It might not shout ‘warm run to the shops’ at this time of year, nor is it the usual responsibly safe and luxurious Lexus so beloved of Alan Partridge, but that might not be a bad thing for the manufacturer as the Lexus ROV concept looks to bring a bit of excitement and fun to the fore. The ROV Concept is a hydrogen-powered – and we are seeing an increasing amount of experiments with hydrogen-electric hybrid power of late – extreme off-roader with, Lexus claim, ‘near-zero’ emissions – carbon-free excitement.
The template for the ROV Concept was to produce a vehicle that would not look entirely out of place in any situation while remaining a fully off-road capable vehicle. Lexus say that they try to approach every concept from what they call their human-centred design philosophy. While we are all very used to automobile marketing speak by now, I guess what Lexus is trying to say here is that each design begins with thinking about the user first and foremost.
The ROV Concept measures up as a compact 312cm long, 172.5cm wide and 180cm in height, and in some ways it looks like a beefed up and stripped back early version of the Smart car. Under the classy looking bronze minimalist bodywork at the rear and protected by a suspension cover lies a 1-litre direct-injection hydrogen powered engine that works in a similar way to the traditional internal combustion engine. This results in a more familiar responsive sound depending on the power being demanded by ROV Concept’s driver. Lexus say that only a very minimal amount of oil is burnt during engine use and the hydrogen itself is of course protected with a high-pressure tank.
Naturally enough, the exposed suspension has a fair bit of travel and if that isn’t enough, the twin seats also have some form of suspension to help smooth out the bumps. Lexus is aiming for the ROV Concept to be fun, but certainly not uncomfortable. Just how much travel the seats have and how they might be tuned to interact efficiently with the ROV suspension itself is unclear. Though such implementation is not new of course, as many an HGV comes equipped with seats offering either air suspension or mechanical suspension to ease the strain on the backs of long-haul drivers. The seats are also covered in a hard-wearing synthetic leather, allowing for easier maintenance in extreme conditions.
Inside, Lexus has opted to utilise what it calls its Tazuna concept; another aspect of human-centred design that takes the idea of a horse and rider being in sync. While this might sound a bit bizarre, it simply means placing controls within natural and easy reach – like the reins. To this effect, the ROV Concept uses a single meter display to allow the driver to view all the info required in one spot directly down from the visual centre allowing the driver to spend more time having fun with the actual driving.
The exterior body consists of a sturdy tubular anti-roll frame which holds the lightweight body in place. The body itself appears to be in a subtly pleasing bronze colourway that adds to the more upmarket feel that Lexus is wanting to convey with the ROV Concept. Head of Lexus Europe, Spiros Fotinos, says that the growing demand for fun, outdoor motor pursuits combined with exploring new ways to implement carbon-neutral travel has been the inspiration for the Lexus ROV Concept. Let’s hope it makes it to full production.
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