Lexus LS: Fourth Generation

Lexus LS Chief Designer Explains His Creative Process

“Lexus

Prestige Online has a charming interview with Lexus LS chief designer Koichi Suga:

So how does the veteran designer with 30 years of experience decide on the best design? It would seem his trick is to sketch on Post-it notes. “I used to always draw and sketch on a big piece of paper. There is no deep thinking involved with that.”

Suga-san believes that within a big idea, you need to zoom in on certain elements to perfect it. He uses professional skating as an example. “My wife loves ice-skating so she and I would watch it on TV all the time but it’s hard to understand what the difference between a high score and low score is. They do it so smoothly but the height of a jump and the littlest of technique make that difference. So having small Post-it notes give me restriction – to sketch accordingly and if I don’t have enough space, I have to think about the lines, ways to simplify or draw it completely differently. It’s a way to challenge myself. I use both sides of my brain this way!”

Comments
The design of the new LS is nice, but the FC concept's design translated to the new LS would make this car a S class killer! My opinion.
Remember, the LF-FC shows the direction *after* the LS500. The next LS refresh will look more like it.
Decades ago (it may have been as far back as the 1970s!) I remember reading that car designers should work on as large as possible a piece of paper because "your ideas and imagination expand when you have a large piece of paper to draw on, and shrink when you sketch them on a small piece of paper" (or words to that effect). I was always a bit skeptical about that advice, since some of the car sketches that I came up with and liked would easily fit in a contemporary Post-It Note.

I find it fascinating that Suga-san turns that advice on its head and urges drawing on Post-It Notes as a means of encouraging deeper thinking and challenging yourself.
L
I’ve done a fair bit of scribbling on post-it notes myself. Looked nothing like that!
M
He is terrible. I'm sorry.

So many basic design mistakes in the new LS.
Mr. Burns
He is terrible. I'm sorry.

So many basic design mistakes in the new LS.
And what are your design credentials to differentiate a proper design from a design mistake?

Awaiting your informative post.
M
zeusus
And what are your design credentials to differentiate a proper design from a design mistake?

Awaiting your informative post.
Okay I'll bite.

#1 rule in flagship sedan design, the core of the car MUST ALWAYS BE STRAIGHT. This gives the car solidity.



Very crude sketch of what I would do.

The designer's mistakes:

The grill - too large, bottom half is needlessly wavy, and it SHOULD NOT END AT THE BASE OF THE CAR. There should always be space between the grill and the bottom of the car.

The side inlets - Why are they wavy? And again, they should not go all the way to the bottom of the car.

Belt line/greenhouse - should be STRAIGHT for as far as possible. The D-pillar kink is a Lexus design hallmark and can be kept.

Main side character line - SHOULD BE STRAIGHT and high on the doors.

Very simple rules.
Or maybe he's doing something more explicitly Japanese and your insistence on European/American rules is cultural chauvinism.
R
  • R
    RAL
  • February 11, 2018
Ian Schmidt
Or maybe he's doing something more explicitly Japanese and your insistence on European/American rules is not valid. I think it looks fine as-is, and I think when it evolves into the LF-FC it'll look even better, but in neither case is it trying to look like American/German standards.
Exactly!
M
This was the alternate design proposal for the LS500:



Much better than the current choice.
L
Personally I love the new LS’ design,but more importantly I think it’s wonderful that the design generates strong and divided opinions. That is greatly preferable to a unison shrug of “it’s nice,I guess.” Lexus wants to have their design style generate passion and I’ Say they’re succeeding.
Mr. Burns
This was the alternate design proposal for the LS500:
Much better than the current choice.
That's an LS460 with a body kit. No thanks. After how long the 4LS ran for the new one needed to look different.
Yeah I don't see your argument. Just because you're used to European or (coughs --> barfs) American design, does not mean there are other ways of designing a car. In fact, this is what suits us. Organic, Japanese, and pulls a lot of natural design elements.

