Lexus UX Concept presented at the 2016 Paris Motor Show

Article by Christian A., on October 3, 2016

UX Concept takes Lexus' trademark designs and gives it a thorough reinterpretation. Furthermore, the changes echo the brand's commitment to give its models a unique character to go with the strong concept that powers it. It may have the same UX Concept, but it has an inside out design concept.

The powerful design is complemented by modern and imaginative technologies that give passengers and the driver a wholly immersive ride. This feeling is boosted even further by the cockpit's ergonomics and innovative HMI technology. This car is also the first one to have the Kinetic Seat, which is a breakthrough technology designed by Lexus to make their car seats more in tune with the needs of the occupants.

Lexus UX Concept presented at the 2016 Paris Motor Show benefits from the car brand's expertise in the SUV segment. Lexus was the first to come out with an SUV in the 1990s with its LX and RX models that mixed together off road performance with luxury. The RX 400h was the first premium hybrid SUV, coming out in 2004, while the NX SUV showed the world that striking design can also be useful.

Today, the premium small sized SUV market is the fastest growing market in Europe. Younger customers are looking for ways to upgrade that would allow them to have cars that are styled uniquely with an engaging driving feel and a flexible interior. Customers who want premium models, on the other hand, are looking for ways to downsize without sacrificing driving position, roominess and comfort. And this is the reason why this segment has taken the biggest share in the SUV market.

The UX Concept underlines Lexus’s commitment to attract the younger and always-connected customers. This is the ‘Urbanites’ group and this is the first time that Lexus has paid more attention to the group.

Exterior Design

ED2 interior designer Alexandre Gommier says that the inside out design concept was the result of countless hours of discussions within the design team. The team wanted to show a stronger visual design that is focused on the human aspects of the car. They wanted a strong correlation between the inside and exterior of the car and this congruence was a key goal. The exterior would hint at the designs you find in the interior.

Thus, the inside out concept was born and it became the cornerstone of the design process, helping to create a strong congruence between the interior and exterior design. Looking at the car from the top, you would see a strong X-shaped flow from the cabin outwards and the other way around.

Looking from the front, the wings blend into the cabin to form the casings for the e-mirror screens that are used to display the images captured by the rear facing cameras. The dashboard is lower than the screens to make it look deconstructed and to improve forward visibility.

Then looking at it from the rear, you would find that the bodywork integrates seamlessly into the cabin, and this is where you find the main skeletons for the headrests of the rear seats.

The X-shaped movement is also seen by the powerful wings, while you have wheel arch cladding that is aerodynamically efficient and adds another dimension for the design.

Inner skeleton you can see

The inside out design theme is underlined by the roof bars, door cameras and wheel arches. These elements have the same finish and form as a continuous skeletal structure. It would appear like the roof bar goes into the cabin and rises out as the door camera mounts.

Paintwork that defines form

UX Concept makes use of body color that underlines the car's shape. Without any character lines, the Immersive Amethyst paintwork gives it a multi-layered depth that features volume changes and definition. This helps define the car's design as volume-oriented instead of a line-oriented styling.

Innovative details

The design concept is also seen in the minutest details that you see all over the vehicle. These little elements are actually a reinterpretation of the brand's trademark design details.

For instance, the L-shaped daytime running lights are no longer placed beneath the main headlamps but are now positioned so that it looks like it pierces through the headlights. The rear lamp has a 3-D look and is embedded in the spoiler. And both the front and back lights give the car's body a defined horizontal axis.

Light fibers cover the air vents at both ends of the front bumper in a grille pattern. The grille itself has a mesh pattern that goes out radially from the Lexus logo and onto to the light fibers, making the car look wide and daring.

It’s highly interesting how the tires are made up of a mix of materials. It makes use of laser carving technology that gives it two very recognizable aspects. The tread pattern gives it a strong grip on the road, while the side walls have a crossover look that blends effortlessly with the wheel's design. A part of the wheel blends seamlessly with the rubber, making the spokes look like it is bringing together different tire sections. All in all, it looks like the tires and the wheel are just one unit, instead of being separate.

Unique A-pillar

Another one-of-a-kind element you see here is the see-through A-pillar, further reinforcing the philosophy of blurring the boundaries between the interior and the exterior. The A-pillar makes uses of polycarbonate fins that are connected to aluminum components.

