What does it take to be a flagship vehicle? For starters, it has to be impressive. Really impressive. It has to define a brand’s look, tout the latest technology, and provide a driving experience that rivals any and all challengers. That’s a tall order, but Lexus is looking to fill it – not with a new two- or four-door, but with an SUV.

Currently leading the marque is the full-size luxury LS sedan. Originally offered in 1989, the LS is expected to see the introduction of its fifth generation for the 2017 model year, complete with all the cutting-edge goodies that Lexus can muster. However, Jeff Bracken, Lexus’ division general manager, spoke to Reuters early in August, saying Lexus might add another flagship model alongside the LS, and that “it doesn’t have to be a sedan.”

The move isn’t all that surprising when considering just how much the premium SUV segment has grown recently. According to Truecar, sales for SUVs priced at $75,000 and above is 44 percent higher this year compared to last, far exceeding the 13.2 percent growth for cars in the same price range.

In the same Reuters interview, Bracken mentioned Land Rover, the Cadillac Escalade and offerings from the major German luxury automakers as examples of the premium SUV done right. Other makes are capitalizing on the demand as well, with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar and Maserati all getting in on the SUV game for the first time.

So what will Lexus bring to the table? Bracken said details on the new complementary flagship will be revealed in January, but until then, read on for our predictions.

Continue reading for the full story.


We went ahead and rendered what we think the future flagship Lexus SUV might look like given the automaker’s current lineup and styling direction. Overall, it’s a continuation of the L-Finesse design language, which was first introduced in the mid-2000s and is characterized primarily by a low-set grille that dominates the front fascia.

Up top, the new SUV is expected to bear a floating roof and blacked-out C-pillar.

Recently, Lexus’ vehicles have taken this language to extremes, expanding the spindle grille and incorporating heavy lines with piercing creases up front and in the profile. It looks futuristic and sharp, like a video-game car made from a just a handful of polygons.

All these attributes are expected to make an appearance on the new SUV. Additional cues will come from the redesigned 2016 Lexus RX and 2015 Lexus NX, including narrow LED headlights underlined by daytime running lamp swishes. Up top, the new SUV is expected to bear a floating roof and blacked-out C-pillar. Extending the roofline in the rear will be a subtle, curved spoiler, similar to the one found on the RX. In back, the taillights will wrap around into the car’s flanks.

The stance will be quite high, riding on wheels that are at least 20 inches in diameter. Dimensionally, the car will be big, like the full-size LX.

Behind the windshield will be a discreet sensor bar to support autonomous driving features (see the following Interior section for details). Sensors will also be hidden in the grille and bumpers.


Lexus has long prided itself on offering its customers the very latest in automotive technology. And in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last decade, it should come as no surprise that autonomous vehicles are the next big thing to hit the auto industry. This tech has the potential to be as world-changing as the invention of internal combustion, and as such, makes like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Tesla and Nissan are all rushing to be the first to bring it to market.

So, what should we expect? For starters, an SUV that can pilot itself on a crowded highway or city street without control inputs from a human driver.

Lexus is no different. Not only does it already offer a slew of semi-autonomous features, like lane-keep assist and automatic braking, it also seems well on its way to more advanced autonomous motoring. Further (circumstantial) evidence comes from the fact that Google, one of the primary developers of this technology, relies on a fleet of Lexus RX450h SUVs for research.

In the past, Lexus’ parent company, Toyota, has declared a disinterest in cutting out the driver completely when it comes to vehicle operation. Instead, the official tagline is one of safety and assistance, with autonomous features installed to enhance the driving experience rather than replace it.

Of course, that vague goal still lends quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to speculation. Most likely, Toyota is offering this philosophy as a pre-emptive gambit in the upcoming marketing wars over autonomous vehicle features. If the market demands something, rest assured – the core result will be the same.

So, what should we expect? For starters, an SUV that can pilot itself on a crowded highway or city street without control inputs from a human driver. That includes maintaining an optimal follow distance, tracking through corners, adapting to real-time traffic conditions and navigating the quickest available route. We might even see a drop-off/pick-up feature that’ll have your Lexus drive itself to and from a designated location, slotting into a nearby parking space while it waits.

Given the amount of equipment, development time and support required to make all these features actually work, it’s entirely reasonable to assume the first real example of autonomous driving will come from a premium, ultra-luxury vehicle. And finally, if you have time to take a break from manning the wheel, shouldn’t it be in a cabin big enough to stretch a little?

At the very least, expect the new Lexus flagship to have all the latest semi-autonomous features, such as automatic braking, adaptive radar cruise control, self-parking, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, and others.

While all this certainly sounds like fully autonomous driving, with the human pilot essentially becoming a non-factor, Lexus will most likely employ systems like infrared eye detection to make sure the driver isn’t nodding off should he need to reassume control (even computers get confused every so often). Once again, the intention is not to rely completely on the robots, but rather make the driving experience as easy and streamlined as possible.

At the very least, expect the new Lexus flagship to have all the latest semi-autonomous features, such as automatic braking, adaptive radar cruise control, self-parking, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, and others.

