With 2020 finally in the rearview, the end of January meant Lexus was finally able to announced its 2020 global results. But there was a surprise hiding at the bottom of what would normally be a dry press release: a teaser image showing the rear view of an upcoming Lexus concept that'll arrive this spring and show off Lexus's new vision of its brand. And it's not vaporware, either; Lexus says the first model under that new vision will be released in 2021.
Now, a future Bentley Bentayga-challenging range-topping SUV or perhaps the J300 Land Cruiser may be part of Lexus's plans. But the new brand vision likely refers to upcoming electric (and perhaps electrified, in the short term) cars.
Back in December, Lexus revealed a teaser of the front end of what seems be the same concept car. (That image did appear to show a spindle grille, in case you were worried Lexus wouldn't carry that design trend forward.) Beyond the illuminated name, it's hard to make out much in the way of details from the new picture, but there's a little we can make out; we can see what seems to be a shark fin antenna mounted on the roof and 3D taillamps in bulging hips, and based on the basic shape, we're guessing this is some sort of crossover.
As for the car that arrives this year: well, back in December, Lexus also previewed its new Direct4 all-wheel-drive system for electric and hybrid cars.The company showed two vehicles in testing: a hybrid-electric sedan and a battery-electric crossover. One (or both) of them may be a good bet for the 2021 arrival.
Toyota has thus far let other manufacturers forge the path with pure electric vehicles. The company has focused mainly on hybrids, and dabbling with hydrogen fuel cells. But the market is clearly going electric — particularly in the luxury end where Lexus plays. And many countries are, if not planning, at least considering outright bans for new combustion vehicles. Now is the time to jump in.
Being behind the 8-ball on releasing electric cars does not mean Toyota is behind on development of them, however. The company is reportedly debuting a solid-state battery concept for 2021. Solid-state batteries could resolve many issues with current electric models, allowing for much faster charging and smaller, more energy-dense battery packs with a reduced fire risk.
If that concept is happening, it's not clear it would be a Lexus. But a solid-state-powered Lexus would certainly be one heck of a vision.