Such a grille had never been seen before. The spindle grille, that huge hourglass that so unmistakably marks out Lexus models, is one of the widest in today’s automotive panorama, but the one sported by the LS+ Concept at the last Tokyo Show wraps up the entire front, extending not only sideways but also upwards, to the point of rimming the front of the bonnet.
“As we were dealing with a concept car, we were given free rein to try out new ideas”, explains Hiroaki Hakamata, Group Manager of Lexus Design and Exterior Lead Designer of the project, whom we met with the exterior designer Nozomi Hirai in Tokyo. The task assigned to them was ideal for exploring and proposing new stylistic solutions in the name of L-Finesse, the styling code of the Toyota group’s premium brand.
“The initial brief stated that the car had to incorporate new technologies, from laser lights and autonomous driving to aerodynamic efficiency solutions, and the design had to reflect all this”, continues Hakamata. The silhouette is that of the new LS, the Lexus range-topping saloon, which has grown in size but now features a much leaner profile and “coupé” styling in the roof line and tail treatment. The eye-catching scene-stealer, however, is the front: “The spindle grille is evolutionary by nature, it’s not fixed”, explains Nozomi Hirai.
“Here we wanted to make a strong statement, indicating that it really is evolving. In this case, it has become a very three-dimensional object in which light and colour play an important role, just as its contribution to aerodynamic performance is significant”.
The grille’s three-dimensional effect is accentuated by the blue lighting and darker side areas, while the signature Lexus mesh pattern opens and closes on the basis of aerodynamic requirements, creating a surface movement.
The light units also refresh the front connotations, the designers explain: “The relationship between the elements has changed, usually the headlights are a dominant presence and the daytime running lights [DRL] are less evident, here it is the reverse. The DRLs remain L-shaped, but are much longer”. It is as if the air flows that hit the front face exert an energy that “pushes” on the forms, flanked by the particular line of the mudguards.
The overall package is rich in triangular shapes that blend in with the volumes, a theme dear to Lexus design and which on the LS+ Concept is reflected consistently in the design of the tail. Laser light units front and rear, as well as small, stylistic electronic rear-view mirrors, are also part of the futuristic look. This concept deliberately focuses on the exterior (in Tokyo the interior was not revealed), but the designers are working intensively on developing the cockpits in view of the integration of artificial intelligence: “The aim is to create an emotional connection with people”, concludes Hakamata.