Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept hints at new flagship LX model

Published: 15 January 2018

► Lexus LF-1 Limitless
► Final teaser pic is here
► See it at NAIAS 2018

Another day, another motor show and another striking Lexus concept car. This time Detroit is the venue and the vehicle’s the LF-1 Limitless – probably the sveltest of SUVs, designed to sit atop of Toyota’s premium wing’s range. It’s demonstrably bigger than the RX (the largest SUV Lexus sells in the UK), with a footprint around the same size as the body-on-frame LX on sale in the USA. 

While we’ve no indication yet whether it’s likely to make production, the LX was launched way back in 2007 and it’s fair to say it’s showing its age now. Could the LF-1 give an early idea of its replacement’s design and technology? It’s possible that a new LX will join the range alongside the car you see here, in a similar sense to Audi planning to offer both Q7 and Q8 models. 

The exterior design is dominated by that distinctive (read: impossible to ignore) ‘spindle’ grille up front, but this time there’s no chrome; LED lighting does the same job instead. It’d certainly stand out at night…

Lexus LF-1 Limitless

At the rear there are what appear to be holes for a false exhaust, but we’re promised these function as vents for airflow over the rear wheels rather than anything gratuitously cosmetic. The unusual split rear spoiler that continues the split panoramic roof’s lines doesn’t appear to have any effect past looks, though. 

Our preview guide to the 2018 Detroit motor show

Just how big is the LF-1 Limitless concept?

It has dimensions fractionally longer, wider and with more space between its axles than a Porsche Cayenne. It’s significantly lower, though – by a whopping 68mm – which means conceptually it’s closer in size to the aforementioned forthcoming Audi Q8. 

Billed as a ‘flagship’ model by Lexus, the LF-1 Limitless has been designed by the CALTY Design Research team in California to work with a number of the firm’s modular powertrains, including hydrogen fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric. 

Lexus LF-1 Limitless

It features autonomous tech in the form of Chauffeur mode, which controls all aspects of driving, including turning signals and lights alongside more conventional active lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control. 

What if I want to do some driving?

But enthusiasts are catered for too – to an extent – thanks to paddleshifters behind the steering wheel and a Manual mode for whichever transmission is fitted. The eagle-eyed among you will spot that Auto, Park and Reverse buttons are on the ‘wheel too, which adds a simplicity of design for the cockpit along with being easier to operate than a standard gearlever arrangement. 

Although it’s been designed as an SUV to accommodate modern car buyers’ demands – and despite our misgivings about the proliferation of such vehicles across the industry, Lexus claims you don’t have to sacrifice speed nor sumptuousness with the LF-1. With that in mind it remains rear-driven, despite its 4x4 appearance. 

‘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 saloons,’ said Kevin Hunter, President of CALTY Design Research. ‘The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept incorporates imaginative technology while creating a strong emotional connection by improving the human experience for driver and passengers.’

Tell me more about that interior design…

The driver gets an instrument panel facing towards them flanked by a pair of rear-view screens, along with a gesture control system that replaces many physical buttons for an uncluttered cabin design.

You’ve got a quartet of identical seats in the LF-1 and each one gets its own multimedia screen, which can also display journey information from the nav in a similar way to modern aeroplanes. Said navigation system also tries to ‘anticipate’ occupants’ needs en-route – for example suggesting fuel and rest stops or meal venues, and booking hotel rooms while you’re on the move.

Each back seat passenger can choose their own infotainment and climate settings using a haptic controller in the rear seat centre console, which is almost certainly going to cause havoc when the kids get their hands on it. 

Ambient lighting features heavily in the LF-1, with a ‘dramatic’ drive mode-specific lighting sequence promised when you switch the car on. There are pinhole perforations in the wood door trim that let light through to supplement the more obvious LEDs elsewhere in the cabin. 

So, what do you reckon? Could you see the LF-1 on your driveway alongside your LC sportscar? Let us know in the comments below… 

Lexus LF-1 Limitless: the build-up

The new concept car was designed at Toyota's Calty design studio in Southern California, so this is a decidedly US-focused show car. Lexus teased the car with a set of darkened teaser images which didn't give away much about this new flagship SUV; piece them together and you got a few hints of a successor to the RX or LX SUVs, the top-dog crossovers in Lexus's range. 

The RX was only launched in 2015 and Lexus has just confirmed a new seven-seat version is coming - so don't expect a replacement any time soon. The LX, meanwhile, is quite an old, full-size crossover. Does this suggest a replacement of the US-spec SUV is nigh?

Lexus LF-1 Limitless

More stories from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit 

By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website

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