Interior Design

The cabin gives you two varied perceptions of luxury, echoing the dual styling nature of the rear and front wings.

The cabin’s front gives an air of driver engagement and sophistication, while the rear gives a more welcoming air. The rear reminds you of a lounge sofa that wraps into the rear doors, with all the room and comfort of an SUV.

Even with its different interpretations of luxury, the rear and the front are connected by the central axis console unit that looks like it is floating and covers the full length of the passenger cabin. Another point of connection is the transparent design of the front seat. On the other hand, you have the color scheme to delineate the different parts of the cabin, with the front portion darker than the back part.

The Interior: Deconstructed

Deconstruction is another key principle that was used in the Lexus UX Concept design. This is most readily seen in the cabin's front where instead of a traditional dashboard, you see angular forms that interact with each other and create a play of contrasts and shadows. Looking at these forms, you will find it difficult to see where one form ends and another begins. This makes it more mysterious and enigmatic.

This reflects a largely Japanese design approach. It uses converging lines to create a notional point and you just let your brain fill in the gaps. This takes advantage of the notion that you really do not need to see something to know that it is there, and it is at the center of the brand's L-finesse design motto.

But even with this deconstructed interior, you can still find the Seat in Control principle inside. Plus, the area surrounding the front passenger is now smaller, giving the driver more room and more control.

Seat Technology: A Breakthrough

The UX Concept employs a breakthrough seat technology called the Kinetic Seat Concept. This helps give the driver an enhanced driving experience and gives passengers a feeling of transparency and roominess. Check out the brand's press kit at the motor show for more information on the Kinetic Seat Concept.

3D Technology

The UX Concept has innovative HMI technology that gives the driver a three dimensional experience. This is just perfect for today's customers who are always connected. The 3D feel of the instruments makes use of the deconstruction techniques that are employed in the concept car, as the meters flow in and out. This styling makes the cabin space feel bigger.

For instance, the upper display appears farther away, making it easy to see it when one is driving. The instrument binnacle is where you would find the transparent globe that looks like it is floating. The hologram like globe displays both digital and analog information using a one of a kind but functional interface.

The center console also has a crystal structure that displays information related to infotainment and air conditioning. The information displayed on this faceted piece is very visible to both the driver and passenger.

Press Release

Lexus UX Concept

“The biggest challenge for any designer is always to create something new and original, yet with relevance to both the customer and the brand. Overall, this is a product that gives another hint of the potential for Lexus’s design approach to satisfy those criteria; the expression of a progressive, strong, yet artistic and premium product which further enhances Lexus’s unique and challenging brand position.”

Simon Humphries, President ED2

The UX Concept powerfully reinterprets Lexus’s design signatures and reflects the brand’s determination that each of its models should have a unique, stand-alone character with a strong concept behind it, represented by its powerful, inside-out design concept and deconstructed interior styling.

This strong design is combined with imaginative, forward-thinking technologies to provide occupants with a fully immersive experience. This sensation is generated by cockpit ergonomics that flow from the driver’s body, and innovative, three-dimensional HMI technology.

The vehicle also features the first design execution of a breakthrough seat technology, the Kinetic Seat, designed by Lexus in response to a re-evaluation of the principles of car seat occupancy.

The Lexus UX Concept draws on Lexus’s unparalleled expertise in the SUV market. Lexus pioneered the SUV in the 1990s with the RX and LX, combining off-road capabilities with premium luxury for the first time in the auto industry. In 2004, the RX 400h became the world’s first premium hybrid SUV and in 2014 the NX mid-size SUV demonstrated how ‘utility’ can be combined with a striking design.

The premium compact SUV segment is growing faster than any other in the European new car market. With young customers upgrading in a quest for distinctive styling, a versatile interior and engaging driving experience, and with premium model customers looking to downsize without compromising on comfort, driving position and space, it is destined to become the largest part of the SUV segment.

The UX Concept highlights Lexus’s intention to attract an ever-wider group of new, younger, always-connected urban customers – ‘Urbanites’ – to the brand for the first time.

