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Auto blogFri, 04 Jul 2014 08:59:00 EST
The Lexus LS is old. Sure, it received a refresh for model year 2013, but it hasn't had a clean-sheet redesign since George W. Bush was in office. It's the oldest vehicle in its segment, debuting in 2007, a full year before the current-gen BMW 7 Series, two years before the Hyundai Equus and Jaguar XJ and three years before the Audi A8.
This is particularly troubling as buyers flock to the heavily redesigned Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which debuted late last year, and the all-electric Tesla Model S. Despite this move, though, Lexus is (worryingly in our minds) not at all concerned.
"We don't feel it's a problem with the car," Brian Smith, VP of marketing for Lexus, told Wards Auto. "Many of the buyers in that segment want what's new and they're trying it."
The performances of some Toyotas in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) regimen of crash tests leave something to be desired. Consider the small overlap frontal crash test: only six Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles have undergone the new test, yet all but one of them received a poor rating. Osama Nagata, CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., says midcycle vehicle updates are in the works to address the safety issues brought to light by the IIHS test, Automotive News reports. He confirmed that the RAV4 is getting safety updates following its crash test performance last month, but he didn't name any other models.
All three Toyotas that were tested - 2013 RAV4, 2012-2013 Prius V, 2012-2013 Camry - received poor ratings. The 2007-2012 Lexus ES 350 and 2006-2013 IS 250/350 also received poor ratings. The only other Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle to score better than poor is the 2014 Scion TC. It received an acceptable rating in the small overlap frontal crash test and is the only recent vehicle in Toyota's line-up to get the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.
The small overlap front crash test measures the safety of a car when its front left corner is strikes an object during an accident, bypassing traditional crumple zones, which deform in a way to protect passengers. In 2009, automakers were alerted to the forthcoming addition of the test, which was first implemented last year, IIHS spokesman Russ Rader says. They responded with differing intensity, he says, pointing out that Subaru and Honda started incorporating design changes early on so their cars would perform well in the tests.
Compact luxury crossovers are becoming big business for upscale automakers. Mercedes is slotting the new GLA beneath the GLK, BMW has the X1 below the X3, Audi has downsized from the Q5 to the Q3, and Lexus is keen to get in on the game. And to that end, Toyota's luxury division is coming to the Frankfurt Motor Show this year with the concept crossover you see here.
Previewed a couple of weeks ago with an enigmatic teaser, the LF-NX concept, in the company's own words, "explores the potential for a compact crossover within the Lexus model range." The latest adaptation of the "L-finesse" design language could be the sharpest and most stylistically Japanese we've seen yet, with the sharp creases of the signature spindle grille repeated all around for a razor-sharp look. Lexus only released one shot of the cabin, but it looks as sharp as the exterior and, while clearly stylized, looks essentially more production-ready than most show cars.
Lexus hasn't revealed much about the powertrain, saying only that it incorporates "a new variant of the Lexus Hybrid Drive system tuned for SUV performance." Whether it actually has an engine that Lexus will detail at the show remains to be seen, but you can delve into the press release below for more and scope out the five images released thus far in the gallery above for a closer look.