Concepts

Lexus LF-1 Limitless Showcases Evolution of Signature Spindle Grille

“Lexus

Calty design chief Kevin Hunter spoke with Car Advice about the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept and how it advances the brand’s signature spindle grille:

Probably the most controversial elements of modern Lexus products is the so-called ‘Spindle’ grille shape. Hunter says it’s here to stay. “Spindle is our brand identity, it’s our aim to make it attractive of course, and the LF-1 is the next step in its evolution. We call it ‘architectural spindle’.

“You notice as the perimeter shape transitions up, it turns into into a pretty distinctive hood shape that has a channel, that runs all the way though the belt-line, and even the DRL runs the perimeter of the hood shape. Everything is integrated into one architectural piece.”

(The LF-1 Limitless is certainly a departure from when it comes to the “traditional” spindle grille. The integration is embedded deep into the design, to the point where the functional mesh of the grille merges with the spindle surround.)

Comments
Just from his own words, it sounds to me like Bracken is saying that the grilles are affecting sales.

In fact I’ll take phone calls from some of these owners and will literally spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with me just expressing how disappointed they are.”

It’s somewhat telling that Lexus’ long-time buyers are displeased with the new styling language. The new Lexus grille is not exactly making the same statement as the 1989 LS400's styling did.
Personally, though, I think the brand, as a whole, even beyond the grilles, has simply become too sport-oriented. That's why the only current Lexus product I'd seriously consider buying is the ES350 (or, perhaps, if I wanted an SUV, an RX350)....and the ES was indeed a serious contender when I settled on a Lacrosse.
Another perspective from Autoblog
Lexus exec says he still fields complaints about the spindle grille

When Lexus debuted its spindle grille on the GS sedan and trademarked the design back in 2012, it was a sure sign the look was here to stay, and it started making its way through the lineup in the 2013 model year. Five model years later, it's on all Lexus vehicles. The one thing everyone can all agree on is, it's bold. Some people surely think nothing of it. Others have equated it to a cartoon character, a beard trimmer, or a whale scooping up krill. And Lexus has doubled down on the design with the LF-1 Limitless Concept on display at the Detroit Auto Show.

(In one harsh, perhaps apocryphal criticism, a design professor is said to have likened the spindle to the mouth of the titular hunter-alien in the "Predator" movies. In a much kinder spacefaring comparison, our Antti Kautonen said the grille of the LF-1 Limited Concept mimics a "Star Wars" ship's shift into hyperspace.)

A couple of years ago, Toyota chief designer — and head of Lexus — Tokuo Fukuichi defended the look in a Reuters interview, even going so far as to say that "sexy" was a goal of the design, and dismissing complaints by saying, "Even polarizing designs, you get used to them after a while." That defense was "a while" — three years — after the new look caused an uproar at a 2012 Toyota stockholders' meeting, where shareholders complained it was giving the brand a bad reputation. Some at the meeting likened the grille to an ugly deep-sea creature. (A kraken from the darkest depths, presumably, not a friendly baleen whale).

Now it has been "a while" longer, and a Lexus executive says the spindle grille has continued to divide Lexus customers. Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president and general manager, told Carbuzz on the sidelines of the Detroit show last week that longtime repeat customers still can't get their heads around whatever it is the car seems to be getting its mouth around.

"I'll be very transparent. It's our signature grille. Some of our models have a more expressive signature grille than others. The folks that look at it as somewhat polarizing would be, for the most part, the folks that have been with us since the beginning. In fact I'll take phone calls from some of these owners and will literally spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with me just expressing how disappointed they are," Bracken said.

Bracken has actually been saying almost the exact same things about the grille for years — both to upset customers and to automotive journalists — for example, to Forbes in 2014. But his mention of "I'll take calls" in this latest quote seems to indicate it's still going on.

"It gives me an opportunity to explain why we're going down this path. I understand your concern. It's a very purposeful and strategic move on our part. If we lose some of our traditional owners, it's unsettling for us but won't preclude us from moving down this path. We hope to gain more than we lose. We don't want to lose anybody, but ..."

Lexus' intent with the new design direction was to lure new customers as the luxury-buyer demographic started to skew younger.

"Our (previous) image had been that of a producer of high-quality luxury vehicles for years. But that wasn't enough to keep us relevant. It was important that we not only produced high-quality luxury vehicles but also that had to be edgy in terms of styling and cutting-edge technology."

