With the LF-1 Limitless concept, Lexus aims to introduce a new genre of luxury vehicle: the flagship crossover. The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept combines high performance with unrestrained luxury and is a showcase of technology, innovation, and the latest evolution of design at Lexus. But is this exactly new? Aren’t there “flagship crossovers” already? What makes the Lexus LF-1 Limitless so special?
For starters, Lexus (nee Toyota) says the LF-1 concept could be a fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline, or all-electric. So that’s all pretty cool. Lexus goes even further to say that by around 2025, every Lexus will be available either as an electric model, or have an electrified option.
The LF-1 concept was created at CALTY Design Research in California, which is an interesting twist. CALTY says the design fuses the organic shapes of liquid metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword, which sounds about what you’d expect to hear about a concept car sitting on a stand at the North American International Auto Show.
Lexus says the LF-1 has an exaggerated dash-to-axle ratio (which is a new phrase for me) that’s more sports car than station wagon. The cabin itself sits deep within the rear-wheel drive chassis, riding on aggressive 22-inch wheels encompassed under those bulging fenders. The low roofline and elevated ride height, according to Lexus, shows how the crossover is designed for performance and practicality.
Sadly, like all current Lexus models, the spindle grille is seen on the LF-1. Lexus says this is a core element to the overall design. I say it still looks like a huge mistake. The profile of the LF-1 has a visibly distinct flow from front to back, starting with the front fender line all the way to the bottom of the C pillar. Out back there is a split spoiler to grab the air (and your attention). The sculpted openings at the back corners are actually vents for the air coming past the rear wheels; it might be easy to first mistake them for exhaust pipes.
The cabin was designed so every passenger gets maximum comfort. The Lexus LF-1 follows the Japanese tradition of omotenashi, or hospitality, by being welcoming to all who enter. The cockpit is about the driver and the task at hand, accomplished by eliminating the “distracting” analog knobs and buttons in favor of motion-activated controls and minimalist displays. I could laugh and point out how this probably won’t work, but hey, show car, NAIAS, etc. etc. etc., a pass for Lexus here.
The front passenger space is more open, with fewer controls and a wide, unobstructed view of the dashboard. The people in back get the same seats as those up front with generous legroom and individual display screens for adjusting the climate control or entertainment options (i.e. keeping the rugrats quiet on long trips).
The interior is trimmed in a metallic finish in the same champagne-tinted color as the exterior, but with a satin finish for a warmer feel. Also, I feel compelled to point out that champagne was the color of Carmela Soprano’s SUV and that is not a good thing. Lexus added accents around the instrument panel and on the steering wheel to augment the cockpit feel for the driver. Other metallic accents contrast with the dark Cocoa Bean leather trim, and the seats covered in Chiffon White perforated leather. I’m not sure whether it’s those color names or how the color combination actually looks, but it makes me teeter toward thinking it’s Liza Minnelli levels of over the top.
Lexus says all powertrain controls are on the steering wheel to keep the driver involved and attentive to the road. Yeah, sure, whatever, but here is where things get real funky real quick: “Paddles mounted to the steering wheel control the acceleration for sporty driving.” No they don’t, that’s what the pedal on the right does. Goofy high-tech buttons? Oh yeah, buttons on the lower section of the steering wheel engage options like park and reverse. Try not to accidentally hit them while cruising at freeway speeds.
The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept is on display at the North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center, downtown Detroit, Michigan. The show officially opens to the public on Saturday, January 20th.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format.