Update: ‘New LFA to be an EV’ and ‘Fun-to-drive with motorsport lineage’ section updated and ‘TopElectricSUV says’ section added.
This decade will see the introduction of a slew of Lexus EVs in various sizes, shapes, and segments. The Japanese luxury brand’s upcoming zero-emission models will include a Lexus LFA successor.
Initially standing for ‘Lexus Future Advance’ during the moniker’s prototype era, the production-series LFA saw that changing to a more befitting ‘Lexus F-Sports Apex’.
Toyota Motor Corporation’s Beyond Zero presentation on December 14, 2021, surprised the automotive fraternity as the brand showcasing not a few but 16 new Lexus and Toyota vehicles and concepts. And they made sure that there was something in the pipeline for enthusiasts with a Lexus electric supercar concept.
New LFA to be an EV
Last decade, Lexus’ halo model was the LFA, a dream project of Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda. The handcrafted sports car’s production began on December 15, 2010, and ended two years later on December 14, 2012. The arrival of the LFA was not hyped back then, but over the years, experts and enthusiasts realized what an authentic driving machine that car was.
Koji Sato, who is Lexus’ President and Chief Branding Officer and also Gazoo’s President, laid the groundwork for the Lexus LFA successor, which appears to be the spiritual successor to the LFA, exactly nine years after the last LFA rolled off the assembly line in Motomachi, Japan (the LC was a grand tourer). On December 14, 2021, he announced the concept version of a new Lexus electric supercar:
The endless pursuit of the Lexus Driving Signature will move to the next stage through development of the new Sports Battery EV.Koji Sato, President and Chief Branding Officer, Lexus, and President, Gazoo (Media Briefing on Battery EV Strategies on 14 December 2021)
It was Toyoda who hinted that the Lexus electric supercar would be the Lexus LFA successor. He said:
Lexus will develop a next-generation battery EV sports car that inherits the driving taste, or the secret sauce, of the performance cultivated via the development of the LFA.Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation (Media Briefing on Battery EV Strategies on 14 December 2021)
At Toyota Motor Europe’s (TME) Kenshiki Forum 2022 event (November 29-30, 2022), Lexus Electrified Chief Engineer Takashi Watanabe confirmed the Electrified Sport concept will lead to a production model:
I cannot tell you when we will be launching a production vehicle based on the Electrified Sport, but I can confirm we are working on it. This is not just a design concept, it is meant to become reality.Takashi Watanabe, Chief Engineer, Lexus Electrified, at Kenshiki Forum 2022
Fun-to-drive with motorsport lineage
Toyota Motor Corporation’s electric sports cars will not just shine on paper. Toyota president Akio Toyoda mentioned the arrival of fun-to-drive Toyota cars, possibly with motorsport lineage, at the Tokyo Auto Salon press conference in December 2021. He stated that the company considers all options and wants to appeal to as many car enthusiasts as possible.
Will Gazoo Racing be involved in the process for the Lexus LFA successor? Sato spoke about improving a car’s performance by reducing weight and increasing power and torque outputs. This could imply that the brand is evaluating the option of electrifying GR-badged vehicles such as the GR Yaris, which has earned global recognition for its performance.
Replicating a manual transmission
At Toyota Motor Europe’s (TME) annual Kenshiki event, Lexus Electrified Chief Engineer Takashi Watanabe confirmed the Lexus Electrified Sport concept’s production version, presumably the Lexus LFA successor, will have a manual transmission. It will be a software-based system, and the driver will be able to customize its mapping as per their liking.
Lexus is developing the software-based manual transmission for EVs using a UX 300e prototype. The company added a shift knob, a clutch pad, and a tachometer, and created a simulated drive force map with pedal and shift positions to reproduce the feeling of a manual transmission. “This system would only be one of many on the Electrified Sport that would be fully managed by software,” Watanabe said.
Allowing manual gear changes would help the driver feel connected to the car’s propulsion system and give them ultimate control over the same. Lexus demonstrated in the UX 300e prototype that the software-based manual transmission will simulate the breaks in acceleration with the rpm and powertrain sound changing whenever the driver shifts up or down.
EVs typically have a linear acceleration, which manual lovers may find monotonous. But that wouldn’t be the case with the LFA successor. While the new car won’t scream like the LFA, manual shifts could grab the attention of purists who prefer old-school driving.
DIRECT4 and brake-by-wire system
Bart Eelen, the Head of Lexus product and marketing at Lexus Europe, revealed at the Kenshiki event that the production supercar derived from the Electrified Sport concept will feature DIRECT4, which is the Japanese automaker’s branding for all-wheel drive with electrification technology.
“We have already introduced DIRECT4 on our full-electric RZ and the RX 500h, our first-ever performance turbo hybrid. And looking ahead, we will obviously implement it also on Electrified Sport and other models,” Eelen said.
Steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire systems
Speaking further, Eelen confirmed steer-by-wire for the LFA successor, a technology already available in the Lexus RZ, at the Kenshiki event. Watanabe later revealed brake-by-wire will also be one of the software-based systems of this model.
There’s no mechanical link or traditional steering column in a steer-by-wire system. An electrical connection is used for the exchange of inputs between the steering wheel and the wheels, which results in instant response and more precise steering control. Moreover, steer-by-wire offers more stability in strong crosswinds and excellent straight-line performance on angled surfaces.
Toyota has already previewed the ‘Sports EV’ and the Lexus LFA successor, so it’s not difficult to predict what’s next. Furthermore, with top TMC executives frequently using terms like “car lovers,” “taste of driving,” and “enhanced performance,” expect Toyota to produce something fascinating—an electric sports car that the ice sheets will not hate!
