New LC takes Lexus closer to emotion target

New LC takes Lexus closer to emotion target
Koji Sato, chief engineer of Lexus LC
PHOTO: Lexus

Lexus is striving to be a "more emotional brand", and it plans to achieve this through styling and performance.

The result? Future models from the luxury division of Toyota will "embrace lifestyle".

According to Koji Sato, chief engineer of the Lexus LC flagship coupe, Lexus has traditionally focused on building "a great car".

But now, it also wants its cars to be associated with "a better life and better experiences".

"We are creating a car that is at the same time providing a better experience with the car. Like driving to a good dinner, or being by the sea and feeling free.

This kind of experience is important, and to do that, we focus on both design and performance," explains Mr Sato in perfect English.

He was speaking during the recent launch of the Lexus LC500 in Seville, Spain.

The LC500 has a naturally aspirated five-litre V8 petrol engine driving the rear wheels through the world's first 10-speed automatic transmission.

The LC was inspired by 2012's breathtaking LF-LC concept, and which Lexus management originally did not intend to put into production.

But the unexpectedly strong response from customers and the media changed that.

There was a problem though. The Lexus platforms available then could not accommodate the car's radical styling and tyre location, in particular, the low bonnet line and large wheels at each corner of the vehicle.

So the new GA-L platform was developed.

But Mr Sato says Lexus did not want to make another LFA super sports car.

"Our wish is to appeal to the wider public, and it is important that the car's technology can be shared with other Lexus models."

As a result, the LC's platform architecture can also be used for future rear-wheel-drive models.

Looking at the LC, Mr Sato says that there is "balance, with the big tyres, low hood and the cabin pushed back".

He adds: "You immediately connect with the natural feeling of a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car."

And design isn't only for looking good; it also drives technology. Take the LC's slim LED headlights, for instance.

Designed to be only 50mm thick, the ultra-compact LED lamp was initially considered too small to project sufficient light.

But Lexus engineers persevered and finally developed two one-way mirrors in the lens to produce multiple reflections and greater depth of illumination.

"Design drives the technology and great design creates big ideas for the solution. The challenge is providing that solution from concept to final product."

Yet, for Mr Sato, the emotional connection of the LC500 is not just visual but also visceral.

One example is the auto transmission's 10 gear ratios, which allow the LC500 to shift up "rhythmically" as it harnesses the big V8's linear power.

"I won't say emotion is lacking but we want to assert the uniqueness of the Lexus brand, which is progressively evolving."

He emphasises that Lexus already has a winning formula - QDR, or quality, durability and reliability.

"We don't want to lose the QDR advantage and on top of that, we want to add uniqueness."

And when all of these come together, it makes the LC a very different kind of Lexus.

"The design is very different from the past, and so is the technology we are putting in place together with our craftsmanship.

These are some of the things we believe will be attractive to those who have not experienced Lexus before."

Indeed Mr Sato expects the LC to attract conquest customers.

"Lexus already has valuable customers and we don't want to lose them.

On the other hand, some (German) luxury manufacturers have the 'uniqueness of their brand'.

"If those owners are interested in Lexus' uniqueness, we welcome them too."

samuelee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 19, 2016.
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