Grilles have become a focal point of a vehicle’s identity. BMW’s kidney grille is one primary example. Whether it’s placed at the fascia of an SUV, a sports car, or a sedan, you’d immediately know it’s a BMW because of its iconic shape. Lexus has managed to achieve that same goal with the spindle grille. As this design piece celebrates its 10th anniversary today, let’s take a look at the past and the future of the spindle grille.
The spindle grille was first revealed on the LF-Gh concept car in 2011, the basis for the fourth generation GS midsize luxury sports sedan that was launched the following year. Since then, it has been constantly adapted to suit the character of each successive Lexus model, with different mesh patterns, dimensions, and finishes.
Speaking at the time of the grille’s debut, the then Head of Lexus Kiyotake Ise said: “You should be able to identify a car as a Lexus immediately. Instant visual recognition, for example, is the reason behind our spindle grille. It may look aggressive at first glance, that’s intentional, but it also conveys its boldness with sophistication and elegance.”
It has progressed to become a hallmark expression of the brand’s then L-finesse design language, adopted not only for production cars but also incorporated in the futuristic Skyjet spacecraft created for the Lexus-supported movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and adopted as a design motif in the Loft, the award-winning Lexus and Brussels Airlines lounge at Brussels Airport.
Today, the original grille concept is the starting point for a more radical application of the spindle shape in which it becomes an integral part of the vehicle’s overall design. This “spindle body” approach is part of the Lexus Next Chapter design for the all-new RX, where the grille is reinterpreted as a seamless unit that flows into the bodywork. The lower section retains a mesh pattern, while the upper section takes in the lower edge of the hood while the Lexus emblem sits at the center of the spindle’s high pinch-point.
The same concept has been applied to the RZ 450e electric SUV. As a battery electric vehicle, this requires less cooling than a car with a conventional engine, so the grille has been dispensed with, giving the designers greater freedom. Nonetheless, the spindle shape remains prominent in a central front panel, finished in the car’s body color. Its impact is heightened by the adjacent frontal areas being contrast-finished in black, the low bonnet line, and more boldly shaped front wings.
In both models, the spindle generates lines that flow back from the front of the car through the bonnet and headlamp units to create a strong and distinctive frontal appearance, reinforcing the brand-defining ambitions of the original concept.
With Lexus set to release a host of electric vehicles as well as even a replacement to the LFA supercar, expect the spindle grille–now evolved into the spindle body–to come in different designs and interpretations in the coming years.