Lexus pulled the wraps off the LF-1 Limitless, a new concept vehicle that signals what could be a new kind of flagship for the luxury brand. Unveiled at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless Concept is being dubbed as a “flagship crossover.” If it were to become a reality, it would join other flagships in the Lexus brand–the LS sedan, LC coupe and LX SUV.

While the LX 570 sport utility vehicle, based on the Toyota Land Cruiser, is a traditional body-on-frame SUV that excels at towing and off-road duties, the LF-1 Limitless is designed for luxurious performance and handling, with a large dose of design flair.

It wouldn’t be the first time Lexus broke the traditional SUV mold with a smoother-riding, more comfortable and more luxurious utility vehicle.

Following in the two-decade-old footsteps of the RX300, Lexus says the LF-1 ultimately would create a genre for the brand: “the flagship crossover.” Just as Lexus boasts about the RX300 heralding the age of the luxury crossover segment 20 years ago, Toyota’s luxury division says the LF-1 Concept has the potential to do the same for a brand’s top-line crossover by basing it on a smoother-riding car-like platform vs. a rugged, truck-like chassis.

“There’s no doubt that luxury crossovers are an increasingly popular choice for luxury customers,” said Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken. “This LF-1 Limitless concept illustrates what could happen if Lexus were to add a flagship crossover to our line-up. It’s a gorgeous execution and we’re anxious to see our customers’ and dealers’ response.”

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“Molten Katana” Concept

For now, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless is simply a concept vehicle, but it’s one that looks surprisingly fleshed out. Created at the famed CALTY Design studio in Southern California, the LF-1 shares the sweeping style seen in the current Lexus LC flagship coupe.

Lexus describes the styling of the LF-1 as “molten katana,” as in the molten metal forging of a traditional Japanese sword. Some of this Lexus concept’s most notable design elements are its long hood, massive grille and 22-inch wheels “barely contained under bulging fenders,” as Lexus describes the setup.  The low roofline and elevated ride height, Lexus says, “further emphasize that this is a crossover designed for performance with practicality.”

One particularly interesting element is that, instead of chrome being used around the grille, there’s LED lighting that greets you as you arrive.

“This is our vision for a new kind of flagship vehicle that embraces crossover capability without giving up the performance and luxury delivered by today’s top sedans,” said Kevin Hunter, President of CALTY Design Research. “The LF-1 Limitless concept incorporates imaginative technology while creating a strong emotional connection by improving the human experience for the driver and passengers.”

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Opulent cabin

Inside, Lexus says the LF-1 adheres to the Japanese tradition of “omotenashi,” or hospitality, welcoming all who enter with equal enthusiasm. For a concept car, the LF-1’s 4-passenger interior is impressively fleshed out, and doesn’t look that far beyond what Lexus would be capable of producing soon. For example, the steering wheel is reminiscent of what’s currently found on the Lexus LC, though it is notable for incorporating functions like park and reverse near the bottom. Touch-based haptic controls, meanwhile, look only slightly evolved to what’s already available in other Lexus vehicles.

Another notable feature is what Lexus calls 4D navigation. That fourth dimension isn’t a “Twilight Zone” portal to another world, but rather the element of time. Lexus says it is meant to act as a concierge for passengers and anticipate their needs for rest, food and the various bodily needs that go along with a trip. No word yet on whether it will answer the age-old question, “Are we there yet?”

Whoever is asking should at least be comfortable. Rear-seat passengers are treated to the same seats as those in front, along with expansive legroom and individual display screens for adjusting the climate control or entertainment options. This is especially important for a future age when self-driving vehicles become a norm.

Hands-off or hands-on driving

Speaking of, the LF-1 Concept has a “Chauffeur mode,” which allows for hands-free operation thanks to the vehicle’s by-wire steering, braking, acceleration, lights and signals. The result, Lexus says, is “smooth, carefree driving with maximum efficiency and reduced risk of accidents. Conversely, this Lexus concept SUV has steering wheel-mounted paddles for taking control when driver wants.

As for powertrain, Lexus is leaving that open. Toyota’s luxury division says the Lexus LF-1 concept has “limitless” possibilities for propulsion. “The LF-1 concept could be powered by fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline, or even all-electric,” the luxury division says. Lexus also notes that by roughly 2025, every one of its vehicles will be available either as a dedicated electrified model, or have an electrified option.

About the only hint Lexus has let out is that this concept is based on a rear-wheel-drive chassis (most likely the newly introduced LS sedan), a configuration geared for performance.  Like any concept vehicle, it’s still uncertain if the LF-1 Limitless will ever turn into a real-deal vehicle. But with Lexus executives saying they’re eager to see the response from both customers and dealers, it’s certainly in the realm of possibility.

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