By on December 6, 2017

Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept, Image: Lexus

Toyota’s luxury division isn’t in the habit of leaving certain vehicle segments wide open for other automakers to plunder. Lexus fields not one, but two sport coupes, just in case one of the few buyers not interested in sedans and SUVs wanders into the dealership.

In the utility vehicle department, it seems Lexus has all bases covered, Or at least it soon will. There’s the compact NX crossover, the midsize RX (soon to be available in a longer, three-row variant), the midsize, body-on-frame GX, and the range-topping, BOF LX full-sizer (now with fewer seats, should you prefer it). There’s even a possibility of a subcompact Lexus utility in the near future.

So, what exactly is Lexus missing? A “flagship” crossover, it seems.

The automaker claims its LF-1 Limitless concept “reflects the next genre in luxury crossover vehicles,” and will debut at next month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Sporting a body sculpted by the CALTY design studio in California, the vehicle is described by Lexus as “a flagship crossover that redefines the boundaries of luxury.”

Lexus provided a teaser shot appearing to show a two-row vehicle with a one-piece, wraparound taillight, split spoiler, and sharply angled rear glass. A strong character line appears to flow forward to parts unseen.

The only other takeaways from the image are a glass roof and media screens for rear-seat passengers. It’s impossible to gauge the vehicle’s size.

Unpacking Lexus’ brief description, are we to assume the brand has designs to offer an ultra-lux model in the unibody crossover segment? Certainly, it seems everything that could be done with crossover vehicles, has been. Over at BMW and Mercedes-Benz, German designers and engineers can’t stop turning utility vehicles into four-door coupes, endowing other variants with ridiculous levels of M- and AMG-supplied power.

What untapped pool of potential buyers does Lexus have in mind? Or is this concept just a design exercise and technology showcase meant to inspire the brand’s next-generation models? (If so, why use the word “genre,” which implies a new class, or category? Why bolster it with the word “flagship”?)

So many questions, so few answers. Should Lexus decide to add a new addition to its lineup, it would do so knowing full well where its bread is buttered. Lexus passenger car sales fell 20.1 percent in November, year-over-year. Over the first 11 months of this year, the brand’s U.S. car volume shrank by 22.4 percent.

Crossovers and SUVs, on the other hand, are keeping the lights on at Lexus HQ. Despite a pretty flat month in the industry, and with no new or refreshed model to spice things up, sales of Lexus crossovers and SUVs rose 1.2 percent, year-over-year, in November. Sales are up 4 percent YTD in 2017.

Adding another utility vehicle would surely mean a segment with two Lexus offerings. Still, if price points diverged enough, one vehicle wouldn’t necessarily cannibalize the other (though higher-end models in the lineup might get worried). As we told you yesterday, doubling up in a segment is not something Toyota’s worried about.

[Image: Lexus]

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14 Comments on “Lexus Promises ‘Flagship’ Crossover Concept in Detroit; Is There Room for Another Model in the Lineup?...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Oh, good Lord…

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    It seems pretty obvious to me. Too many car journalists are operating on a model matrix that is decades old.

    The reality is a car maker should be investing in crossovers first across their line, sedans where they make sense, coupes for halo effects, and, well, that is about it.

    The flagship Lexus should be a crossover. It should be bigger and more lux than an LX, more car like, and have every perk imaginable.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Exactly what akatsuki said. It used to be that a full lineup looked something like:

      Sedan
      Sedan
      Sedan
      Crossover
      SUV
      Coupe

      Today, a lineup responsive to the market should look more like:

      Crossover
      Crossover
      Crossover
      SUV
      Sedan
      Coupe

      • 0 avatar
        DearS

        Agree

        I like Sedans (like the CTS) a bit but Crossovers just make more sense for people especially with CRV like gas mileage.

        Maybe its time to retire the LS and introduce a crossover (not SUV) LX.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Maybe an LS CUV variant?

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “Flagship crossover” is an oxymoron.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    No biog deal, they’ll base it on their luxury modular platform. It makes perfect sense and they’ll do away with their poorly selling LX570

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      They’ll keep the LX, as it’s just a slightly dolled up LC; which they still need for other markets, as well as for tradition.

      Crossovers make much more sense for most people shopping in the $100K category, though. Especially in Europe, where open road speed limits aren’t written with 80 year old former accountants in diesel trucks pulling 10 ton travel trailers in mind.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Well, Jack pretty much predicted this. Or, rather a reader did it for him. Remember, just recently, when a reader asked if he should buy a Tahoe or some GM mostro-CUV? And the answer was the CUV.

    Or look at it this way: as the reader and Jack pointed out, GM already makes a CUV that is as big as their big BOF (well, it’s a bit shorter than Suburban, but has the same internal volume). They reap sales, so buyers don’t find this concept unacceptable. Why should Toyota cede the ground to GM, then?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Just like the RX L, this will print money for Lexus and they should have done it a decade ago.

    The LX and GX both have a great image among rich moms, but really aren’t that practical for the intended use. The floor is high, cargo space is very limited, the third row gets in the way when stowed (especially on the LX), and the driving experience is very trucklike. But the RX just doesn’t cut it as an image car. It’s OK, but it’s too cheap to really make a statement.

    Lexus will absolutely clean up with a proper three-row unibody crossover, based on a stretched and widened RX/Highlander platform, and priced in the $70k range to start. It will compete straight across with the current Audi Q7 and the BMW X7, just a bit downmarket from the Benz GLS.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    There’s definitely room at the top of Lexus’s CUV lineup for a true full-size model (not just a 3-row midsize like the RX-L).

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