European consumers enjoy a segment those of us in the States have never warmed up to: premium compact cars. But in recent years, one luxury marque has been noticeably absent from the throngs of A3s, 1 Series and B-Classes populating the congested roads across the pond. Lexus hopes to rectify that situation next year, and its first foray into the segment will be based on this, the LF-Ch concept.
As we pointed out earlier today, the exterior and interior design continues to adhere to the automaker's L-finesse design philosophy, with swoops, creases and a taut organic shape that's slowly making its way onto production models. A few elements we failed to mention are the blacked-out B-pillars, integrated spoiler and rear door handles that fit within the C-pillar's trim. The theme carries over inside, with a set of concave passenger compartments, aluminum and wood trim, ambient lighting in the headliner and Lexus' Remote Touch controls (originally seen on the RX 450h), along with iPhone docks for the rear seat passengers.
Unfortunately, Lexus isn't releasing details on the LF-Ch's powertrain, only saying that the system is a "full hybrid" and can be driven exclusively in EV mode. However, when the LF-Ch makes it to production next year, expect the same engine that powers the HS 250h to be fitted to the compact hatch, complete with a six-speed automatic transmission and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
We'll be on hand for live impressions of the LF-Ch from the Frankfurt Motor Show in less than a week, but in the meantime, get all the details in the press release below the fold, along with a host of new images in the gallery below.
LEXUS PRESENTS THE LF-Ch CONCEPT
World debut for new hybrid power compact concept car at Frankfurt
- Concept proposing the first Lexus full hybrid for the European premium compact segment
- Advanced interior design with asymmetric dashboard and Remote Touch controls
- Blacked-out B-pillars and concealed rear door handles create the look of a pillarless coupé
- L-finesse exterior styling with powerful surfacing and hand-sculpted details
World debut at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show
It reflects the growing demand for cars that are smaller and more fuel and CO2 efficient, but with no compromise in levels of refinement and driving pleasure. By next year the compact segment is expected to claim the largest share of the European premium car market.
The LF-Ch concept reaffirms Lexus's commitment to Europe, combining compact dimensions, stylish five-door, full hybrid technology and low emissions to satisfy the most demanding customer requirements and to appeal to a new, younger generation of customers.
The LF-Ch concept presents a powerful evolution of Lexus's L-finesse design philosophy. Rooted in Japanese culture, L-finesse is expressed in every aspect of the car, not only in the visual harmony between the interior and exterior design, but also in the combination of leading-edge engineering and technology with a user-friendly simplicity of function.
The designers focused on the careful juxtaposition of opposing major and minor elements. Intriguing contrasts are created between the powerful, machine-like overall surfacing of the bodywork and the painstaking detail of even the smallest elements, creating a synergy between technologically driven design and a fluid, hand-sculpted quality.
A new, bolder Lexus grille design sits above a deep, full-width bumper and air dam, giving a perfect balance of precision and power. The sharply sculpted, aerodynamic front wings overlap the front bumper to create deep, front brake-cooling air intakes and give the LF-Ch a powerful and purposeful wide-track stance.
In profile, the tapered side glazing, a muscular, rising beltline and a sharply truncated rear overhang project the car's premium compact character. The steeply raked windscreen, long flowing roofline, blacked-out B-pillars and rear doorhandles integrated in the C-pillar window trim combine to give the appearance of a sporting pillarless coupe.
At the rear the trailing edge of the roof overhangs the rear window to create an integrated rear spoiler. The tailgate section has a pronounced step, which flows from the muscular wheelarches and is anchored by the wraparound tail lamp design. Aerodynamic detailing of the lower bumper smoothes airflow from beneath the car and feeds ventilation to the rear brakes.
Subtle finishing touches include discreet Lexus hybrid blue badging and sharply tapering chrome mouldings. The harmonious synergy of the design is further expressed in the contrasting, lively yellow exterior finish and calming blue interior illumination.
The principles of L-finesse are carried through to the interior where again a powerful simplicity harmonises with hand-crafted quality in the detailing to create a calm, efficient and elegant design.
The cabin features a strongly asymmetric dashboard that is firmly driver-focused with outstanding ergonomics. The driver's needs are seamlessly anticipated in several surprising elements, for example, when the car is started a greeting is presented on the navigation screen and an ambient lighting pattern appears in the headliner, creating a sophisticated lounge feel.
Extensive use of semi-aniline leather, polished aluminium, wood and soft-touch materials reinforces the theme of harmonious contrast in the dashboard, door panels and seating. The design of the seats is inspired by high quality furniture, with exposed metal frames, lightweight leather and grained black wood used in inter-related layers, shaped to reflect the intrinsic nature of each material used.
The driving position is low and well-supported, with a wide-grip steering wheel with paddle shift controls and an instrument binnacle housing large twin dials embellished with a turbine motif.
To help keep the driver's focus on the road ahead, distracting instrumentation and switchgear has been kept to a minimum by using Lexus Remote Touch controls, as first seen in the new RX 450h. Using a multi-information display on top of the dashboard, Remote Touch works like a computer mouse, letting the driver access control and customise a range of information, entertainment and vehicle set-up programmes.
As with every Lexus, hospitality is at the heart of the ownership experience. To this end, the LF-Ch's comprehensive on-board entertainment package includes iPhone docking for rear seat passengers.
Powertrain and driving performance
Allied to a wide track, long wheelbase and low centre of gravity, the LF-Ch's full hybrid powertrain is engineered to deliver all the performance customers expect from a premium compact hatchback, while at the same time returning low fuel consumption, CO2 and NOx emissions.
With the benefit of the full hybrid technology of Lexus Hybrid drive, the car can be driven in a fully electric EV mode, a power option that is not available to drivers of mild hybrids. This allows for urban driving with minimal noise and zero emissions.
Lexus LF-Ch Concept dimensions
Overall length: 4,300
Overall width: 1,790
Overall height: 1,400
Tyres (front and rear): 225/35R20