Lexus turns its maligned spindle grille into an entire concept car
BMW's bloated kidneys are fast catching up, but Lexus' spindle grille might just be the most controversial (despised) automotive styling cue of our time. And now it's a concept car. The LF-30, an otherwise fun, condor-winged, drone-docking autonomous electric car from the future, debuts at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show as something of the ultimate troll of Lexus haters: a four-wheeled, bumper-to-bumper spindle grille ... with a bulging spindle grille all its own. As of now, it looks as though Lexus has no intention of using the forthcoming electric age as motivation to erase all memories of Predator mouth.
We didn't spot the spindliness of the 200-in (509-cm) LF-30 Electrified Concept car body on first look, but Lexus was more than happy to point it out in its announcement: "Taking advantage of a hoodless vehicle shape made possible by being a BEV, Lexus' signature 'spindle' form has been further evolved to span the entire vehicle architecture. The window glass, which continually stretches from the front to rear, the muscular fenders, and the wing-shaped headlights form the contours of the Lexus iconic spindle. The shape of the body is fashioned with an elegantly flowing front which transitions into a linear and sharp rear."
So, an entire car takes on the much-hated spindle form. And if that isn't enough, the LF-30 also wears its own spindle grille. Designers took the decentralization of the four-motor electric powertrain not as an opportunity to drop the grille all together but as a cue to create a protruding three-dimensional spindle mass that's every bit as overstyled as the current-generation grate.
We could overlook all that spindle if this was just any concept car, but this concept comes on the eve of Lexus' official break into electric vehicles. In the same breath in which it introduced the LF-30, it announced that it will debut its first battery EV next month on the way to offering electrified versions of all its models by 2025. So if we're to read between the lines, it has no intention of ditching the spindle grille in the dawn of an electric age that gives it every reason to ditch the spindle grille. Instead, it'll just have an 'e-spindle' ... that'll probably survive beyond 2030, the year the LF-30 design represents.
The world weeps.
Forgiving Lexus for spindling completely out of control might be an order too tall for Jesus himself, but if you can overlook it momentarily, the LF-30 becomes an interesting little styling exercise, taking a quick spin to the Year 2030 to reveal how Lexus might reshape form and function around electric, autonomous and connected technologies. A carefully sawed and chiseled iceberg, the dramatic LF-30 lets driver and passengers practically backflip through the huge, B-pillar-free entryways hiding in the shadows of bird-of-prey doors.
Inside, the LF-30 wraps each front occupant in a personal cocoon. Though the car is capable of fully autonomous driving, it still offers the opportunity for human driving with a steering wheel, instruments and a set of pedals on the left side. The cockpit helps the driver achieve laser focus, closely coordinating all necessary functions through the steering wheel and head-up display.
Split from the driver seat by a solid, metal-trimmed center console, the front passenger compartment is inspired by first-class airliner seating and faces its own wraparound touchscreen, with all physical controls positioned within natural reach. The rear passenger seats don't get quite that level of sculpted focus, but artificial muscle technology ensures they support every joint and muscle while the passengers enjoy personalized audio via the next-generation Mark Levinson sound system with headrest speakers and localized noise cancelation. The rear passengers don't have individual displays but can enjoy augmented reality and entertainment on the "SkyGate" roof.
Gesture control and augmented reality play heavily in the design, and the onboard AI recognizes individual voices to better micro-adjust the interior environment around each occupant's preferences. The large glasshouse can be easily switched between crystal-clear and opaque.
LF-30 drive power comes from a quartet of in-wheel motors that team for 536 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The 110-kWh battery pack gives the car an estimated range of 31`1 miles (500 km) on the WLTP and a top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h). Lexus imagines the car running the 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 3.8 seconds. A steer-by-wire system and Lexus Advanced Posture Control with precise torque vectoring improve handling and maneuverability on all road surfaces and conditions, delivering next-generation driving dynamics in both manual and autonomous modes.
One final piece of weirdness, the "Lexus Airporter" support drone is a flying assistant that can perform related tasks like carrying luggage from the house to the car trunk as the LF-30 self-drives itself to the doorway to greet driver and passengers. The drone docks in the vehicle, where it presumably auto-charges off the battery.
You can live the LF-30 Electrified experience in the 1.5-minute video clip below before dropping back to reality and preparing for next month's debut of a much more modest Lexus EV ... with spindle grille.
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12 years on and nothing has ever gone wrong with it. The side mirrors were replaced for free as a recall item though.