RADICAL COMPACT CROSSOVER PACKAGING

“Our brief was to create a new genre of compact crossover, a vehicle that could progress the user experience and create something unique from a customer’s point of view. Inspiration came from many sources, but principally from the key phrases representing the character of the car: “robust yet agile” and “in-and-out styling concept”. This comes from one of the Lexus fundamentals, the ‘Yet’ philosophy. We were looking for inspiration representing the synergy of contrasting values, in architecture, fashion design or nature, with a view to fusing lightness and structural, artistic and emotional values.”

Stefan Rasmussen, Exterior Designer, ED2

The UX Concept is a new kind of four-seat crossover which contrasts the almost brutal appearance and 4×4 presence of an off-roader with a low ground clearance and coupe-like driving position. This reinforces the promise of dynamic performance that’s embedded in the design’s compact packaging.

Unique ‘inside-out’ design concept

“The inside-out concept came from a lot of discussions within the team. We wanted to show the human-centric aspect of the concept in a visually as well as philosophically strong way. A strong symbiosis between the exterior and interior was felt to be important by all the designers involved. It was a key goal to create anticipation from the exterior, which could then have a visual link and expand into the interior.”

Alexandre Gommier, Interior Designer ED2

A futuristic ‘inside-out’ concept lies at the heart of the design, creating a strong synergy between the exterior and interior styling. In top-view, this is most strongly represented by an X-shaped movement in the architecture from the cabin outwards and vice-versa.

At the front, the wings flow seamlessly into the cabin to form housings for e-mirror screens that display images from door-mounted, rear-facing cameras. The top of the dashboard sits lower than these screens to combine a deconstructed look with excellent forward visibility. At the rear the bodywork again flows into the cabin, where it forms the main structure of the rear seat headrests.

The X-shaped movement from the inside outwards is similarly reinforced by the 4×4 style emphasis of the powerful wings; aerodynamically efficient wheel arch cladding adds a further dimension to the design.

Visible inner skeleton

The ‘inside-out’ styling theme is further emphasised by the wheel arches, roof bars and door cameras. They are all finished in the same material and represent a form of continuous, bone structure; the inner skeleton of the vehicle coming into view as, for instance, the roof bar penetrates the cabin – creating the A-pillar structure – and re-emerges as the door camera mounting.

Highly sculptural, fluid design

“We worked extensively in clay as well as with digital methods, not to be the most efficient, but to be able to achieve the best quality of surfacing and design. Having a highly skilled Takumi clay modelling team on the project allowed us to explore many ways to create the beautiful surface interactions that are a key element in this design’s muscular yet elegant boldness.”

Stefan Rasmussen, Exterior Designer, ED2

A further evolution of the Lexus spindle grille marks an important step forward, wherein the whole volume surrounding the grille, rather than simply the grille itself, creates the identity of the vehicle; it creates a more three-dimensional starting point which then informs the shape of the bodyshell.

These key external elements are linked together by a highly sculptural, sensual surfacing, reminiscent of a classic sports car. This architecture is unique to Lexus, the strong horizontal dynamic of the design achieved through volume rather than merely character lines.

This horizontal quality of the design is further emphasised by the length of the bonnet, while the peak of the cabin is deliberately set far back to create a dynamic, characterful profile.

Form-defining paintwork

Even the UX Concept’s body colour has been designed to emphasise the car’s shape. In the absence of character lines, the multi-layered depth of the new Immersive Amethyst paintwork serves to highlight volume changes, giving definition to the sculpture and expressing the car as a volume, rather than simply a line-oriented design.

Innovative design signature details

The ‘inside-out‘ concept is not only reflected in the overall design architecture, but also in numerous details throughout the vehicle, many of which represent a more challenging interpretation of Lexus design signatures.

The L-shaped daytime running lights, traditionally located below the main headlamp structures, have been positioned so that they pierce them. The rear lamp design has a strong three-dimensional treatment and is integrated in the rear spoiler. Together the front and rear lamps create a strong horizontal axis through the vehicle body.

Carrying the daytime running light principle further, light fibres which span the air vents in the extremities of the front bumper relate in form to the grille pattern. The grille’s mesh pattern itself spreads radially outwards from the Lexus emblem and is picked up by the adjacent light fibres, emphasising the car’s width and giving it an even stronger road presence.

