Compact digital: Lexus LF-Ch

By Guy Bird for Interior Motives, Jan 2010

The design secrets behind the world's first compact premium hybrid

Lexus LF-Ch

  • Vehicle type: Concept five-door compact hatch
  • Design director: Kevin Hunter
  • Interior design project leader: William Chergosky
  • Colour and trim project leader: Wendy Lee
  • Project started: Summer 2008
  • Project completed: July 2009
  • Launch: Frankfurt / September 2009

 

‘Anticipation’ was one of the key feelings Lexus wanted to build into the interior of its latest LF-Ch concept car and a handy attribute given the concept prefaces a production hybrid of similar proportions to rival the BMW 1-series and Audi A3 from summer 2010. According to Simon Humphries, general manager of the global design management division at Toyota Motor Corporation – who provided strategic management for the overall LF-Ch design – the use of anticipation is something Japanese culture is particularly adept at so an appropriate Lexus design cue alongside ‘creating the unexpected’, as he explains: “We asked ourselves how to reinterpret the sports hatch segment with hybrid being a core attribute but the untraditional ingredient. We tried to own the lightweight message of the car without hiding from it. The surface taste, instrument layout, sense of material and structure are all meant to connect to this idea of responsible luxury, creating a small yet efficient space that is elegantly and artfully detailed.”

“We asked ourselves how to reinterpret the sports hatch with hybrid being a core attribute but the untraditional ingredient”

Humphries believes the unique aspect of the LF-Ch’s interior is its combination of a snug, driver-orientated cockpit with an overall feeling of roominess, but that “to synergize these two contradictory needs, a rethinking of the layout and overall architecture of the interior was necessary.” One of the ways this feeling is created is by having the upper aluminium trim stretch across the full width of the dashboard to emphasise space while accentuating efficient positions for the air vents. Elsewhere, driver controls are sportily grouped towards the driver and framed by an unusually asymmetric centre console support that swoops around them, but without being claustrophobic.

The concept interior and exterior was designed and built at Lexus’s parent company Toyota’s North American CALTY Design facility. The interior team was made up of project chief designer William Chergosky and creative designer Edward Lee, with colour and trim covered by project chief designer Wendy Lee and senior creative designer Hiroko Musha. All design activity was overseen by studio design & resource manager Alex Shen and along with president of Calty Design Research, Kevin Hunter. The concept seats are composed of an exposed metal frame that carries lightweight leather and wood. As such it’s meant to express a hybrid sense of sportiness and luxury – lightweight yet still premium. The seat base is also cantilevered, leaving negative space underneath the occupants to add to the lightweight, open and free feeling.

The seats are very thin and create a feeling of roominess for the rear passengers with soft LED lighting to accentuate their curves, although Humphries concedes the seats for the forthcoming production model will have to be thicker. Edward Lee’s steering wheel sketch alongside the final concept version reveal Lexus’s sporty aspirations for the LF-Ch including a three-spoke wheel, gearshift paddles and two simple LED-lit toggles for accessing sport mode and/or telephone and voice controls. The fully lit soothing blue driver’s dials feature an unusual blurred turbine blade motif to create, says Lexus “a combination of machine-like precision and fluid artistry”. Despite the flowery marketing speak it’s still a good – and original – look. The upper surface of the dashboard is covered in leather while a high tech flat woven fabric is stretched tightly over the middle section to help the transition to the alu-wrapped centre console. Humphries explains the thinking behind this theme of contrast: “Every surface on the car has something tight and right next to it is very fluid. The hard surfaces are always framed by something fluid and soft. Together, it’s harmonious.”

 

The soothing blue driver’s dials feature an unusual blurred turbine blade motif to create, says Lexus “machine-like precision and fluid artistry”. Despite the flowery marketing-speak it’s still a good – and original – look

On the LF-Ch the rear seat entertainment screens are actually iPhones docked into the front seatback and envisioned by the designers to integrate with a special Lexus interface and iPhone software. The anticipatory feeling alluded to at the start of this story becomes more real in the way the Lexus HMI works. The computer mouse-alike Remote Touch system (already in the new production Lexus RX SUV) is says Lexus, “becoming more humanized and intuitive. When the pointer comes close to an icon on screen, it is gently pulled towards it using a sensory reaction force, a kind of virtual magnet. This conveys a feeling of anticipation, on the part of the machine, to the user, supporting his intentions in a moving automotive environment where precise movement is difficult.” Every effort has been made to make the user feel comfortable while they’re physically manoeuvring the Remote Touch device too: semi-aniline leather has been wrapped across the entire length of the armrest right up to where the input control is located.

 

  • Length: 4300mm
  • Width: 1790mm
  • Height: 1400mm
  • Wheelbase: 2600mm

 


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