(c) Bertel Schmitt
This Wet Lexus Will Remain Just A Dream. Toyota Guns For The Big Boats – Forbes
Last January, Lexus stole the thunder of the February Miami boat show, and it showed a striking motor yacht at the Magic City’s docks. Then the boat went home across the ocean (in a container) to Japan. Yesterday, it arrived in Tokyo harbor, and I had a date with the wet beauty.
And what a beauty it is. With shapes and lines provided by Lexus’ best designers, it definitely looks sexy, even in a less than scenic canal near Tokyo’s Shinagawa train station. Dan Slater, Director of Tokyo’s extremely exclusive Delphi Network, got even more to the point after he saw the picture I tweeted live from the waterfront:
Packed with “as many wow elements as possible,” as Toyota Marine boss Shigeki Tomoyama puts it, the boat easily turns heads, but not so easily its propellers. Once we were out of the speed-limited canal, and when we could open the throttles in Tokyo Bay, the twin 5 liter 442hp engines in the snazzy yacht had to labor hard to get the boat on plane.
The 42-foot vessel is made all from carbon fiber like Lexus’ fabled LFA, the tardy holeshot of the boat however did not at all feel like a butt-kicking, face-flattening LFA. The camera boat, a 31foot Toyota Ponam, appropriately powered with two 260hp diesels, felt much livelier in comparison.
The Lexus skipper’s job was not made easier by a rather unergonomic layout of switches and levers: With one hand on the wheel, and one on the throttle, and with the trim switch far away from both hands in the middle of the wheel, you need to have the many arms of a Hindu diety to work trim and tabs as smoothly as required. “Oh well, it’s just a concept,” one of the crew said.
The Lexus boat is powered by two 5 liter 442hp engines, marinized and slightly detuned versions of the 5 liter mills of the Lexus RC F and relations. The engines sit under a glass cover, and they definitely look good, but to keep up with the bros at an American poker run (think Cars & Coffee on water) the boat would need an additional three liters of displacement, and 100 additional horses in each engine. Sadly, Toyota has nothing on the shelf that would come close to the 500 cubic inch Chevy big block monsters the discerning American boater drops down the hatch when he wants to gain dockside respect.
“I also wanted the power to be higher,” Lexus President Yoshihiro Sawa conceded after I brought up the matter over a cup of coffee, but he quickly added that the “limited market for that kind of boat” is not what he is after. Instead, Lexus is planning for a 60 foot superyacht in what is commonly called the “gin palace” segment, “and for that, we might build the engines from scratch,” Sawa said.
According to The Nikkei, the 42footer’s “price and launch date have yet to be determined,” but I don’t recommend waiting until they are. “We have no plans to commercialize the 42 foot version, the 60footer, we will definitely sell,” confirmed Toyota Marine boss Shigeki Tomoyama later. He dropped a rendering of the gin palace on the table, and did not mind at all when I snapped a picture.
For cost reasons, “Lexus might rethink” making the much bigger boat from the obscenely expensive carbon fiber, Sawa said. Fiberglass, or maybe aluminum like in the Ponam, will do just fine.
Luxury car makers from Aston Martin to Bugatti have all entered the tight market for splashy boats, but Sawa takes exception when you tell him that Lexus is late getting in on the act. He pointed out to me that Toyota has been building boats for 20 years now, and that reliable Toyota engines often are marinized. Many Yanmar boat engines start as Toyotas. With the 60ft Lexus super yacht, out in around 2020, Lexus will enter the American pleasure boat market, the world’s largest. At boat races up and down the coast, a Lexus 60footer would make the perfect turn boat.