Its guardrails, according to Lexus, are three times stronger than those of a normal test course.
“It’s a particularly tough course, both for the cars and for the people,” says Shuichi Ozaki, one of two expert “Takumi” drivers who push Lexus cars to their limits here to hone their driving feel. .
Toyota has invested $2.22 billion in the entire Shimoyama complex.
Besides the Lexus campus and the Mini-Nürburgring, there will be 11 other test courses that Toyota engineers can work with. On tap, a giant high-speed oval, low-friction road, dynamic pad, multi-surface workout, handling track, hill climb, and load-strength strip, to name a few. -ones.
When the entire facility is fully operational in the fiscal year ending March 2024, some 3,300 people will work there, including those at the Lexus campus.
The Shimoyama Technical Center will become the epicenter of Toyota Motor Corp. for all future product development. It will largely replace the company’s Higashi Fuji Technical Center near Mount Fuji, which has been in use since the 1960s and is only a third the size.
Even as rivals Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Genesis – not to mention Tesla – flood the market with battery-electric models, Lexus has yet to launch its first dedicated electric vehicle. That first vehicle, the Lexus RZ, will arrive towards the end of 2022. Lexus is tight-lipped on timelines for other EVs it has teased, including a super-sleek BEV Sport performance car, large SUV and sedan.
Building an EV identity around driving dynamics could prove risky for Lexus.
Today’s EV users seem more enamored with digital gadgets like large touchscreens, connectivity, and automated driving than old-school mechanics like cornering stiffness, roll angle, and direction. Lexus has always lagged its German rivals in these characteristics.
And while the Japanese brand has long prided itself on rock-solid quality and reliability, Tesla has shown that electric car fans are happy to trade off lackluster quality for cool cachet.
Another open question is how Lexus will sell its handling and dynamics in a future where cars drive themselves.
“It’s not yet a top-tier electric vehicle brand at the peer level,” said Takaki Nakanishi, chief automotive analyst at the Nakanishi Research Institute in Tokyo. The traditional Lexus brand promise, he says, is trust, reliability and safety.
“That’s what loyal Lexus drivers have demanded,” said Nakanishi. “Lexus now has a chance to create a new ‘Lexus-ness’ by going electrified.”