Even the tyres – unique to the UX Concept – blur the boundaries of materials technology. A high-tech laser carving process is used to give the tyre design two distinct aspects. The tread pattern has a sports direction, maximising road contact to achieve dynamic grip, while the side wall projects a crossover feel with seamless integration with the wheel design. A section of the wheel continues into the rubber, so that the spokes form a visual joint between different sections of the tyre. The result is a reading of the wheel and tyre as one piece, rather than separate elements.

Unique, see-through A-pillar

A unique, see-through A-pillar is another example of how the boundaries between the exterior and interior are blurred. While a fully transparent polycarbonate A-pillar is feasible, the UX Concept uses polycarbonate fins attached to an aluminium member.

Two perceptions of luxury in a single cabin

The cabin offers two different perceptions of luxury within a single space, reflecting the contrasting external treatments of the front and rear wings.

The front section of the cabin represents agile sophistication and driver engagement; the rear, styled as a welcoming, soft lounge sofa that wraps around into the rear-hinged rear doors, provides the comfort and spaciousness of a robust SUV.

The front and rear are linked by a central axis console unit, designed with a floating effect and extending the full length of the cabin, and by the transparency of the front seat design. The differences between the two parts of the cabin are further reinforced by the interior colour scheme: the front is dark, to communicate a premium, driver-focused environment, while the rear is light and much brighter, to create an attractive and welcoming space.

Deconstructed interior

The second key principle employed in designing the Lexus UX Concept is ‘deconstruction’. This is most powerfully represented in the front of the cabin where, in place of a conventional dashboard, sharp, angular forms overlap and flow past each other to generate a strong interplay of shadows and contrasts, making it difficult to discern where they begin or end and reinforcing the mystery of the ‘inside-out’ approach.

This particularly Japanese approach to design suggests that, to create a fixed point, you simply have to indicate its notional position with converging lines; the brain fills the gaps to create the point in the mind. Such ‘indirect expression’ – the premise that you don’t actually need to be able to see something to understand that is there – lies at the heart of Lexus’s L-finesse design philosophy.

Within this unique, deconstructed interior, a strong ‘Seat in Control’ principle remains a Lexus brand signature. Furthermore, the area around the front passenger has been deliberately given less priority in the space hierarchy, in order to emphasise the driver’s control of the environment.

Breakthrough seat technology

The UX Concept’s seats are inspired by a new Lexus seat technology, the Kinetic Seat Concept. The aim is to further enhance the driver experience and the feeling of cabin spaciousness and transparency. The Kinetic Seat Concept is explained in detail in a dedicated chapter of Lexus’s 2016 Paris Motor Show press kit.

IMAGINATIVE 3D TECHNOLOGY

In a development of Lexus’s dual-zone instrumentation approach, all the UX Concept’s on-board HMI technology has been designed to provide an innovative three-dimensional driver experience, well-suited to progressive customers who live and work in an increasingly connected environment.

The strong 3D feel of the instrumentation is a further example of the radical deconstruction techniques used in the UX Concept, as witnessed in the in and out flow of the meters – near for air conditioning, far for navigation – making the cabin space feel larger.

For example, the upper display is projected in such a way that it appears to sit in the far distance, under the bonnet, making for easy viewing when driving. The driver’s instrument binnacle houses a transparent globe, which floats like a hologram, displaying a combination of analogue and digital information in a user interface that is functional, yet unexpected.

A faceted crystal structure is located in the centre console, providing a hologram-style display of air conditioning and infotainment information, clearly visible to both driver and front seat passenger.

Latest advances in electrical technology

The Lexus UX Concept also displays some of the latest advances in electrical technology, using electrochromatic windows and replacing conventional door mirrors with much slimmer e-mirror camera housings.

Left and right side e-mirror images are displayed on internal screens, integrated in a way that is not simply a design detail, but which informs the entire ‘inside-out’ deconstructed architecture of the dashboard.

All the switchgear is electrostatic and housed beneath transparent covers. The front seat passenger experiences the instrument panel in a different way to the driver, using a separate centre display track pad control built into the door armrest panel.

Finally, the fin motif of the A-pillar is repeated in a new audio experience targeting younger Lexus customers – a demountable sound bar built into the side of the dashboard.

A new approach to driving ergonomics

In a new departure for Lexus’s HMI concept, the cockpit area’s ergonomic design flows from the driver’s body, via the seat, up to the steering wheel, rather than from a traditional dashboard layout.

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