless concept illustrates what could happen if Lexus were to add a flagship crossover to our line-up. It’s a gorgeous execution and we’re anxious to see our customers’ and dealers’ response.”

In profile, the LF-1 has a clearly defined flow from front to rear starting with the front fender line that extends from the hood all the way to the bottom of the C 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 broad, powerful stance.

A split spoiler grabs your eye at the rear of the Lexus LF-1, but 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 thanks to the split spoiler on each side.

Maximum comfort for every passenger was CALTY’s goal for the cabin. The Lexus 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 by removing distracting analog knobs and buttons in favor 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.

The metallic interior trim is finished in the same champagne-tinted color as the exterior, but with a satin finish for a warmer feel. Accents around the instrument panel and on the steering wheel further enhance the cockpit feel for the driver. Additional metallic accents throughout the interior contrast with the dark Cocoa Bean leather trim and seats covered in Chiffon White perforated leather.

Lighting also plays a key role in the look and feel of the interior. Engaging the start button initiates a dramatic lighting sequence based on which of the several available driving modes is engaged. For a more subtle effect, the wooden door trim has tiny perforations that allow indirect light from miniature LEDs to shine in a variety of colors that complement the overhead lights.

Technology enhances the luxurious feel of the Lexus LF-1 by expanding the options offered to the driver. It starts with the LF-1’s Chauffeur mode, which allows for hands-free operation thanks to the vehicle’s by-wire steering, braking, acceleration, lights and signals. The result is smooth, carefree driving with maximum efficiency and reduced risk of accidents.

For sporty, hands-on driving, all powertrain controls are on the steering wheel to keep the driver engaged and focused on the road. Paddles mounted to the steering wheel control the acceleration for sporty driving while buttons on the lower section of the steering wheel engage options like park and reverse.
There is also a four-dimensional navigation system which builds on traditional systems by adding the element of time to the equation. It acts as a concierge for the occupants by anticipating the needs of the driver and passengers based on the progress, traffic and road conditions along the programmed trip, suggesting fuel stops, rest breaks and restaurants, even offering to make hotel reservations. Navigation and route information are displayed on the in-dash monitor, the rear seat entertainment screens, or wirelessly connected to passengers’ tablets and smart phones.

Touch-responsive haptic controls easily reached from the steering wheel interface with the 4D navigation system and integrated comfort and entertainment systems. A touch-tracer pad embedded in the leather-covered center console supports character recognition for data entry. An additional haptic controller in the rear seat center console allows passengers to make their own comfort and entertainment choices.
With its innovative technology and captivating styling, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept represents the potential for an amazing experience for future luxury customers.

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