What’s more, it’s safe to assume the absolute finest in luxury appointment. Aluminum and wood grain surfaces will abound, while creamy leather will cover just about everything else. The cabin space will be quiet and comfortable, a refuge from the world rushing around it. Up top will be an extended moonroof to let in some sunshine if desired.

Sitting next to the fine materials will be screens, screens, and more screens, each with touch control and access to the top-of-the-line infotainment system. A large panel display will sit in the dash up front, providing the main hub for control over the vehicle’s electronic systems and fed by a rearview camera when manually reversing, while passengers in the rear seats will enjoy screens mounted into the seatbacks.

A concert-quality stereo system, Blueray and DVD player, smartphone connectivity, USB charging points, keyless entry and a push-button starter will all be standard.

Like the exterior, LEDs will be used for the interior lighting, as well as the all-digital gauges and instruments.

There will be automatic everything – the climate control will use infrared sensors to gauge passenger comfort and adjust the temperature appropriately. The rear lift gate will open and close with a single button.

I’m tempted to mention gesture control, but given the current interest in this tech, I don’t think it’ll be as widespread as others claims it will be. Voice command is a safer bet.

Of course, the rear seats and the third row will fold down for extra storage.


Part of the rise in SUV popularity over the last few years has been a direct result of low gas prices. How long the party will last is anyone’s guess, but if Lexus is planning on building the SUV of the future, it’ll most likely have an innovative propulsion system. And if it’s going to be a flagship, it’ll have to be fast, too.

Hydrogen is one possibility. Toyota is already producing the 2016 Toyota Mirai, one of the first hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles sold commercially in large numbers. However, the technology is still in its infancy, and while green early adopters are eager to scoop up the compact, those interested in an ultra-luxury SUV may be discouraged by the newness and lack of supportive infrastructure.

If Lexus is planning on building the SUV of the future, it’ll most likely have an innovative propulsion system.

The solution, therefore, has to be hybrid. Toyota is already at the forefront in this space with the Prius, and the current 2013 Lexus LS 600h sedan is offered with a 5.0-liter V-8 mated to an electric drive motor and full-time AWD.

The new flagship SUV will almost definitely be an extension of this. First, the hybrid V-8 will get a power boost with the addition of two turbochargers. Rated at 438 horsepower in the current LS, the new uber-SUV will most likely see a rise in output to around 600 horsepower. Permanent AWD with advanced torque vectoring will take care of traction, while an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission will route the power. Performance figures will look like 0-to-60 in 4.5 seconds and a top speed over 150 mph.

That’s mighty fast for any vehicle, let along a massive SUV. Keeping all that heft glued to the pavement will be more technology, like height-adjustable adaptive air suspension that offers multiple driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Full Auto, etc.). There will also be more old-school solutions, like a gargantuan tire footprint (at least 325 mm wide). The brakes will be carbon ceramic units derived from the venerable LF-A supercar, while extensive aluminum and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic will help keep the curb weight just below 3 tons.


Between the autonomous driving tech, premium interior luxury and enormously powerful engine package, I’d expect this flagship SUV to be priced at around $200,000 in top spec.


2017 Bentley Bentayga

2017 Bentley Bentayga High Resolution Exterior
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Bentley has never offered an SUV before, but that’s changed with the Bentayga. Officially debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Bentayga has already garnered 4,000 pre-orders, and offers the same world-class interior and luxury as the 2016 Bentley Continental GT, but in full-size SUV form. Pricing starts at $229,100, but that number will rise very quickly with each option box ticked.

Read our full review here.

2017 Rolls-Royce SUV

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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We’ve heard a few rumors that Rolls-Royce is also working on its very own first-ever SUV, and while official details are non-existent at this point, we went ahead and did some speculating anyway.

The main crux of a Rolls SUV would be the combination of characteristically high levels of luxury and all-terrain capability. Should the high-end British carmaker actually follow through, we expect the SUV to bring a front fascia that follows current styling practices, complete with a large chrome grille. Inside will be one of the plushest interiors money can buy in the SUV segment. Drivetrain duties will probably go to a powerful V-12 that’s capable of rivaling the Lexus’ hybrid setup.

Read our full review here.


Traditionally, Lexus has enjoyed massive success with SUVs. The RX, for example, has been one of its best sellers, competing with and even superseding stout competition from Europe and the U.S. Now, with numerous makes all jostling for entry into the ultra-premium SUV market, Lexus looks like it might have the goods to continue that tradition.

But one question threatens to ruin it all – is Lexus too late to the party? January is a long way off to hear what the marque has in mind for its new flagship, especially with models like the Bentayga already out.

There’s one big saving grace. One of Lexus’ strengths is in offering the most cutting-edge gizmos on the market, especially when it comes to its flagships, and the delay, also means the new SUV will likely be light-years ahead of the competition technologically.

Will ultra-premium SUV buyers postpone their purchase to gain access to advanced autonomous driving features and the latest hybrid powerplant? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Lexus Flagship SUV Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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  • Leave it
    • Very expensive
    • Surprising amount of competition
    • A bit late to the party

Source: Reuters

Jonathan Lopez
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