Lexus LF-NX Creates Buzz – and Plenty of Controversy

Compact crossover is “a stake in the ground,” said Lexus boss Templin.

by on Sep.11, 2013

The Lexus LF-NX may be the single most controversial vehicle to debut in Frankfurt this year.

Lexus has been hinting for some time that it would like to enter the fast-growing compact crossover segment.  While that is far from a controversial decision, the LF-NX compact crossover concept it unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show is an entirely different matter.

While the show car was the object of much interest and attention during the Frankfurt media preview — journalists and competitors alike lining up to take the design in and snap pictures – few vehicles in recent memory generated nearly as much debate or derision.

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“Lexus has seven concept cars at the show – but they’re all in one vehicle,” cracked a senior designer at a major European luxury maker, asking not to be identified by name.

The object of that scorn – and a few kudos, as well, one needs to point out – is the first in what senior Lexus officials suggest will be a series of concept cars designed to test the waters and confirm that Lexus does belong in the compact crossover segment.

The LF-NX adopts an oversized version of the Lexus "spindle" grille.

Actually, it’s pretty easy to determine the answer to that question.  It is the fastest-growing niche in the global automotive market, according to industry data.  In the U.S., the largest national market for Lexus, sales are expected to increase by as much as 500% before decade’s end, according to various analysts.

“We’re all reading the same tea leaves,” that suggest manufacturers have to add a compact CUV to the line-up, Mark Templin, the new Lexus global brand boss, told during an interview following the unveiling of the Lexus LF-NX.

(Click Here to check out all the concepts — and the production cars — debuting in Frankfurt this year.)

Done up in a monochrome Brushed Silver Metal paint, the goal was, according to Lexus, to create the appearance of being carved from a single piece of metal. The maker describes the shape of the show car as “a further evolution” of its L-finesse design language which has been influencing such recent entries as the GS, IS, ES and LS lines.  The familiar spindle grille is readily apparent though the overall look of the crossover concept is almost one of sheet metal origami. There’s even a hint of the angular Art & Science design language pioneered by Cadillac.

Critics fault the Lexus LF-NX concept for simply being too busy, with too many lines and angles that confuse the eye and weaken the show car’s overall proportions. For his part, Templin isn’t bothered by the criticism, insisting there has been plenty of positive back, as well.

“I call it polarizing, and that’s great,” he said. “I think we’re heading in the right direction and I think this bold design has been a big hit.”

(Infiniti Q30 concept hints at plans for new compact crossover. Click Here for details.)

The front-drive hybrid system found in the LF-NX would likely show up in a production crossover, according to Lexus brand boss Templin.

While a number of the concept vehicles unveiled at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show – including the Volvo Concept Coupe and the Infiniti Q30 – will soon return in production form relatively unchanged, don’t expect to see the Lexus LF-NX Concept land in showrooms, however.

Though it is highly likely Lexus will eventually bring out a compact crossover, Templin calling the LF-NX, “a stake in the ground,” he noted the brand’s designers will be working on other possible iterations before the final styling exercise is completed.

(Jaguar delivers surprise with C-X17 compact crossover concept. Click Here for a closer look.)

What’s more likely to reappear in production will be a version of the hybrid-electric drivetrain found on the LF-NX Concept.  The system uses a 2.5-litre gasoline engine with hybrid boost, the same as in the IS300h sedan.

A final version would likely be offered in either front- or all-wheel-drive, Templin indicated. It’s unclear if a conventional powertrain would also be offered, but Templin pointed out that hybrids now account for a quarter of all Lexus sales in the U.S. and “over 90%” in Europe.

The executive said a production LF-NX would likely not challenge the bigger RX crossover that is currently the top-seller in the Lexus line-up in the States, though, “outside the US there’s a huge demand” for compact crossovers.”

As for timing, Templin was vague, offering only that, “The first thing we want to do is get design back on this concept.”

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2 Responses to “Lexus LF-NX Creates Buzz – and Plenty of Controversy”

  1. Jorge M. says:

    Ya show the really bad designs first as “concepts” so when the almost as bad design you chose for production is released, the shock factor has diminished and the media will consider the mess being offered “acceptable” compared to the really, really FUGLY concept designs.

    The Asians have a very strange view of auto design. When they go with bland, they do OK in the basic transportation segment. Anything beyond bland and they get themselves in trouble as they don’t appear to have any stylists who “get it” when it comes to attractive auto designs.

  2. Yeah right says:

    Didn’t I leave comment on the LF-NX last week? Aka “The Catfish”!
    Let’s go noodlin’!! All you have to add to the “spindle” grill is whiskers.