And of course the grille looks better on some cars — such as the overall sharp-looking LC 500 (the multi-stage hybrid version is Autoblog's Technology of the Year car) — than it does on others.

But did the design serve its intended purpose? Did Lexus "gain more than we lose"? Lexus sales in the United States grew by 40 percent between 2012 and their peak in 2015. But since then, sales have fallen by 11 percent. What we don't know — and only Lexus can — is, did some older customers disavow their loyalty to Lexus and buy a German luxury car? Were gains in new customers enough to justify any loss of old ones? Did customers, either gained or retained, buy a Lexus based on any number of good reasons — the brand's quality, features, technology, or the way it holds its value — while holding their nose about ... the nose?


Many bigger factors, including great deals on luxury cars coming off leases and Americans' fondness for pickups, have had an effect on the luxury brands. The overall slump in the sedan market, especially, and the rise in luxury SUV sales has Lexus looking to regain lost ground by bringing an additional SUV like the LF-1 into its lineup, a vehicle Jeff Bracken and other Lexus brass are eager to get into production. And for now, in concept form at least, the LF-1 has a spindle grille. So Bracken's phone might not stop ringing anytime soon.
Thanks for moving to LL, I meant to post this here.
Tragic Bronson
Thanks for moving to LL, I meant to post this here.
Happy to oblige.
Jalopnik = 99% of the time baiting titles and articles with little substance..

Lexus stated themselves maybe as long as 10+ years ago that big changes were coming and they knew they were going to alienate many current owners but they could not take the risk of only appealing to the same people. They had to attract new customers.

I've owned them for what 22 years and many many buyers today or even people who haven't paid attention to Lexus are. The LF-1 recently had some major people asking me about it, which shocked me. They never asked about a Lexus before...maybe the LFA...

People need to get over the grill, its not even new at this point. Its over 4/5 years old. And I believe 2016 was a record year for Lexus sales. Even sales being down slightly in 2017 is surely not just due to the grill but due to aging product.

I remember when people used to confuse my ES, even GS for other cars from the CAmry to the Altima etc. I have yet to hear one person confuse the new spindle grill Lexus cars with anything else. I don't get that comment anymore. Mind you I am not in love with every spindle front end.

I also think Lexus might have seen the rise of non luxury brands. Have you see a Mazda, Hyundai/Kia/Toyota/Ford recently? I confuse them with Acura's, Infiniti's etc. No longer with a Lexus. If I confuse a Lexus today, its for another Lexus. The problem the Germans have.

It seems to be a good problem to have :)
mikeavelli
Jalopnik = 99% of the time baiting titles and articles with little substance..
You are correct in that "Killing sales" is a bit too strong, but that's "journalism"...they should have used sales figures to support their POV. I didn't bother to read the comments initially, but going back, there actually are some discerning Lexus owner voices that posted there (not sure if they are Jalopnik readers, but just Kinja in general) besides the usual negative banter expected; I even think your POV as a long time owner has weight and honesty, and IMO your thoughts should be in the section as well.

If anything, the only thing substantiated is Jeff B gets a lot of phone calls mostly from owners appalled by the newer grills, but their piece is just rehashing what Carbuzz already posted. BUT since Jalopnik is a huge site in the automotive media realm (and many of the Gizmodo Media sites formerly Gawker), ignoring them isn't something that even Lexus PR would probably do given the amount of traffic they get over many other sites and the influence they currently have (Have they been good for Mazda?). I would hope this posting here also gets SEO'd well enough for LE and be as clickable as Jalopnik's when it gets searched.
R
The Spindle grille in my opinion is not a dealbreaker (not for me at least) but, because, Germans automakers have advanced by leaps and bounds in quality standards Lexus has to match or surpass leaders such as Mercedes-Benz or Audi. Just look at the current IS which has materials in its cabin that could have been ripped off econoboxes such as the Corolla. This is absolutely unacceptable in 2018!
renyeo
The Spindle grille in my opinion is not a dealbreaker (not for me at least) but, because, Germans automakers have advanced by leaps and bounds in quality standards Lexus has to match or surpass leaders such as Mercedes-Benz or Audi. Just look at the current IS which has materials in its cabin that could have been ripped off econoboxes such as the Corolla. This is absolutely unacceptable in 2018!
Agreed on the interior materials. Lexus has been cost-cutting for years in that department.....although to a different extent from model to model. You will find materials in the upper-end vehicles like the LS, LX, and GX to be markedly superior to those on the IS and NX.