That design you're also referring to? People would have called the spindle grafted on, and hell, that one does not look nearly as good as the 5LS. That rear end, then people would have whined that it looks like the S-Class and they have no ingenuity. Don't blame the Japanese if your boring American car design still has the ancient, boxy layout. Japanese design is always more flowy, more...... natural and sexy. If it wasn't for Japan, American automobiles would still look like they're from the 80's. Nuh uh honey, this is what we appreciate. We don't like to copy, we like difference and uniqueness. If that's a problem for you, then it ain't their problem. We like it, dealers like it, and most of all, CONSUMERS love it too. Just take a glance over at the sales reports. :)

EDIT: P.S Don't just decree that someone should be sent to an American or European studio. That's flat out assimilation. Shame on you. That's someone's hard-work, love and passion that went to designing that car. Hundreds, or maybe thousands of man and woman hours that went in. These cars represent of what Japan is all about. If one day you want something truly Japanese and no, it isn't the sushi that you get at your convenience store (still damn good though and may very well be Japanese), but you either go somewhere or someplace where they give you legit sushi, or you buy a Lexus. True, down to Earth, Japanese craftsmanship.
M
F1 Silver Arrows
Yeah I don't see your argument. Just because you're used to European or (coughs --> barfs) American design, does not mean there are other ways of designing a car. In fact, this is what suits us. Organic, Japanese, and pulls a lot of natural design elements.

That design you're also referring to? People would have called the spindle grafted on, and hell, that one does not look nearly as good as the 5LS. That rear end, then people would have whined that it looks like the S-Class and they have no ingenuity. Don't blame the Japanese if your boring American car design still has the ancient, boxy layout. Japanese design is always more flowy, more...... natural and sexy. If it wasn't for Japan, American automobiles would still look like they're from the 80's. Nuh uh honey, this is what we appreciate. We don't like to copy, we like difference and uniqueness. If that's a problem for you, then it ain't their problem. We like it, dealers like it, and most of all, CONSUMERS love it too. Just take a glance over at the sales reports. :)

EDIT: P.S Don't just decree that someone should be sent to an American or European studio. That's flat out assimilation. Shame on you. That's someone's hard-work, love and passion that went to designing that car. Hundreds, or maybe thousands of man and woman hours that went in. These cars represent of what Japan is all about. If one day you want something truly Japanese and no, it isn't the sushi that you get at your convenience store (still damn good though and may very well be Japanese), but you either go somewhere or someplace where they give you legit sushi, or you buy a Lexus. True, down to Earth, Japanese craftsmanship.
The best styled cars are European.

European designers have mastered this to an art. There are rules. There are rules in proportions, rules in surfacing, rules in graphics. You can make Japanese styling while following these fundamental rules.

A designer who does not understand these rules should not be designing luxury cars, it's like an Engineer who doesn't understand math is in charge of a bridge. The result will look like a bridge, but it will not be a very good bridge.

The LS500 looks like a luxury car, but it is not a very good luxury car design. It would have been a lot better if the designer understood and adhered to the rules, which are there for a reason.

I really hope the next LS or at least GS will be designed by CALTY Newport.
Mr. Burns
The best styled cars are European.

There are rules. There are rules in proportions, rules in surfacing, rules in graphics. You can make Japanese styling while following these fundamental rules.

The Europeans have mastered this to an art. Their understanding of proportions is so good that there are FWD Audis and Volvos that look more RWD at first glance than RWD Lexus sedans.

A designer who does not understand these rules should not be designing luxury cars, it's like an Engineer who doesn't understand math is in charge of a bridge. The result will look like a bridge, but it will not be a very good bridge.

The LS500 looks like a luxury car, but it is not a very good luxury car design. It would have been a lot better if the designer understood and adhered to the rules, which are there for a reason.

I really hope the next LS or at least GS will be designed by CALTY Newport.
*sigh* If ya can't teach em, just ignore em. You've literally deflected from everything I said and you just proved me your ignorance. I'm not going to bother to explain why you're wrong. I can see this getting escalated. Someone please take over. I'm out.
M
F1 Silver Arrows
*sigh* If ya can't teach em, just ignore em. You've literally deflected from everything I said and you just proved me your ignorance. I'm not going to bother to explain why you're wrong. I can see this getting escalated. Someone please take over. I'm out.
Your core argument is that this is Japanese and what I mentioned is American/European.

I don't agree with this.

I would file it under amateur vs experienced instead of Japanese vs. European/American. The nationality has nothing to do with it.
Mr. Burns
He is terrible. I'm sorry.

