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Lexus: Future electric cars will be ‘fun to drive’

Lexus: Future electric cars will be 'fun to drive'
Electric

Lexus boss Koji Sato tells TG that the Lexus of the future will have driving dynamics at the forefront. And look cool obvs

All automakers need to re-engineer themselves for the electric age. But it’s a double dose for Lexus, as it was already reinventing itself.

Top Gear asks Lexus president Koji Sato about the design of the seven all-electric Lexuses he recently showcased, in production or plausible concept form. He says: “When I took over, the first thing Akio [Toyoda, boss of Toyota and Lexus] said to me was ‘destroy the pivot grid’. He meant that we should not be tied to the Lexus of today, but should make the Lexus of the future.

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“Lexus started in 1989 with quality, quietness and comfort. Now we add driving dynamics. If you get into the driver’s mind, it comes down to the fundamentals of the vehicle. As we enter the EV era, we are still focusing more for a focus on driving pleasure.”

Seven electric cars? Well, there’s the production RZ450e, a mid-sized two-motor crossover with the option of a steer-by-wire system. Then the amazing Electrified Sport concept, an electric heir to the amazing LFA. It was showcased at the Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​in June. Plus a bigger crossover and a low-slung hatchback. They were shown in full-size physical form at the end of last year during Toyota’s ‘showroom of the future’ event.

Lexus has also shown renderings of a larger electric hatch and what looks like a Porsche Taycan rival, and even a four-seat convertible. Plus six more EVs in the shadows behind.

Sato says a ride with the Lexus prototypes, including the production RZ, has changed Akio Toyoda, an almost professional racing driver, about EVs. “Wow, he is amazed at the linear performance, the control and the driving pleasure. This gave us the feeling that electric cars can be fun.”

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Okay, that’s great in theory. But how is he going to do it? “Three things are really important in developing fun electric vehicles. The first is lightweight. The second is aerodynamics. The third is chassis control.” That includes variable ratio steering (notoriously hard to get right) and torque vectoring.

“I see two benefits of aerodynamics. The first is air resistance, which allows you to reduce battery weight. The second is dynamics, controlling the body position. It all starts with the design of the car, but you can use active aerodynamics surfaces as well.”

Lexus’ formerly huge ‘spindle’ grille is indeed gone. “Design has to be functional. In the era of the radiator, you needed a radiator grille. But in the EV era, we look at different ways to express the spindle motif. Call it more ‘spindle body’ than a spindle grille. The performance of EVs are determined not only by battery capacity, but also by the simple body structure they allow.I see that the transition to EVs will usher in a very big change in Lexus design.They can be more aerodynamic and have a lower center of gravity too.

“But the most important thing is that the cars look cool. Their beauty is in the function. They look more intelligent and intuitive and the driver feels more connected to the car.”

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Customization via software touches the heart of the cars. “We think luxury means diversity, a personal luxury for each customer. That is a Lexus value; excellent customer service through the dealers has always been one of our strengths. They are like a concierge for each individual. Combined with our new software this will get better and better and we will improve the car over its lifetime, as well as adjusting the driving experience, dynamics and powertrain taste.”

Since its inception in 1989, Lexus design and engineers, as well as marketing activities, have existed in the Toyota monolith. In an effort to give Lexus more identity, it will have its own headquarters amid an astonishing new complex of test tracks in a mountainous area near Shimoyama. “At Shimoyama, we have our own mini-Nurburgring. In 2024, we will move Lexus’ global headquarters there – designers, planners, development engineers, marketers, everyone. We want to strengthen the Lexus brand.”

The most authentic car companies reflect the personalities of the people at the top. That is Sato’s mission at Lexus. “Akio Toyoda mainly wants to make cars that are fun to drive,” he says. “We never lose that passion. We mustn’t forget the driver involvement and the responsive communication between the driver and the car. We don’t just make mobility. We are a car manufacturer. I love cars.”