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Lexus LF-FC hints at the future of the LS

Sometimes concepts are flights of fancy that lead the way. Sometimes they're thinly disguised versions of cars that are already in the pipeline. The Lexus LF-FC feels a lot more like the latter.

Parent company Toyota is seriously on-board with the idea that the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle is the wave of the future. Their Mirai FCV is ready for production, and talk to any one of the engineers and they sound like they're discussing the next generation of the Prius.

I'm not so sure: hydrogen-based infrastructure will take much longer to roll out than the already existing framework for creating a plug-in hybrid variant of proven hybrid technology. Be that as it may, hydrogen fuel-cells will work in certain markets, and the densely populated Japanese home market might well be the perfect test bed for a fuel-cell LS model.

If the Mirai is a deeply unusual looking machine with futuristic cues that can be ungainly from multiple angles, the LF-FC concept is far more elegant. Yes, it's still a modern Lexus, and that means a giant grille with an overlapping shark-tooth pattern, but the car as a whole is long, sleek and elegant. Compared to the German competition, it actually looks like a more cohesive design, and while the x-shaped pattern of the rear taillights is anything but reserved, it balances out the aggression up front.

The concept car is enormous, longer than the current extended-wheelbase versions of pretty much anything on the market. Carbon-fibre 21-inch wheels keep at least unsprung weight down, with hub-mounted electric motors up front and fuel-cell-powered drive for the rear wheels out back.

Inside, the LF-FC gets gesture-control technology. Given the hit-and-miss nature of Lexus' infotainment controls over the last few generations of cars, we'll have to wait and see how easy this is to actually use.

Hydrogen fuel is an interesting idea, but instead of dwelling on what small percentage of LS sedans might get fuel cell power, instead apply the current V8 and available hybrid powertrain to this long and low sedan concept. There'll likely be a tweak or two for the production model, but expect the next-generation LS to look like this. For the most part, that's a good thing.