Lexus's so-called "L-finesse" design language, highlighted with bold, strong edges and capped with the inverted "spindle grille," has invoked controversy ever since its debut on the 2013 GS, but no Lexus design will prove as scandalous as the new Lexus LF-NX concept crossover, which debuts at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show next week.
Lexus claims the LF-NX concept previews both a future compact crossover model, as well as a future evolution of the L-Finesse design theme. Press materials describe the concept's exterior as "distinctive" and "sculpted." The latter certainly rings true, as the LF-NX's sheetmetal boasts more geometric planes than a crumpled ball of paper. It's as if someone adapted Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall into a vehicle, down to the brushed silver finish.
Lexus' release suggests the LF-NX uses a "strong" interpretation of the spindle grille, which apparently equates to it stretching from hood to front skidplate. Two large, vertical air intakes flank the grille, and give way to the bugling front fenders. A triad of slim, LED headlamp elements are placed beneath thin eyebrows, while Lexus' signature L-shaped LED running lamps are mounted separately from the headlamp assemblies, much like the most recent IS sedan.
The LF-NX's tail makes its nose look conservative. An inverted triangular light catcher placed just above the rocker sills bumps into the crossover's flared rear fenders, which end abruptly just before the bumper. Lexus' press materials praise this "sharp, vertical cut line," which helps form arrow-shaped surfaces that wrap up and into the rear hatch, echoing the long, slender tail lamps. Arguably, the cleanest surfaces on the LF-NX are the door panels, which do without conventional door handles or ornamentation, and are interrupted only by a downward kink placed just aft of the front fenders.
The design isn't any less wild inside the LF-NX. Designers claim this cockpit is a "Human Oriented" design, but the combination of orange and black leather trim, along with two giant, bright blue LCD touchscreens placed in the metallic center stack, seems a bit distracting. Lexus also eliminated most physical switchgear, opting instead to use blue touch-sensitive pads for the infotainment interface and power window switches, amongst other functions.
Mechanical details are unavailable at this time, but Lexus claims the concept uses a new variant of its familiar hybrid drive system. We've heard whispers that a production version of this vehicle will use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a hybrid drivetrain. The same vehicle will likely share its underpinnings with the Toyota RAV4, and go on sale -- at least in Europe -- by 2016.
That Lexus' portfolio could use a sub-RX crossover to compete against vehicles like the BMW X1, Audi Q3, and the new Mercedes-Benz GLA is a given, but need it look as wild as the LF-NX? Time will tell if the concept's disjointed creases, planes, and bulges are carried into the production vehicle.