Lexus LF-Z Electrified concept offers glimpse of brand’s future

Lexus, a longtime champion of hybrids and a latecomer to pure EVs, is planning a future line of vehicles with enhanced performance, safety and a signature driving style that is being previewed with a new all-electric crossover concept.

The LF-Z Electrified concept, introduced Tuesday in Japan, presages a fully electric model that will be available by mid-decade, said Hiroo Togashi, general manager of Lexus brand management.

Togashi promised that the brand will roll out 20 new and improved models globally by 2025 — half of which would be either hybrids, plug-in hybrids or fully electric vehicles such as the LF-Z concept.

It is the latest sign that Toyota Motor Corp.’s luxury brand is determined to compete broadly as the auto industry is upended by new technology, modes of mobility and power sources, as well as EV upstarts.

“We will take on the challenge of providing new value that meets the expectations of diverse customers by contemplating the role of a new chauffeur and pursuing the possibility of developing new genres of never-before-seen models,” Togashi said.

Paired with steer-by-wire — which means there is no mechanical linkage between the steering inputs and the actions taking place at the four wheels — the LF-Z concept uses two torque-split motors, which Lexus calls DIRECT4 technology, to sharpen performance and safety by sending different levels of power to each wheel as required.

When turned on, the two technologies allow the LF-Z to turn and accelerate far more sharply through corners or a slalom, effectively countering the physics that force vehicles equipped with mechanical-based systems outward through turns. The brand also says that the paired technologies allow the vehicle to perform exactly to the driver’s intention, regardless of road condition or weather.

Takashi Watanabe, chief engineer for Lexus electrified models, said steer-by-wire and the DIRECT4 technologies are a “fusion” of vehicle motion control, and coupled with cabin comfort and quietness, would provide a signature Lexus feel.

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