Filling balloons with wet plaster, squeezing them into abstract shapes, photographing the amorphous images and projecting the slides on a wall may sound like the description of an LSD powered mind trip, but in this case it was a new and unprecedented way to design a car.
In 1987 Toyota started work on project F3, the planned successor to the then recently introduced Soarer Z20. Contrary to the previous Japanese domestic market-only model, the planned new car would also be marketed in North America under the upcoming Lexus brand. Since it was considered essential that the future car be a success in the North American market, the job was given to Calty Design Research – Toyota’s Californian design centre established in 1973.
An Urban Explorer makes a break for the coastline.
Life has been of late, more than a little, shall we say, constrained. Not that I’m necessarily complaining – it’s for the greater good and after all, matters could be a good deal worse – but from an automotive perspective, thus far, 2020 has been something of a damp squib. All this being so, one takes what thin gruel that comes one’s way.
Once Toyota had fixed their new sales horizon firmly upon the United States, there were bound to be some noses put out of joint. More tellingly, there were plenty of takers. Thirty years ago, the LS400 won over the hearts of wealthy Americans along with those seeking a more quality feel to what was otherwise being offered. The recipe was surprisingly simple. High-end engineering, longevity and product quality, be nice to customers at service or repair time. Ford and GM must have been on vacation.
Gaining that foothold in a predominantly stateside motoring landscape, with the Europeans snapping at the ankles, Lexus were refreshingly bold. Sales rattled up, announcing a sea change to the perceived automotive aristocracy. And that pitch continues today with ever more resonance: the vehicles have changed but not the philosophy.
Well, not quite, because while Lexus see themselves as purveyors of quality, luxurious transport these days, they no longer confine themselves to the tarmac roads. Anyone with the means can park their delightful Garnet Red LS, with added kiriko glass embellishments, at the golf course, gun club or shopping mall. But surely better to Continue reading “Got The Car? Get The Yacht”
The creative apex of Toyota and Lexus’ latterday ambitions – we examine the LF-A’s backstory.
With Lexus celebrating thirty years of production (though only fifteen in Japan, where until 2004 they were still Toyota) the Japanese firm are keen to share some of their three decades of stories. They are to be congratulated on their openness. Exactly five hundred Lexus LF-A’s were made over a two year period which equates to one built per day after holidays. By hand too I might add, no production line for this exclusive halo-car. As to their cost… we’ll come back to that shortly.
The Lexus Fuji-Apex was a true supercar from every conceivable angle but the car’s birth proved difficult. In fact for its short life, drama and tragedy clung to the cars flanks, fortunately bowing out on a high, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s Continue reading “Born of Frustration”
Attempting to second-guess the United States customer has been the rock innumerable carmakers have perished upon over the past fifty years or so. It ought to be quite simple really. Large capacity engines, plenty of equipment, a sense of visual definition or style coupled with ease of operation. Durability too, since vehicles are likely to do large mileages in often hostile climatic conditions amid owners sometimes averse (it’s been alleged) to the prospect of preventative maintenance.
So much for generalisations, but those who have wilted under America’s often unyielding glare have largely failed to sufficiently cover the basics. Not so the Japanese, who like the Europeans before them learnt the hard way not only how difficult the US market can be to crack, but also how lucrative it could be if you Continue reading “Big Time”
In 1989, Toyota shot for the moon. Cars will never be made like this again.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” These are the much quoted words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1962, pledging his country’s commitment for the Apollo space mission.
The Apollo programme cost $billions and was only a qualified success, insofar as it did not precipitate a more widespread and far-reaching programme of space exploration. It did however succeed in demonstrating what the American government could do when the finest minds were provided with almost unlimited resources to Continue reading “Moonshot”
Our Sheffield correspondent’s urgent mission for Myristica fragrans is disrupted by something shiny and yellow.
Gulp. Sharp intake of breath. No, not because talking to the salesman makes me nervous but my first design review for this oftentimes design-centric website. If you have yet to see my takes on design, prepare to be deflated. I like what I see. Well, sometimes. Then again, sometimes I’m horrified by what’s presented in front of me. But in this particular instance I liked – a lot.
An errand into town forced me past the row of car dealerships that inhabit the fringes of town. Virtually every make is available within a three mile corridor and if you can’t Continue reading “Nut Job”
As Germany’s full-sized luxury GTs lurch further into decadence and creative atrophy, we appraise (and praise) a Lexus.
Heritage has become something of a double edged sword for carmakers nowadays. On one hand, it acts as emotional anchor for a marque’s visual identity, and employed with sensitivity and skill, lends a tremendous richness to what marketers might choose to describe as the ‘brand narrative’.
On the other hand however, the anchor analogy can also have a regressive influence, dragging the marque backwards, preventing designers from updating or reinventing a set of visual cues which may over time have lost relevance.
Driven to Write has a thing about brightwork. We also have a thing about quality.
The 1990 Lexus LS400 famously had nitrogen-filled tyres because mere air caused a resonance. Despite the car’s astonishingly careful conception, these aren’t much loved and few are they now in number. It’s successor (above) is a crouton in the same soup bowl.
Almost twenty nine years ago, Toyota unveiled the Lexus LS 400 saloon, giving the European and US luxury car establishment the shock of their lives. That car, lovingly created by a skunkworks of Toyota’s brightest and best was beyond doubt the Honda NSX of luxury saloon cars. A gamechanger for the industry, a new benchmark.
A justified success in the US market, Lexus however struggled in Europe, where provenance, heritage and snob value mattered at least as much as outright ability and utter reliability. Toyota perhaps in retrospect made an error in clothing the LS400 in such a rationalist manner. While its styling appeared to reference the W126 Mercedes in its lack of expressive flourishes, it left customers with little to Continue reading “Finessing Big Lex”
Mercedes’ new W222 S-Class is decimating its European and Asian rivals. A renaissance for a declining sector or the final gasp? Driven to write investigates.
The S-Class is the quintessential Mercedes and the centre of gravity around which the entire Stuttgart-Untertürkheim behemoth pivots. None more so than today’s W222 series; which if current sales are a reliable barometer, is shaping up to be the fastest selling iteration in the model’s history. Continue reading “Devourer Of Worlds – The Inexorable Rise Of The S-Class”