Also, Toyota and Lexus are not alone, among automakers, in cost-cutting. They just do it in some ways that are more noticeable at first...what the trim-materials and plastic inside feels like, for example. But Toyota and Lexus, to their credit, put their money where it perhaps matters most....a rock-solid, durable drivetrain. If a poorly-designed or poorly-fitted interior plastic trim piece, for example, cracks or works loose, that is not very likely going to leave you stranded. But if the engine or transmission craps out because of a poorly-designed oil pump or lousy metal in the gears or shafts, that is a whole different story. Take Honda and Acura, for instance. They excel in the things that Toyota is weak in.....durable, well-fitted interior materials and hardware (so, to a large extent, does, Kia and Hyundai). But recent Honda and Acura products, according to Consumer Reports, have become distinctly less reliable in the areas it matters most....drivetrain. Fortunately, Kia and Hyundai seem to (today) offer the best of both words...solid build inside and out, along with reasonably god long-term reliability.
renyeo
The Spindle grille in my opinion is not a dealbreaker (not for me at least) but, because, Germans automakers have advanced by leaps and bounds in quality standards Lexus has to match or surpass leaders such as Mercedes-Benz or Audi. Just look at the current IS which has materials in its cabin that could have been ripped off econoboxes such as the Corolla. This is absolutely unacceptable in 2018!
I think the IS is one example but if you have sat in a Q3 or Q1 etc whatever its worse. And yes its 2018 but the car was introduced in 2013 as a 2014 model. Its 5 years old.
What I find interesting is that literally every other automaker has made larger and blingier grilles in the last 5 years but it's always Lexus that gets called out in articles like this.
mikeavelli
I have yet to hear one person confuse the new spindle grill Lexus cars with anything else.
And IMO that’s why it’s here to stay. And Lexus recent designs like the LS and LC 500 and especially the LF 1 Limitless are cool, bold and could never be confused with any other brand.
Its funny you guys mention how their interiors are relatively sub par in the IS and NX. I gotta be honest but they're leaps and bounds nicer than a comparable BMW 3-Series or an X3. How about Audi? Not that great either. I don't agree whatsoever that Toyota and Lexus have sub par interiors relative to other companies. You mention how Honda has a better interior but the newest Camry destroys the Accord in interior build quality, great use of soft-touch materials, and overall a great interior. IMHO, the reason why they get negative reviews is the poor interior ergonomics and design (relative to other companies) and can sometimes be messy. Sales have proved that the outlandish sheet metal and performance oriented behavior in their cars has helped for Lexus (not really Toyota). They have improved massively in their newer LS and LC vehicles in terms of interior design and ergonomics, and need to transplant that into their other models. They also need to boost their power trains and transmissions for the better, get all the little technical things sorted and they would be considered as perfect in my eyes. I don't see anything wrong with Lexus yesterday, today, and the future. I think they are doing it right.

P.S. Expand your F brand Lexus!!
Ian Schmidt
What I find interesting is that literally every other automaker has made larger and blingier grilles in the last 5 years but it's always Lexus that gets called out in articles like this.

Perhaps so, but (proportionately-speaking), I find it difficult to imagine a grille any larger than the 2019 Avalon.

I gotta say, initially I really disliked how unnecessarily extreme it was, now I kind of gotten used to it (and like it shockingly). Hopefully it doesn't get any bigger than that.
I honestly love the grill especially F sport versions. Like mikeavelli said when you see the Grill you know it’s a Lexus. Lexus was always too boring now the German cars look boring to me. Lexus needs quicker engines which I hope they are working on but the sportiness of their cars is much improved!
B
mmcartalk
Perhaps so, but (proportionately-speaking), I find it difficult to imagine a grille any larger than the 2019 Avalon.

