Lexus cars to become ‘more emotional’ and sportier

Published: 09 November 2014

The next generation of Lexus cars will become sportier and ‘more emotional,’ the European chief has spelled out to CAR – and that includes further full-fat sporting F models.

The news may excite doubters who’ve always assumed Lexus to be comfortable, reliable barges. But it could equally worry those who fear that the Japanese may be about to throw out the baby with the bathwater as they chase the European crowd’s obsession with sporty DNA.

Why is Lexus choosing the sporty BMW route?

Lexus is a relative minnow in the premium segment, selling around half a million cars a year globally, less than a third of what Audi, BMW and Mercedes do. In Europe, Lexus is even smaller: it sold only 40,000 cars here in 2013.

The company believes it must add dynamism to its legendary refinement, top-notch dealer service and clever hybrid technology. ‘The next generation of products will be sharper in terms of precision and sportiness,’ European vice president Alain Uyttenhoven told CAR.

He said the move was directed by Toyota chief Akio Toyoda, a keen racer who recognises that Toyota has become too bland. He’s already backed cars such as the GT86 – and now he’s turning his attention to Lexus.

The next generation of sporting Lexus models

‘He is keen that the future products will be fun to drive,’ said Uyttenhoven. ‘The LFA announced that Lexus could go from comfort, refinement and silence to being fun to drive too. From now on, we mean it. The RCF costs a sixth of the £350,000 the LFA cost, but will deliver 80% of the fun.’

It’s not just about raw performance and steroidal bhp outputs. The designs will become bolder and more distinctive, too. If you thought the new NX was shocking-looking, wait until you see future models…

And Uyttenhoven hinted that more F models – like the bonkers ISF and RCF – were in the pipeline. ‘You will have more F models, not just F Sport models [Lexus’s S-line trim, accounting for a quarter of its UK sales] in the future. You will see a move towards more emotion, more passion in our cars.

‘Are we going to have performance hybrids in the future? It’s possible, we have the technology from Le Mans… It’s not impossible, but you are adding a lot of weight.’ Instead, expect other fuel-saving tech, such as the RCF’s twin Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles.

How’s Lexus doing?

Lexus is attempting to double its European sales by the end of the decade to 100,000 cars a year. This year it will shift 52,000 and the addition of the NX compact crossover will swell that figure to 60,000 in 2015, claimed Uyttenhoven.

The growth will come from a raft of new models, and he hinted that downsizing is also on the cards. The CT started that trend, but the company is believed to be preparing even smaller models to broaden its product portfolio.

As Lexus celebrates its first 25 years, you wonder how much the firm will change in the next 25. Let’s hope it retains its independent vibe and doesn’t go chasing BMW too much. Look where that’s got Infiniti…

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet