One of the stars of the Australian International Motor Show this week is this piece of automotive sculpture called the Lexus LF-LC Blue. We covered an earlier Red version of this uniquely styled concept vehicle back in January when it was shown for the first time at the Detroit show. I quote Lexus public relations: “The all-new Opal Blue exterior is inspired by the lustrous base color found in the naturally occurring semi-precious opal stone of outback Australia.” Total nonsense of course but it does look spectacular and some new details of the project have emerged.
The Lexus LFA supercar wasn’t exactly a surprise when it arrived in 2010 as there had been concept vehicle and prototypes going back ten years. What was surprising was just how good it was/is and how much it costs; US$400,000 with extras.
While Lexus shouldn’t have any trouble selling the 500 that they expect to make there clearly needs to be a more mass-market model that builds on those years of development and the all-important halo of association. The Lexus LF-LC concept is obviously the pre-cursor to that vehicle.
Construction of the vehicle will come as no surprise; aluminum and carbon fiber, but the sculpted form, particularly at the front, is extraordinary and manages to look coherent and modern whilst retaining a definite Japanese style. Quite a feat seeing as it was designed in California.
Unfortunately that front fascia is unlikely to make it through to production due to mundane concerns like license plates and pedestrian safety. Getting rammed by those aluminum points at the front would make quite a mess.
The glass roof and its integration into both aluminum and fiber body materials as it sweeps to the rear is pretty amazing and according to Lexus we will be seeing a lot of these new design elements in future production vehicles.
The swoopy shapes and multiple materials continue in the 2+2 interior. Surfaces throughout the cabin are presented in a combination of smooth leather and suede, with brushed metal trim and wood accents. The lightweight, race-inspired front seats are formed of multiple layers and repeat the interlacing curves that define the cabin interior. The steering wheel is clad in lightweight carbon fiber and contains integrated controls and start button.
Twin 12.3-inch LCD screens provide information and navigation display. Inputs come from a touch-screen control board piercing the swept center console. The interface is used to control the audio system, climate controls and navigation, and features a pop-up touch-screen keyboard for more complex entries. Set directly in front of the driver, multi-level meters layer analogue and LCD technologies. The bottom layer displays temperature, fuel and the background for the Eco meter. The middle layer is the tachometer mechanical center ring, while the topmost layer provides indicators for the tachometer, speedometer and Eco meter.
Lexus has been tight-lipped at the proposed power plant for the vehicle, until now. The company is no stranger to hybrid drives and the LF-LC now boasts what it calls the Advanced Lexus Hybrid Drive. The system features a powerful and efficient Atkinson cycle combustion engine which is mated to an advanced high-energy battery pack. (An Atkinson cycle engine, as opposed to the standard Otto cycle, sacrifices low end grunt for efficiency. In a hybrid the electric motor compensates when required.)
The battery pack is designed to deliver greater power from a smaller battery than those currently used in Lexus' range of hybrid vehicles. Combined, the LF-LC Blue concept's petrol/electric hybrid powertrain develops 372 kW (500 hp) – the most of any Lexus hybrid.
When the final result of this design and technology development exercise eventually appears we can only hope it retains at least some of the drama and excitement of this fabulous concept.