Somebody had to call them out....WTH?!? Avalon buyers spent Lexus money on a non-Lexus product i.e. of a certain age, and I think this is Uber Aggressive on the design. Of course, it shaves cost by eliminating a few pounds of non-painted materials, but you talk about a Big Mouth Bass coming at you at 70 mph!
I happen to like the Lexus grille :)

people love to complain. the more they stew about the grille, the worse it seems to them. whatever; just like you can't convince people to change strongly held (and often not entirely irrational) political positions, the grille haters will always be grille haters.
mmcartalk
Perhaps so, but (proportionately-speaking), I find it difficult to imagine a grille any larger than the 2019 Avalon.

did you see new Rav4 spyshots? It will get more rugged look, more like 4runner and it will definitely have HUGE grille. While you will never see Avalon grille in picture above in the same way, unless you are sitting on the road, Rav4 is taller vehicle and grille will be seen much more.



It also might not be Rav4 but similar but more rugged vehicle they hinted at with latest concept.
I mentioned this in the LF-1 thread but my thoughts are similar:

An area for improvement for Lexus design remains the front end - not just the spindle itself, but the overall integration of grill, bumpers, headlights and sheetmetal. The LC face is the only one that really nails it for me: it's clean, simple and beautifully matches the rest of the car (which is also clean, aggressive, elegant and futuristic).

The LS is 80% of the way there for me... it's strange how the main grill has the 3D mesh, but the two side air inlets on either side just have horizontal slats. It doesn't match. In addition, on either side of the inversion point on the grill, there are unnecessary body lines that should have been just smoothed into the grill surround, like the LF-FC. What I really like about the LF-FC is how simple but aggressive and elegant the front end was... production LS is just not "there."

I also like the spindle more when the lines are straighter - a la LC - instead of like on the LS where the bottom portion bows out. I don't care for that look at all. For as dramatic as the LC is, the front end is actually very clean and simplistic - that's the look Lexus should be striving for.

Lexus' design language has finally reached it's full potential and I just hope the grille follows and Lexus realizes that BIG and BOLD isn't necessarily better... especially when the rest of the car is fairly svelte, organic and curvy.

Good spindle:



[​IMG]


"Meh" spindle":




Bad spindle:




Following up on my post above, if we think back to Audi, who arguably started this trend, everyone felt like their grill was absurd, way too big, not elegant - and for a while, it was. However, over ~2 generations, Audi cleaned it up, streamlined the look and actually made and less imposing in contrast to the other elements on the front end.

Then:


Now:


The grill is still big, but Audi found ways to take the visual impact and spread it more evenly on the front of the car - adding a "chin" to the very bottom of the front bumper, adding the splitter bar in the middle of the grill, garnish inside the grill openings, etc.

The spindle shape works for Lexus, but it needs to be similarly refined.
Gecko
I mentioned this in the LF-1 thread but my thoughts are similar:

An area for improvement for Lexus design remains the front end - not just the spindle itself, but the overall integration of grille, bumpers, headlights and sheetmetal. The LC face is the only one that really nails it for me: it's clean, simple and beautifully matches the rest of the car (which is also clean, aggressive, elegant and futuristic).

The LS is 80% of the way there for me... it's strange how the main grille has the 3D mesh, but the two side air inlets on either side just have horizontal slats. It doesn't match. In addition, on either side of the inversion point on the grille, there are unnecessary body lines that should have been just smoothed into the grille surround, like the LF-FC. What I really like about the LF-FC is how simple but aggressive and elegant the front end was... production LS is just not "there."

I also like the spindle more when the lines are straighter - a la LC - instead of like on the LS where the bottom portion bows out. I don't care for that look at all. For as dramatic as the LC is, the front end is actually very clean and simplistic - that's the look Lexus should be striving for IMO.

Lexus' design language has finally reached it's full potential and I just hope the grille follows and Lexus realizes that BIG and BOLD isn't necessarily better... especially when the rest of the car is fairly svelte, organic and curvy.

Also, Lexus really wants to commit to the separated DRL check, but they can't do it fully. The LC, once again, gets this right because the shapes are simple and elegant. The LS looks sort of gimmicky, with three wings that check down into the bottom LED strip from the projectors... I wish they'd have kept it all together in one, more simplistic headlight shape like the LX or RX. It would have reduced the complexity of the front end design slightly. The LC is really the only iteration that looks good with separated DRLs. GS, NX and IS look tacked on and pretty bad, IMO. RX and LX look rather conservative but very clean and elegant. ES is "meh."

