September 22, 2023

The history and future of Lexus’ most controversial design signature

The much-discussed Lexus Spindle Grille debuted at the 2011 New York Auto Show. And since the hoods of the LF-Gh Concept have been pulled, the spindle has gone through many different shapes and sizes, and, we might add, with varying degrees of success. What works well on the sporty LC coupe or IS sedan has never worked so well on rugged utility vehicles like the GX and LX SUVs. A general spindle shape can go from chrome-laden and distinctive to predator-shaped and gaudy with a few clicks of a magnification button.

In September 2022, Lexus celebrated the 10th anniversary of its trademark spindle as it prepared the release of the latest RX crossover and first-ever RZ electric car. At the time, Lexus explained that it was moving away from the Spindle Grille in favor of what it called the Spindle Body. A press release states: “The grille is reinterpreted as a seamless unit that flows into the body.” The design speaker continued, “The lower section retains a mesh pattern, while the upper section encompasses the underside of the hood; the Lexus decals sit in the center of the pivot’s high bottleneck.”

While the 2024 GX’s press materials (bottom left) do indeed mention Lexus’ spindle body ethos – even if we wonder how much the boxy-but-beautiful GX looks like the rounder RX – you won’t find the term anywhere . in the 2024 TX (lower right) press materials. Instead, Lexus calls the TX’s grille a Unified Spindle design. That’s a new one, and while it’s unmistakably a Lexus, there is indeed a difference between the grille designs of the last two Lexus utility vehicles. The automaker claims the shape “incorporates early Lexus design language” and is “designed to improve aerodynamic handling and provide a sense of mass as well as cooling performance.”

We’d like to know more about what Lexus means when it says “improved aerodynamic handling”, but we do notice the thin gap just under the bonnet that connects the angled front protrusions of the headlights. Below, a series of horizontal slats widen as they lower, creating the signature Lexus Spindle Grille shape. We notice a few differences between the grille on the TX Luxury model compared to the TX F Sport Edition, with the sportier design oddly getting more clean work but less inner detail to go along with more aggressive winglets on either side of the large lower air intake opening.

Lexus TX Chief Engineer Naohisa Hatta shared Autoblog that the pivot was always meant to be functional first. The new “Unified Spindle” shows us what happens when electrification starts to take hold. In terms of functional space, Lexus sees everything from the slit between the TX’s headlights down to the bottom as part of the new compressed design. And it all works.

“The spindle grille was originally there to improve the cooling efficiency of the radiator,” he said through an interpreter. “As we move into electrification, we’ve started the transition to taking the whole body of the vehicle to express this kind of spindle shape. The next step is the added element of aerodynamics, as well as airflow and sound. And so we’ve got it traditional spindle grating compressed the way we used it.”

If the LBX concept is any indication (and Lexus engineers have suggested to us that it is), we’ll see further permutations of this in future models. In any case, we appreciate the newfound restraint Lexus designers seem to have found with the GX and TX, but we wonder where that went when it wrote the latest LX, in its Gillette-inspired standard or predatory F Sport forms .

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