Lexus has some big news to make, “major initiatives towards brand transformation.” But we’ll have to wait until March 30 to find out more.
The company has long been one of this market’s strongest luxury brands, but it’s also been struggling to revise a reputation for reliable yet stodgy products. The latest effort came with the launch of the new IS 500 F Sport and the debut of a new line-up of F Sport Performance models.
Now, Lexus appears ready to take things to a new level, the automaker today releasing this teaser image of a new, coupe-like crossover that will be revealed on the 30th. And there’s buzz roiling the industry suggesting that the new model will be the brand’s first-ever all-electric model.
An early pioneer, now late to the party
An early pioneer of electrification, the original GS sedan became the first luxury model offered with a hybrid option. But, like parent Toyota, Lexus management has been reluctant to enter the all-electric space. At least until now. With virtually every serious competitor now offering an EV or planning to bring one out soon, Lexus doesn’t want to be left behind playing a game of catch up.
For the moment, the automaker isn’t saying much, a short news release telling us that, “Lexus will announce details of its brand transformation efforts online on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 7 p.m., along with the Concept Car which symbolizes the next generation of Lexus.”
The automaker has been dropping breadcrumbs for a number of months. In December, it teased the launch of a first-ever Lexus EV while announcing its new Direct4 Drive Control Technology.
The Direct4 system marries two motors — one on each axle — with a four-wheel braking system that, it implies, allows for aggressive torque vectoring to enhance performance driving.
“Lexus has been able to draw on its unmatched experience in electrified vehicle technologies,” the carmaker said in December. “This expertise supports the development of the Lexus Driving Signature, a unique standard that will define the dynamic performance of Lexus’s next generation vehicles. The Lexus Driving Signature aims to provide drivers with a natural driving feel, a sense of unity with their vehicle, and the genuine comfort that comes from confidence in a thoughtfully designed vehicle with the right balance of excitement and predictability.”
The company did not say when Direct4 will go into production. And we don’t know when we might see a production version of the concept set to debut next week. But, considering how quickly the automotive industry is migrating to battery power, it’s hard to imagine we’ll have to wait all that much longer. The betting is that this could show up as a 2022 production model. At the latest, it could appear early next year as a 2023.
Whenever it comes to market, the use of electric motors could give Lexus a new way to approach performance. We know that automaker is planning to increase the adrenaline quotient of future products with the new F Sport Performance line, its answer to the likes of Audi RS, BMW M — and the Mercedes-AMG sub-brand which is itself planning to use battery tech in future models.
The big plus is that electric motors deliver maximum torque the moment they start spinning. That’s why some of the hottest new EVs are coming in with 0-60 times of 3.5 seconds or less.
A close look at a video Lexus released today appears to show an F on the nose of the new SUV. It raises the question of whether its first EV could focus on the performance sector. Expect that to be one of the first questions Lexus officials will face on March 30.
Lots to learn
There are plenty of other questions we hope Lexus will answer next week, starting with what platform the Lexus EV will be based on. The most likely answer is that it will share the new e-TNGA architecture parent Toyota has developed.
This won’t be the first time Lexus has teased an EV. It rolled out the LF-30 concept two years ago. That gullwinged prototype was powered by a 110 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery giving it a promised 300 mile range and the ability to launch from 0-100 kmh (0-62 mph) in 3.8 seconds.
There is a slim chance that the newest concept vehicle might feature breakthrough solid-state batteries. That technology takes lithium to the next step, offering more power in a smaller mass, faster charging, improved performance — and less risk of fire.
Toyota has openly confirmed plans to bring solid-state technology to market, but it’s still considered years away from production ready. Most likely, the first Lexus battery-electric vehicle will use a conventional lithium-ion pack.