DETROIT – “This is not a confirmation, but…” Say that and we know it’s coming, so we’re betting the bank that Lexus’ LF-1 Limitless Concept will eventually be showing up in showrooms.
Not in its present concept form, of course, but it shouldn’t take an enormous amount of work to turn its flowing lights and camera-based mirrors into something that’s viable for production as a Lexus “flagship” crossover model.
When it was driven onto the stage, Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice-president and general manager, said it “could become a new member of the Lexus family.” The company says the LF-1 is autonomous, thanks to a “Chauffeur Mode” that includes automatic braking, acceleration, and steer-by-wire. All of that is already available on many consumer vehicles, but there are a few features that aren’t here yet, but certainly don’t sound all that far into the future.
These include an adaptive air suspension that gathers information from the navigation system and online weather reports, and uses it to determine how to set itself up for the next stretch of road. The Web-connected navigation system monitors the selected route, and can warn the driver when it’s time to take a break or consider stopping at an indicated fuel station, or even make a hotel reservation on its own.
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The Lexus “spindle” grille is still very much an acquired taste, but the rest of this crossover is impressive. It was created at the company’s CALTY design studio in California, and is meant to look like flowing metal. The nose is long, the rear door handles are hidden away in the glass, and 22-inch wheels reside in the large wells. In crossover fashion, the roofline is low but the ride height is high. And, unusually for most of today’s vehicles, there isn’t any chrome.
What’s under the hood was not revealed, but the company says that the LF-1 could potentially be powered by gasoline, hybrid or plug-in hybrid driveline, full battery-electric, or a hydrogen fuel cell. By 2025, every Lexus model sold worldwide will be available with some form of electrification, either as a hybrid or full electric, said the company.
The LF-1 makes a big deal out of light: for starters, the front LED lights and badge progressively illuminate as the driver gets close to it. The rear tail and brake lights sit above the body and wrap around the trunk. Inside, fibre-optic lights glow out of the wood trim, and the colour and sequence of the light show – yes, there’s a light show – is determined by the selected driving mode.
That might likely stay just as a feature on the concept car, but while a production model’s dash and instrument cluster would also need to tend toward the practical, expect Lexus – and all automakers, for that matter – to eventually move toward the LF-1’s lack of buttons and dials in favour of motion-activated and tracer-screen controls. Rear-seat passengers also operate their individual climate and infotainment systems through similar flat-screen tracer panels.
Other concept-car features include Park and Reverse buttons on the steering wheel, cameras that display side views on mirror-shaped screens inside the cabin, and a glass roof supporting thin panels that contain the high-mounted brake lights.