Good spindle:



[​IMG]


"Meh" spindle":




Bad spindle:




you make excellent, and very reasonable points. I completely agree that the grille is best on the LC; they have really nailed that front end. More evolulion is required. thanks for the pics! great illustration of your point
It's far from perfect, but I would have liked the LS front end to look more like the right side of this pic.

Left is stock, right is edited (simplified headlight, straightened the bottom part of the grill, blacked out the right-hand opening and eliminated the extra body line around the grill)

R
  • R
    RAL
  • January 25, 2018
I agree with Gecko's critique of the spindle grille. I understand embracing the hourglass/spindle shape for brand identity. However, IMO this continued evolution toward an ever increasing bodacious shape should be tempered ... Styling does not have to be complex and brash to be bold and dramatic ... simple is usually better, and bigger may not be!
I think that Photoshop oversimplifies things. If all you do is black out the lower intakes, for me the entire front end snaps into place nicely. I like the curve in the lower end of the spindle; it gives the front end some of the curviness that dominates the side view of the car. And while I like the look of the integrated DRLs, doing so creates a big expanse of boring body color that isn't there now, so I gotta give the decision to Lexus' original layout.
I like the lower intakes, and I like the lights as well, but perhaps some modifications there might make things more tied together along the lines of what Gecko has done with photoshop. I think that somehow they have to make the overall grille smaller and the only way to do that is to lower the hood / nose more, perhaps tapering it downwards like the Audi shown in Gecko's pics. this might be difficult and may then require some extension of the front a bit
Ian Schmidt
I think that Photoshop oversimplifies things. If all you do is black out the lower intakes, for me the entire front end snaps into place nicely. I like the curve in the lower end of the spindle; it gives the front end some of the curviness that dominates the side view of the car. And while I like the look of the integrated DRLs, doing so creates a big expanse of boring body color that isn't there now, so I gotta give the decision to Lexus' original layout.
PeterF
I like the lower intakes, and I like the lights as well, but perhaps some modifications there might make things more tied together along the lines of what Gecko has done with photoshop. I think that somehow they have to make the overall grille smaller and the only way to do that is to lower the hood / nose more, perhaps tapering it downwards like the Audi shown in Gecko's pics. this might be difficult and may then require some extension of the front a bit
I actually agree... haha. Once I finished that pic, I decided the modified front end was a little too bland. Maybe I should have left the headlight alone? I really do like the straighter grille though, a la LC, though. Oh well. I'm looking forward to seeing one of these cars on the road!
From a design standpoint if the side air vents also have the mesh ,yes it will match but then it takes away from the spindle. You would be focused past the shape of the grill as the mesh in the lower bottom gets attention.

I have always found lower fog-lamps to help a front end but with headlights so good today those days are nearly gone. But I think fogs would balance things better.
Gecko
Following up on my post above, if we think back to Audi, who arguably started this trend, everyone felt like their grill was absurd, way too big, not elegant - and for a while, it was. However, over ~2 generations, Audi cleaned it up, streamlined the look and actually made and less imposing in contrast to the other elements on the front end.

Then:


Now:


The grill is still big, but Audi found ways to take the visual impact and spread it more evenly on the front of the car - adding a "chin" to the very bottom of the front bumper, adding the splitter bar in the middle of the grill, garnish inside the grill openings, etc.

The spindle shape works for Lexus, but it needs to be similarly refined.
I actually liked the old audi grills better when they were pretty close to a square and the front end wasn't so pinched. Personal preference. I think the last generation cars were pretty damn perfect in regards to the S8, S5, S6 and even the RS7 is dope, the drooping rear never bugged me.
R
One of the ways Lexus Spindle grille may evolve apart from integrating the grille into rest of the front fascia is visually split the 1/3 top bit (where the Lexus logo is affixed) from the lower section (rest of the 3/4 in front of the radiators) but remain a one-piece 3D fixture.
renyeo
One of the ways Lexus Spindle grille may evolve apart from integrating the grille into rest of the front fascia is visually split the 1/3 top bit (where the Lexus logo is affixed) from the lower section (rest of the 3/4 in front of the radiators) but remain a one-piece 3D fixture.
In some ways, that's where the spindle came from. Pre-spindle Lexus cars had the top 1/3rd of the spindle as the actual grille, and then there were shapes strongly implying the other 2/3rds. The spindle just changed it so the whole shape was the grille.

I
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