Lexus LF-Ch full hybrid concept debuts at IAA Frankfurt
By Jeff Salton
September 16, 2009
Back in August we told you that Toyota would be releasing its Lexus hybrid concept car at IAA Frankfurt, and here it is – in the flesh. Our team of journalists on the ground captured these images of the LF-Ch (Compact hybrid) as soon as the wraps came off at its world debut. Set to rival the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series, the vehicle is the first Lexus full hybrid in the European premium compact segment – one that’s sure to be bursting with quality competition. If you thought hybrids and luxury didn’t mix, think again. And if you thought Lexus was a brand just for the over-50s, look closer.
Toyota predicts that the compact segment will grow to represent the largest share of the premium automotive market by 2010 (not far away). Hence, the company has jumped in with both feet with its LF-Ch concept – a stylish five-door, compact hybrid with low emissions and abounding with quality and refinement that deliver driving pleasure.
The LF-Ch thrives on the company’s unique L-finesse design philosophy. A new, more aggressive grille over a deep, full-width bumper and air dam, LF-Ch’s front has sharply sculpted, aerodynamic front wings which assist the front brake-cooling air intakes, while simultaneously enhancing the car’s wide stance.
Side-on, tapered glazing above a high beltline shows off an aggressively truncated rear overhang. The steeply-raked windscreen, long flowing roofline and blacked out B pillars (with hidden rear door handles) give the car the look of an elegant, sporting, pillarless coupe.
The finely honed trailing edge of the roof overhangs the rear window to create a seamlessly integrated rear spoiler. Wraparound tail lamp design completes the look, while careful aerodynamic detailing of the lower bumper both smooths airflow from beneath the car and provides cooling ventilation to the rear brakes.
Discreet Lexus hybrid blue badging and sharply tapering chrome moldings subtly enhance the LF-Ch’s hybrid image.
It’s not just the exterior of the LF-Ch that has visual impact. Inside, the vehicle reeks of hand-crafted quality and elegant cabin design. It features a strongly asymmetric dashboard that focuses on the driver, placing the emphasis on outstanding ergonomics.
The extensive use of semi-aniline leather, polished aluminum, wood and dark, soft-touch materials immerse the driver, and passengers, in luxury surrounds. The subtle use of natural materials reinforces the theme of harmonious contrast in the dashboard, door panels and seating, elegantly integrating high technology within hand-crafted finishes. Appropriate to the performance of the LF-Ch’s full hybrid powertain, drivers sit low in the highly supportive driving position, dominated by a sporting, wide grip steering wheel with integrated paddle shift controls and an instrument binnacle housing large, high-visibility, twin dials embellished with a unique, turbine blade motif.
The hybrid utilizes Lexus Remote Touch control, first seen in the new RX 450h. Via a dash-top mounted multi-information display screen, Remote Touch operates on similar principles to a computer mouse, allowing the driver to access, control and customize a wide variety of infotainment and vehicle set-up programs. This Lexus’ comprehensive on-board entertainment technology includes iPhone docking capability for rear seat passengers.
Fully electric driving performance
As you’d expect, a performance vehicle in this segment must be able to deliver the power it promises, while also reducing fuel consumption, CO2 and NOx emissions.
The LF-Ch concept can be driven on EV mode; a fully electric driving mode not available to drivers of mild hybrid vehicles. With vehicle range dictated by battery charge, the EV drive mode allows for urban driving with minimal noise and zero emissions.
Apart from those details, not much more is forthcoming from Lexus, however, it wouldn't surprise to see the same powertrain as the HS 250h, which delivers 34mpg (combined). It comprises a 2.4liter 147hp four-cylinder engine combined with a 245V battery pack and electric motor to bring the total power to 187hp. The power train will be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted via paddles on the steering wheel.
14 languages and 2000 songs
Lexus has an upgraded audio and navigation system that Toyota says will feature in all new Lexus models, so we can assume that means the LF-Ch as well, when it goes into production next year.
It includes a 40GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD) capacity, birds-eye view mapping, upgraded voice recognition available in seven languages including Russian, menu and voice guidance in 14 languages (including Cyrillic characters). It also has a new DAB ready sound systems with standard USB, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming.
Add to this a 10GB sound library facility with storage for up to 2000 songs and you have another reason to appreciate your Lexus. The system originally featured in the new generation RX.