Why is the exterior design of the Lexus RZ inspired by the Cheetah and so daring to be different?

Perhaps the most striking feature of the new Lexus RZ is its exterior. Lexus’ first all-electric vehicle (BEV) stands out among other models with its distinctive exterior design. It expresses cheetah-inspired dynamism and the “flawless electronic movement” characteristic of the smooth acceleration provided by electrification. As well as being boldly modern, the RZ also signals the aesthetic direction Lexus intends to take.

There is an element of risk in progressive design. Not all SUV buyers want a completely different vehicle, and some need time to get used to new design directions. But when visionary designers dare to go further, public taste often follows. Adopting Lexus’ “Next Chapter” design, the RZ heralds the automotive style the brand is aiming for tomorrow. A future in which electrification technology improves car performance, provides true driving pleasure and enhances the refinement and comfort of the “Lexus-attitude”.

As this vision inspired the RZ’s core philosophy, its exterior design hints at the interior volume of an SUV as well as the lively acceleration of an electric vehicle. The SUV’s space is impressive thanks to a long wheelbase with wheels pushed to the corners and ample headroom, which is noticeable when looking at the rear of the silhouette. The all-electric drivetrain is confirmed by the relatively low hood line and the ‘nose’, which is conspicuously devoid of a grille, as there is no internal combustion engine to house or cool.

Although the usual Lexus tapered grille is gone, the RZ is instantly recognizable as a Lexus as this ‘tapered’ feature has been enhanced. This stylistic choice creates a solid mass, thus signing a single surface that extends from the nose to the body. The narrowed mass is emphasized by the use of body color instead of a black radiator grill, by blackening the body on both sides of it and emphasizing the shape of the wings.

The fact that electrification provides energetic driving characteristics is important. Chief engineer Takashi Watanabe drew inspiration from the Cheetah to develop the RZ, and carried that idea over to the exterior design. The RZ’s body evokes the dynamism of a fast feline in a sprint: nose down, tail high, hind legs that dip for traction and movement. This is evident in the RZ’s nose-to-tail stance, curved sidewalls and the way the rear tires seem to hit the ground. The overall volume of the body seems to push the rear tires back; the wheel arches, both behind and in front, are clearly muscular. Lead designer Daichi Kimura comments: “Since the cheetah is perhaps too straightforward as a motif for a car, we discussed the concept a lot and decided to express the cheetah-inspired driving style of the DIRECT4..”

This performance – and more importantly, the way it is delivered with Lexus-like smoothness – also inspired the RZ’s ‘E-Motion Flawless’ design concept. Airflow management and aerodynamic efficiency are clearly visible throughout the RZ, whose dynamic shape visualizes airflow. The ability to clearly cut through the air is confirmed by the louvres of the front grille, the cabin’s centerline and tapered surfaces, the expression of the graceful door axis that runs horizontally along the sides of the car, and the rear spoiler on the roof.

This roof spoiler consists of two separate elements located on the outer edges of the full width of the body, just behind the C-pillars. Some observers compare these elements to horns. As with many exterior design details, this is a perfect example of function complemented by form – and that form is elegantly individual. For practical and aesthetic reasons, the RZ dares to be different.

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