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Toyota chief steps in to redesign Lexus RX
Akio Toyoda takes personal interest in fourth-gen Lexus RX with amazing results
24 Nov 2015
By TIM ROBSON
A SENIOR engineer who worked on the fourth-generation Lexus RX SUV project has told of Toyota Motor Corporation’s president and CEO Akio Toyoda’s hands-on role in the radical look of the new car.
Its striking design is an edict from the very top of the Toyota corporate ladder, with Mr Toyoda – whose Lexus business card proclaims him to be the ‘master driver’ of the company – telling the RX project group to tear up a finalised design and start again.
Lexus International product planning project leader Makoto Tanaka told journalists at the vehicle’s launch in Sydney that the cutting edge design of the RX is the result of a visit from Mr Toyoda, who told the team that the rendition of the fourth-generation concept was not close enough to the original design sketches.
The revelation came only after the design process had been finalised and signed off by the Toyota board.
“Of course, we were shocked to hear this, but at the same time we were very motivated by his words and his challenge to drive harder,” said Mr Tanaka, who also told GoAuto that he and his team had just one month to deliver Mr Toyoda’s demands.
“In that one month, we had to drastically improve the model,” he said through an interpreter. “It was also an opportunity for us to do what we actually wanted to do, and because Mr Toyoda directed it, we were able to get much help.”
Mr Tanaka declined to divulge whether the design was rejected at full render stage, but all chassis and engine work had been signed off.
“We cannot tell you at exactly which stage it was, but in a development sense, it came just after the styling had been finally fixed, and during the president’s final check,” he said.
Mr Tanaka jokingly recalled the shock of the revelation. “It was terrible, terrible!” he laughed.
“After he said that, in the one month, we had to change drastically and improve significantly the design, but it was also an opportunity at the same time, to do something further that we actually wanted to do,” he said. “And because Akio-san directed this so strongly, we were able to get much help and support.
“We were actually very pleased to get Akio-san so excited about the design that he wanted it so strongly.”
Mr Tanaka said that the team took the opportunity to further improve various elements.
“We tried to improve further the visibility from the driving position, and also the door apertures have slightly changed to improve the visibility from the driving position,” he said.
Mr Tanaka said that the visibility of the RX is “superior to that of its competitors”.
He also emphasised that the project team also worked very hard to improve the RX’s dynamic behaviour.
The vehicle is based on a modified version of the mid-floor height-specific K-platform that also underpins Toyota’s Highlander/Kluger. A new engine mount arrangement anchors the engines more securely to the chassis and suspension points are specific to the RX, while instrument panel stiffening helps the steering system.
“The engine mounting system is a secret to the uniqueness of the RX,” he said.
“It contributes to better handling and steering response. The standard engine mount allows for slight engine movement, which can be felt in the car, but we eliminated this in the RX.”
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