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Lexus’ fuel-cell LF-FC concept previews luxury’s future

It may have once shamed the best from the German brands, but today’s Lexus LS luxury sedan is in bad need of an overhaul. One should be coming soon, and if the carmaker’s 2015 Tokyo Motor Show concept is any indication, the LS would once again be a contender.

The Lexus LF-FC concept is a traditional luxury barge, with a twist. It’s got four-door coupe styling, gesture-control technology, and a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain. At least some of these features will likely make it into the next-generation LS although, naturally, Lexus isn’t offering many specifics.

The big four-door features a more streamlined version of Lexus’ current design language. At the front, the Lexus “spindle” grille is as big as ever; it’s flanked by daytime running light blades like the ones on the production IS and other models, plus very minimal headlights. The rear end features highly sculpted taillights and bodywork that looks like it was created by erosion.

Lexus gave the LF-FC the “four-door coupe” silhouette that’s become popular among luxury carmakers. It’s still a bona fide four-door sedan, but the roofline is lower and sleeker than on the current LS. The concept also has distinct cab-rearward proportions that add to the sporty vibe. It rides on 21-inch wheels made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic.

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Underneath the sleek sheet metal is a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain. Power is sent to all four wheels, with two in-wheel motors used at the front. The fuel-cell stack is mounted in the rear of the car, with a control unit in front and a T-shaped array of hydrogen storage tanks. Lexus says this ensures balanced weight distribution, helping to improve handling.

The interior was designed to reflect this car’s likely dual role as personal vehicle and chauffeur-driven limousine. At the front, the driver gets a futuristic dashboard display with gesture controls, including a hologram that indicates where the system can interpret hand gestures. At the back, passengers get reclining rear seats and plenty of space, Lexus says. Everyone gets aniline leather, which covers the dashboard, doors, and seats.

There’s also some autonomous-driving technology, including “elevated traffic environment recognition, prediction, and judgment function,” Lexus says. Parent Toyota is testing a self-driving prototype on public roads in Japan, and hopes to eventually develop artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles.

The LF-FC itself will not go into production, but some of its styling and technology features could transition to the next-generation LS. There have already been reports that Lexus is considering a fuel-cell LS, but the carmaker hasn’t officially confirmed anything.