So many basic design mistakes in the new LS.
You designed how many cars and went to which design school? Curious....
Mr. Burns
I would file it under amateur vs experienced instead of Japanese vs. European/American. The nationality has nothing to do with it.
No, you want all premium luxury sedans to clone the S-Class. That's one site over, at "Genesis Genius".
M
Ian Schmidt
No, you want all premium luxury sedans to clone the S-Class. That's one site over, at "Genesis Genius".
lol no, the S-class may follow the rules but it's not a great design either. And Genesis is a joke.

Try the E38 7er, the original pre-refresh LS600hL, the X350 Jaguar XJ, the new Volvo S90, or even the new Audi A8 minus the FWD proportions.
F1 Silver Arrows
*sigh* If ya can't teach em, just ignore em. You've literally deflected from everything I said and you just proved me your ignorance. I'm not going to bother to explain why you're wrong. I can see this getting escalated. Someone please take over. I'm out.
The funny thing is Mr. Burns so angrily stating his opinion proves Lexus correct in they know some people will hate their designs and they are okay with that. :)

If one likes a traditional 3 box, the new LS isn't for you. I am also not in love with the design but for a LS and for a car in this class it might just be the most bold and daring. I think the Panamara matches it for the exact opposite reasons, with no grill and being a hatch.
mikeavelli
The funny thing is Mr. Burns so angrily stating his opinion proves Lexus correct in they know some people will hate their designs and they are okay with that. :)

If one likes a traditional 3 box, the new LS isn't for you. I am also not in love with the design but for a LS and for a car in this class it might just be the most bold and daring. I think the Panamara matches it for the exact opposite reasons, with no grill and being a hatch.
True. That being said. I adore the S-Class, I love the LS, the Panamera. Definitely my top 3 favorites ever.
F1 Silver Arrows
True. That being said. I adore the S-Class, I love the LS, the Panamera. Definitely my top 3 favorites ever.
At first I found the W222 a bit blah but after a few years it hasn't aged a bit. A beautiful design and it influenced the C Class (got it right) and E class (meh).

I also am head over heels over the S8, I never thought I would like a "big A3/A4" but damn its pretty perfect to me.
Let's keep this conversation on track and knock off the personal insults and jabs, please.

Thanks.
There is no "European" design. There are vast differences how different brands design vehicles in Europe. Usually could be related to their home countries but not always.

Same can be said of Japan, Toyota, Nissan and Honda designs are not similar.
Mr. Burns
Okay I'll bite.

#1 rule in flagship sedan design, the core of the car MUST ALWAYS BE STRAIGHT. This gives the car solidity.
Sorry if I wasn't clear. I was really only asking for your credentials, not to scribble lines over an already completed production luxury car and attempt to claim expertise with it.

Do you have any experience as a senior automotive designer?

The S Class, which many can confidently claim is the class benchmark, does not have straight lines but it appears to be solid.
M
zeusus
Sorry if I wasn't clear. I was really only asking for your credentials, not to scribble lines over an already completed production luxury car and attempt to claim expertise with it.

Do you have any experience as a senior automotive designer?

The S Class, which many can confidently claim is the class benchmark, does not have straight lines but it appears to be solid.
Credentials? This guy has "credentials" yet he doesn't understand the fundamentals of premium car design.

I do and I merely dabble.

But it's okay, I'm not going to harp on this further. I'm just disappointed in the styling of the LS500, I think Lexus could have done a lot better.
Mr. Burns
This was the alternate design proposal for the LS500:



Much better than the current choice.
This proposal was the basis of the LF-FC, dated 2013. This was another. Suga led the design process, but the man who did the exterior was Yoshio Kanesugi under Suga's direction. It is like solely blaming Chris Bangle for Adrian Van Hooydonk's work at BMW on the E65 7 and E63 6, but not far off the mark.

This was my most favourite proposal for the 200B programme.
View attachment 2738
View attachment 2739

Of course this was the final result in June 2014, photographed at design freeze.
View attachment 2740 View attachment 2741

What has bothered me about the 200B programme for XF50, is how they assigned ES engineer Toshio Asahi to it, who was busy wrapping up development of the XV60 ES at the time. Why not the Haruhiko Tanahashi of LFA fame? If he could have just withheld retirement a few years past 2015-16, having ended LFA development in early 2010, he could have taken the lead on Toyota's latest and greatest luxury product as his concluding effort.

