With glass inserts the new Lexus flagship is cutting edge in more ways than one.
In a world first for a mass produced vehicle, moulded glass panels have been fitted to the inside of the doors.
Inspired by fine Japanese kiriko glass, the panels are a striking contrast to the stitched leather, metal door handles and hand-pleated silk surfacing.
Kiriko is a Japanese tradition of hand-cutting delicate patterns into glass to produce stunning reflections.
It is often seen in vases, sake glasses and traditional ornaments.
We know what you’re thinking, but the glasswork in the new LS is remarkably strong, thanks to advanced heat-treatment that makes it tough enough for the challenging environment.
LS chief designer Koichi Suga said the look and feel of the glass changes according to the angle of viewing and time of day.
“This special ornamentation represents the best of both worlds,” he said.
“It is an industrial product that is also a work of art.”
In 2014, Lexus and the Asahi Glass Company (AGC) began to explore ways to use glass in vehicle interiors.
AGC turned to Takumi craftsman Toshiyasu Nakamura to recreate the reflective effect of kiriko glass for the LS.
This provided a unique challenge because, unlike a kiriko sake glass, no light passes through the door glass.
Running his finger along the lines of a cut-glass model, Nakamura described his thoughtful solution.
“Cutting at altering angles through the hand-drawn lines on the glass results in a ‘twist’, allowing more light to reflect at different angles along those lines,” he said.
From this point, it was another 18 months before the final glass panels were ready to be fitted.
Nakamura’s ‘twist’ design led to the incorporation of a new 3D digital scan when designing the mould, faithfully rendering the glass panel’s unusual dimensions and accurately reproducing its unique expression.
Producing multiple exact copies was a singular challenge, while a vehicle’s rugged environment required a durability far beyond that of regular kiriko pieces.
AGC invented a new eight-stage production process for the job, with work carried out in eight different locations across Japan.
A film-dipping process and rear-mounted metal plating provide the kiriko piece with a sturdiness that belies its delicate appearance.