Templin played down suggestions that the eye-catching LF-FC concept sedan shown at the 2015 Tokyo motor show gave any strong indication as to what to expect from the Japanese luxury car brand, but he did suggest that the new model is needed. The current Lexus LS dates back to 2007, although it was facelifted in 2009 and again, more dramatically, in 2012.
“It is overdue, and I’ll admit that,” Templin said. “When Akio [Toyoda – head of Toyota Motor Corporation] asked me to come here four years ago, we created a plan, and that plan included a lot of different things and you can’t do them all at once.
“The first stage of that plan was to unify our design language, and we changed every one of our products in two years to have a new design language,” he said, referring to the refresh of the IS sedan and RX SUV among other key models.
“Then we started more emotional cars – more F Sport cars, more F performance cars [such as the RC F] coupe. Then some volume cars: NX has been a huge volume car for us that has grown our volume all over the world,” Templin claimed.
When asked if the LS replacement was not a priority for the brand – particularly in light of the fact that big sedans are falling out flavour with buyers while SUV sales boom – Templin said that wasn’t the case.
“It’s a huge priority, but LS is the most sophisticated car in our line-up, and you don’t want to bring a new LS to market until you’re ready for it,” Templin said, suggesting that there’s some big technological advancement for the new-generation car, which may not launch until 2017.
“So when we do bring the LS to market, you’ll see it will be a fantastic car,” he said.
“We don't have any announcements to make about the next LS yet,” he said, before suggesting that the LF-FC (pictured below) and previous LF-LC concept models were “significant” and that those models offer a “real indication of where we’re taking the Lexus brand in the future”.
Templin went on to suggest that the new LS needs to move the game forward in terms of driving enjoyment. The current car is more about comfort than performance, not that that’s been a problem in the past given the buyer base.
But Templin made it clear that the buyer profile for Lexus is changing, and indeed the fact that cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series have come before the new-generation LS means that the new big Lexus will need to be different.
“Flagship means different things in different markets,” Templin explained. “Here in Japan, flagship means you’re driven around and you sit in the back seat. All kinds of LSs and S-Classes and 7 Series driven here in Japan… That’s true of several markets around the world.
“A market like the US or Australia, people want to drive them, so they need to be fun to drive,” he said.
As for what may power the new model, that remains a mystery. Though it is clear that Lexus is moving towards offering more models with turbocharged engines, and that car could debut a new V8 engine with forced induction.
Templin had nothing to say about the potential for such an engine, simply adding “we will talk about that on another trip”.