There are not enough world firsts on this car, like I was falsely lead to believe by Lexus UK personnel (plus local dealers in London, Coventry, and Birmingham). It just leaves me scratching my head, in comparing the transformation from LS 430 to LS 460. It is much better handling and now has a twin-turbo engine, but some things just feel missing after so many years of waiting and like you're still waiting for more to be said via press release.
Carmaker1
This proposal was the basis of the LF-FC, dated 2013. This was another. Suga led the design process, but the man who did the exterior was Yoshio Kanesugi under Suga's direction. It is like solely blaming Chris Bangle for Adrian Van Hooydonk's work at BMW on the E65 7 and E63 6, but not far off the mark.

This was my most favourite proposal for the 200B programme.
View attachment 2738
View attachment 2739

Of course this was the final result in June 2014, photographed at design freeze.
View attachment 2740 View attachment 2741

What has bothered me about the 200B programme for XF50, is how they assigned ES engineer Toshio Asahi to it, who was busy wrapping up development of the XV60 ES at the time. Why not the Haruhiko Tanahashi of LFA fame? If he could have just withheld retirement a few years past 2015-16, having ended LFA development in early 2010, he could have taken the lead on Toyota's latest and greatest luxury product as his concluding effort.

There are not enough world firsts on this car, like I was falsely lead to believe by Lexus UK personnel (plus local dealers in London, Coventry, and Birmingham). It just leaves me scratching my head, in comparing the transformation from LS 430 to LS 460. It is much better handling and now has a twin-turbo engine, but some things just feel missing after so many years of waiting and like you're still waiting for more to be said via press release.
What I believe you're saying is that the XF50 LS is a bit of a miss, I presume? In my humble opinion, I feel like the biggest mistake that Lexus made is that the rear seat legroom is so small for a luxury flagship. Needs to be at least another 5-6 inches more room to be at that class. They really did revolutionize handling and agility even in base form, have a much more flowing and a more Japanese esque interior. The V6 also adding a lot of low-end grunt.

Can you elaborate on which factors that the XF50 LS is a miss? I am genuinely curious of what Lexus could have done better. My second question is...... can these omissions be added in a mid-cycle refresh? Say sometime around 2021?
Carmaker1
There are not enough world firsts on this car, like I was falsely lead to believe by Lexus UK personnel (plus local dealers in London, Coventry, and Birmingham). It just leaves me scratching my head, in comparing the transformation from LS 430 to LS 460. It is much better handling and now has a twin-turbo engine, but some things just feel missing after so many years of waiting and like you're still waiting for more to be said via press release.
I think the LS has been the most notorious victim of what I half-jokingly call the "lost decade" at Lexus. We had all new IS, ES, GS and LS back to back in 2006-2008, and then nothing for 10-12 years: no new engines, no new transmissions, no notable new technology, no real advancement. The pace of advancement in this industry is so fast right now that unless OEMs are making regular, continual, tactical updates, they are setting themselves up to need a revolution to be competitive. Lexus fell too far behind to deliver the same type of LS that we are all used to - they had too much "catch up" work to do.

There are many reasons for this, I believe, but most of it can be tied back to leadership changes and missteps. We have heard so many contrasting things from Toyota and Lexus execs over the last few years that it's clear there was no real top-down vision for a long time, IMO. Then I think this concept of flexible, modular architectures and engines came up somewhere around 2011-2012 with the LF-LC, so that set everything back even further as they delayed all redesigns to accommodate TNGA.

LS is not a bad car by any stretch, and there are many things about it that I really like... especially the interior. But it's really foolish to launch a flagship luxury car and then before it's on sale, show a Toyota product with Apple CarPlay. I am still struggling with powertrains as well, with reports of the 500h being choppy and unrefined in real world driving, and the TT V6 delivering lackluster acceleration and performance numbers. On top of that, it's the biggest LS ever and has less rear seat room than a Honda Accord. These are a few things that, IMO, show this car was an 80% effort and could have used a little more development time.

G
Top