The ‘Lexus Electrified Sport’ concept, revealed in December 2021, is expected to morph into the Lexus LFA successor. It’s nearing completion, and unlike the knife-sharp LFA, it is lavished with curves and swoopy surfaces. The finesse of the design is a significant departure from what we saw on the LFA—the Lexus LFA successor looks like a sophisticated GT.
The Lexus Electrified Sport concept has a long bonnet which it doesn’t need (EV architecture doesn’t demand long hoods) and a short tail section. Its low-slung body has a cab-rearward stance, and sharp bodywork makes it all very attractive. The design of the Lexus LFA successor appears closer to the latest fifth-generation Toyota Supra than the LFA.
The concept has headlamps with bow-shaped DRLs and small horizontal main lights. Large air curtains on the sides are likely to be functional air intakes for aerodynamics and cooling on the Lexus LFA successor. The LFA was released before Lexus began using the spindle grille. Its successor is unlikely to focus on grilles, as EVs don’t require them. The sharp splitter upfront would undoubtedly aid downforce.
While the Electrified Sport’s fascia threatens the road of an outright assault, the profile adds grace to the design. The wheel arches are barely extended, and the designers have tried to keep the height low. Another example of the intense focus on aerodynamics is the quadrilateral cut-out in the door panels.
When combined with the fast-sloping roofline, it gives the impression that this vehicle is all about speed and performance. The rear end highlights the extremely low and flat stance. Bow-shaped tail lights attempt to mimic the DRL of the headlights, and they appear to be integrated into a full-width matt black panel with a Lexus lettering bang in the center.
Lexus committed to low-height cars
While SUVs are trending worldwide and Lexus can’t ignore their demand, it doesn’t want to expand its SUV line-up at the cost of traditional cars. Spiros Fotinos, Director, Lexus (Europe), has said that lower-slung cars will continue having a place in its portfolio in the future, Autocar said in a report on May 16, 2022. With the transition to electric powertrains, these models would be even crucial to drawing attention to the brand, as they’d be capable of delivering a much higher driving range than SUVs because of their lower height and more aerodynamic design. Fotinos said that Lexus is “clearly working on alternative body types.”
Lexus Electrified Sport Specifications
Lexus could use a new bespoke electric platform for electric supercar inspired by the Lexus Electrified Sport concept. Fotinos said that the e-TNGA platform is “a great starting point” but it “would be technically impossible” to develop every electric model with one platform. That is why Lexus is “looking at other opportunities,” he added.
The concept’s sophisticated exterior does not oversell the upcoming flagship Lexus model. The performance will be as ferocious as its outward appearance. “(0-62 mph) acceleration time will be in the low 2-second range,” Sato said. The driving range will be just as impressive—over 435 miles (700 km). Furthermore, Lexus is evaluating the use of solid-state batteries in the car, which could make it safer while also extending its range and durability.
In terms of propulsion, Sato believes that e-motors are the best option. During a Q&A session following TMC’s announcement of its BEV strategy on December 14, 2021, he stated that the responsiveness, smooth acceleration and deceleration, and quietness they provide are not possible with an internal combustion engine. Furthermore, electric motors’ performance may not be possible with engines, he added.
Spiros Fotinos, Director – Lexus Europe & EV Planning, Toyota Motor Europe, has indicated (via Razao Automovel) that the Lexus Electrified Sport concept’s production version could feature four individual motors. It’s too early to say anything about the powertrain setup with certainty at this point, though.
Lexus LFA successor release date
The Lexus LFA successor’s launch date was not revealed during the press conference in December 2021. If Lexus decides to release the EV with solid-state batteries, expect it well into the second half of the decade. Solid-state battery technology still has some way to go in terms of development. It may take a few years for OEMs to democratize the technology.
Fotinos has said that the Electrified Sport concept’s production version won’t be “a new LFA.” According to a report from Japan’s Best Car, before the production version of the Lexus Electrified Sport concept, Lexus will launch an LFA successor with a hybrid or plug-in hybrid system producing approx. 700 horsepower around 2025.
In other words, it looks like there will be two Lexus LFA successors. The partially electric model could ride on the TNGA GA-L platform and thus might come at a reasonable price. It could be cheaper than the LFA and cost around JPY 25-30 million (approx. USD 181,000-217,000), as per the Japanese report.
In the U.S.
Lexus currently offers a range of gas-electric hybrids in the United States including the UX, NX (PHEV and strong hybrid) and RX SUVs. There are two hybrid luxury sedans as well; the LS and ES alongside the LC grand tourer, which is also a strong hybrid. The all-new RZ BEV, a cousin of the Toyota bZ4X, is gearing up to enter the North American market by the end of 2022.
Although there’s no official word from Toyota North America regarding the EV’s U.S. debut, we expect the Lexus LFA successor to make its way to the American shores. Toyota Motor Corporation’s rich legacy with sports cars like the Celica, MR2, Supra, and the 86 in the country should also pave the way for the MR2-style future Toyota electric sports car that was showcased in concept guise in December 2021.
Lexus aims to sell 3.5 million EVs and turn itself into an EV-only brand in North America, Europe, and China by the end of the decade. It wants EVs to account for 100% of its global sales in 2035.
An electric supercar that replaces the Lexus LFA has to be stylish, innovative, and highly exciting. Purists are unlikely to respond the same way as they did to the LFA, but enthusiasts who have embraced alternative powertrains may want to add it to their garages immediately! It will take more than a few years before the successor to the LFA hits the market, but when it does, we hope it is a head-turning supercar that offers the highest levels of driver engagement.
Featured Image Source: Lexus Media