It scooped the EyesOn Design best concept car award and it’s fair to say that there’s been a lot of love for the Lexus LF-LC Concept here in Detroit. This is – according to its design team – the next step for the L-Finesse design language. And where previous Lexus concepts and production cars have been busy, sometimes ill-resolved pieces of design, the LF-LC is well resolved, beautifully surfaced and with contemporary details and graphics.
Only the DRG has raised eyebrows. But even here there is disagreement. Some in the CDN team think it overly aggressive, the grille a little too Audi-like and the lamps a little too busy. But others think that Lexus has refined the grille so it’s quite distinct and that the combined lamp and DRL signature is original.
What impresses most is how – particularly in the interior – the design is cohesive despite the busyness. The interior is almost worthy of Citroen concept – there’s a certain French flair on show as well as an opulent, rich material palette. It could be too much, but everything is controlled just so, and it works.
Overall, it’s impressive to see this from Lexus, and pleasing generally to be able to say that, considered together with what we saw in Tokyo, along with the Toyota NS4 and Honda NSX here, we now no longer need to consider Japanese car design as residing in the doldrums.
Apparently, the ‘4’ in Toyota’s NS4 concept doesn’t stand as an unsubtle reference to what the next (fourth) generation Prius might look like, but rather, according to the car’s project leader Tomohiko Shishido, merely denotes that the car has four doors. Further demystifying its acronym, Shishido-san says the car’s full name is ‘New Splendid 4-door’ which is, no question, a splendid name.
Its point is to show a lower, longer and wider future Toyota plug-in hybrid sedan available for purchase circa 2015/16. At 4650mm long it stretches out 190mm more than the current mk3 Prius, is 25mm wider (1770mm) and 100mm lower (1370mm). This creates a visually pleasing set proportions and ones that Toyota’s head of design Tokuo Fukuichi says will also improve aerodynamics and, alongside a 30mm lower centre of gravity, create a better handling car aimed at sportier performance. The hood’s wraparound front styling is quite promising as is the unusual rear end – with echoes of the 2011 Tokyo show FCV-R fuel cell concept – and what Fukuichi-san is calling ‘catamaran style’.
The interior was far from fantastic but was complete – unlike many 2012 Detroit concepts – and featured an interesting inner mesh design on the seating. Overall, even with, or perhaps because of, its lipstick pink metallic exterior, the NS4 remains pretty splendid and a hopeful sign of things to come from the Japanese giant.
Lincoln’s MKZ concept is not just another show car but a pre-production teaser that will be revealed in showroom-ready form within four months according to Ford Group design boss J Mays. The mid-sized sedan gives a very good impression of how Lincoln wants to revitalize its look and feel and sat well within the stunning new Lincoln auto show exhibition stand (see previous separate post). Key to the new design is a new more angular take on the Lincoln grille with horizontal rather than vertical bars within it and slimmer front lights. The sides are simply rendered with one gently arcing feature line, a narrow DLO and a high waist. Inside the effectively four-seat cabin with a partially floating centre stack, features a signature Lincoln cream and taupe/gray colour scheme but with what interior design leader Soo Kang calls, “very calm surfacing” plus great luxury details like the neatly graduated perforation on the seats and leather steering wheel wrap.
The platform is shared with the new Ford Fusion also revealed at Detroit but while the MKZ shares the same wheelbase as the Fusion, it’s a little longer. It’s role is comparable to the Ford Evos concept shown four months before the Fusion too: namely to prepare and excite the public to a new design direction, although Ford Group’s North American passenger car design director Moray Callum says “the MKZ is actually even closer to its production version than the Evos was to the Fusion.”
Those wanting to verify that assertion will only have to wait until early April when the production car is slated to launch at the 2012 New York auto show. Here’s hoping…
The exterior design of the LF-LC is impressive, but it’s the interior that – in many ways – stands out more. It manages to combine a nod to the LFA, with materials and forms that are new to Lexus. And while there is a lot going on, it just about hangs together as a cohesive whole.