Published on October 9th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair


Understanding Lexus Nomenclature

Whether you’re aware of it or not, many car manufacturers have logical naming schemes. Most car enthusiasts know these by heart, but we thought we’d do a little deconstructing for the rest of you.

Before we get into it, it’s worth noting that these logical naming schemes, or ‘nomenclatures’ are usually done by premium car brands. So, in part 3, we’ll cover Lexus’ Nomenclature.

Keep in mind that this is more of a guide to the current nomenclature than a 100% accurate dissection that will stand up against close scrutiny. We’re also going to avoid talking about chassis designations, which will change with every generation of the model.

Let’s begin.

Now, a typical Lexus model is casually referred to in the following way:

“Lexus RX”

But if you search “Lexus RX ” on a typical listing site, you will find many, many variants. Let’s take a slightly uncommon variant as an example:

“Lexus RX 350L Luxury”

Let’s break that name down:

1. Lexus RX 350 L Luxury

The first letter of a Lexus can mean a lot of different things. In fact, the only consistent theme is that if there’s an ‘L’ here, it’s the flagship in that body style. The LS, LX, and LC are all Lexus flagship models in the sedan, SUV and coupe body styles respectively. Refer to point 3 for more.

2. Lexus RX 350 L Luxury

In a typical Lexus, the second letter of the model is where a lot more information can be found. Refer to point 3 for more.

X = crossover/SUV/off-roader
S = sedan
C = coupe
T = Touring (hatchback, really)
F = one-offs, concepts, special projects

3. Lexus RX 350 L Luxury

Before going further, we need to do something we probably won’t do with any other premium manufacturer. We need to look at the first two letters again and derive new meaning from it. Because while the second letter gives us information about the bodystyle, besides ‘L’ and ‘G’ the first letter often stands for something new each time.

So now, we list the possible combinations and their supposed meanings:

UX – Urban eXplorer (just launched)
NX – Nimble Crossover
RX – Radiant/Recreation Crossover/Cross Country
GX – Grand Crossover
LX – Luxury Crossover/4X4

IS – Intelligent Sport/ Sedan
ES – Executive Sedan/Elegant Sedan
HS – Harmonious Sedan
GS – Grand Sedan
LS – Luxury Sedan

RC – Radical Coupe
SC – Sport Coupe
LC – Luxury Coupe

CT – Creative Touring

LF – Lexus Future, used for Lexus concept cars.

Also note that the LFA gets its name from the ‘LF-A’ concept. The ‘A’ here reportedly means nothing.

4. Lexus RX 350 L Luxury

As this segment of the name concerns the powertrain, we need to split things up as usual.

4.1 Three digits

The digits here are used to indicative of the engine displacement, but changes depending on whether the car uses a powertrain with a hybrid or turbocharging system.

Naturally aspirated (N/A) examples:

LC500 – 5.0-litre V8
RX350L – 3.5-litre V6

Turbocharged examples:

IS300 – 2.0-litre inline 4 turbocharged (feels like a 3.0 N/A)
IS300h – 2.5-litre inline 4 with hybrid system (feels like a 3.0 N/A)

How do you tell if a Lexus is turbocharged or not? For that, we must address point 4.2.

4.2 lowercase letters after the three digits

After the three digits, you’ll find either a small ‘h’ or ‘d’ or on older models a ‘t’.
‘h’ – hybrid system
‘d’ – diesel engine
‘t’ – turbocharged petrol engine, but as downsized turbocharged engines became the norm, Lexus dropped the ‘t’ altogether on newer models, and used the three digits to indicate what the engine ‘felt’ like (eg. An IS300 with a 2-litre turbo feels like it has the power of a 3-litre naturally aspirated engine).

4.3 Uppercase ‘F’ instead of digits

In performance variants of some models, a capital ‘F’ will substitute all digits and lowercase letters here. This indicates an all-out performance model with a larger engine and other modifications towards the goal of sportiness.

Examples: GS F and RC F.

5. Lexus RX 350 L Luxury

L here in uppercase stands for long-wheelbase. In some models, like the RX 350 L, the long-wheelbase can be used to add an additional row of seats.

6. Lexus RX 350 L Luxury

This last bit usually indicated the trim level. Here are some typical trim levels.

Special Edition
F Sport

While Urban, Special Edition and Executive are unique to the NX, RX and LS respectively (perhaps only in Malaysia), the rest seem to be available in multiple models. Premium seems to be a small bump in spec. Luxury seems to indicate a full-spec Lexus. F-Sport is a performance flavoured trim level.


Quite honestly, Lexus has one of the most scattered and disordered naming schemes in the premium car market. Germans understand A4,A6,A8, and 3,5,7-Series and C,E,S-Class follow an obvious logic. But IS, ES, GS, HS, LS? How are the semi-interested public supposed to understand where these lie in relation to each other.

Which is a shame, because they make some of our favourite cars in their respective segments. The LC Coupe, for instance, is easily the best made and most special car I’ve ever driven, while older IS, ES and GS sedans seem to have Toyota-levels of longevity to them.

Lexus deserves a nomenclature that is easy to relate to.

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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