Possibly the world's most famous romance capital, Paris has automakers from around the world romanticizing the future of the automotive industry. At this year's Paris Motor Show, we've seen Volkswagen's look out just beyond the horizon of electric, automated driving, Renault's automotive embodiment of deep love and commitment, and Toyota's rolling fuel cell generator. For its part, Lexus explores the future of the compact SUV, playing with boldly juxtaposed styling and high-tech interior design. Prescient or just plain weird?
Since Lexus repeats and repeats again that the UX was designed from an "inside-out" perspective, we'll ignore that brazen exterior for a moment and start with the interior, an equally wild design that could easily be mistaken for an art show exhibit, sculpted, woven and colored for maximum shock value.
"The 'inside-out' concept came from a lot of discussions within the team," explains Alexandre Gommier, an interior designer with Lexus' French ED2 studio, which created the concept."We wanted to show the human-centric aspect of the concept in a visually as well as philosophically strong way. A strong symbiosis between the exterior and interior was felt to be important by all the designers involved."
The driver and passenger sit in Lexus' Kinetic Seat, a different iteration from the standalone model Lexus is also showing at the Paris Motor Show. This one loses the spider web look in favor of a 3D sculpture of interlocking bands. It looks a bit terrifying to sit in and promises a transformative shift in the call for "shotgun," moving friends and family to battle over who gets stuck sitting on the weird front seat instead of on the cozy rear sofa.
The new seat design is part of Lexus' strategy of a "deconstructed interior," and the dashboard follows suit, leaving any semblance of neat, clean styling behind for a chaotic explosion of angles, surfaces and shapes running into and through each other. The design emphasizes the importance of the driver's seat and supports the driver with new technologies, the most interesting of which being the 3D hologram-like information globe within the instrument cluster. To the driver's right, the angled display shows a hologram-style view of air conditioning and infotainment information.
Other technologies include electro-chromatic windows, side-view cameras and touch controls. The distinctive fins running down the A pillars and dashboard surround a passenger-side sound bar that provides a unique form of audio playback inside the car, and that can be removed for use outside.
The inside-out motif pushes out from the cabin to the exterior, of course, extending out over the wheels in the form of standout, contrast-tone fenders that extend out of the body. These brutish arches lend a more off-road 4x4 look than you'd expect to find on an entry-level urban crossover like the UX, mimicking the flares you might see on a Wrangler or Defender. Below, the distinctive, laser-carved concept wheels claw their way into the rubber of the tire, creating an all-in-one look and adding to the feeling of high-traction, go-anywhere grit.
That feeling is short-lived, however, as the rest of the design is purely concrete jungle. The concept sits low to the ground and has a pushed-back cabin with rounded, coupe-like roofline. The rear fenders are layered inward, and the front fenders angle in that same direction. Also supporting the inside-out theme, razor-sharp eyes join the 3D spindle grille in converging toward an axis lined up with the Lexus jewelry – or, we suppose, pushing out from that axis. Even the grille's mesh pushes away from the emblem, flowing outward toward the headlamps and light-lined intakes.
The rear-end, likewise, is molded neatly inward/outward and the 3D taillights intermingle with a central spoiler, swooping downward and clean across. They're the most dramatic Toyota rear lamps we've seen since last year's Scion-branded C-HR redux.
Lexus chose the "Immersive Amethyst" paint to accentuate the subtle layering and volume shifts of the bodywork, providing some definition in the absence of character lines. Components like the fenders, roof rails and side-view camera housings feature contrast coloring, designed to give the appearance of an exoskeleton emerging from and dropping back into the body panels (that whole inside-out thing again).
The focus is solely on design and technology conceptualization here, and Lexus has not even bothered to suggest what might power a UX. We're going to guess it would be some type of hybrid AWD with the perfect blend of all-weather traction and lively city driving – pretty much de rigueur for this type of concept.
See more of the UX in the video below and the photo gallery.