Yoshihiko Kanamori, chief engineer for the Lexus GS, had spent most of his three decades at Toyota working on small, front-drive cars such as the Corolla. In taking charge of developing the GS, Kanamori, 51, moved to a much larger, rear-drive platform, and a car that had been repeatedly trounced by its German competitors in performance and sales.
Kanamori spoke with West Coast Editor Mark Rechtin at the press launch of the GS.
What benchmarks did you set for the GS?
Our target is the BMW user. With the current GS, we cannot attract the German brand user. We get IS drivers and people moving up from Toyota. But with the next GS, I think we can get BMW drivers. Mercedes will be harder because their users are very loyal. I would like to have BMW users drive our vehicle back to back.
When you benchmarked the German cars, what were your impressions?
Mercedes has very good straight-line stability. The BMW is very agile, but it is also a big car, and I didn't like a big car. I didn't want to make a copy of a BMW or Mercedes. Increasing the GS's track is good for its stance and its handling. I wanted very good stability, cornering agility, fun-to-drive and good vehicle movement. I wanted to give it an agile feel, very direct, with an inno-vative driving feel.
What feedback did Toyota President Akio Toyoda give you about the car?
He drove it with our original dynamic handling [four-wheel steering] system and he hated it, because he likes a natural and more direct feeling in cornering. He is a very good, exciting driver. But with DHS, he felt like he was coming very close to the guardrail, like he was pointing straight at it even though the car was going to make the corner. With DHS, the rear wheels are changing the direction of the car, but the car's nose is not rotating as much as when only the front wheels are steering the car. Following his comments, the development team improved the suspension tuning to a more natural feel.