This Is The Meaning Of The Name Of Every Lexus Model

Luxury / Comments

Ever wondered what CT or LS stood for? Wonder no more.

Lexus has published an extensive list of the meanings behind the name of every model, past and present, from the Japanese luxury automaker.

Car nomenclature can oftentimes be confusing. Although we're familiar with the alphanumerical badging that adorns the rear of many luxury vehicles, not many people know the story behind how certain models got their names.

While a brand like BMW or Mercedes uses ascending numbers or letters to denote superiority, Lexus doesn't follow the same logic. Have you ever wondered what RC or LS stands for? Let's go through the entire lineup, past and present, to find out.


Lexus IS

Released before the turn of the century, the Lexus IS has become a staple in the automaker's lineup. The first generation, known as the Altezza in Japan, was designed to take on the BMW 3 Series at its own game. IS stands for Intelligent Sports, a rather fitting name for a car aimed at younger, tech-savvy customers.

Now in its third generation, the IS has morphed into a handsome (if slightly outdated) compact sedan that can be specified with a 5.0-liter V8 in the IS 500 variant.

2021-2023 Lexus IS Front View CarBuzz / Ian Wright

Lexus GS

The now-defunct GS was once a staple in the Lexus range but, sadly, the executive sedan was culled due to poor sales. GS stands for Grand Sedan, a fitting name for a car aimed at the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. The first model arrived in 1991 as the Toyota Aristo, with successors finding popularity among the tuner and VIP scene.

It was indirectly replaced by the front-wheel-drive ES sedan in key markets, but rumors suggest the GS may return as a hydrogen-powered car in the future.

2016-2020 Lexus GS Three Quarter Front Left Side View In Motion Lexus

Lexus ES

The ES has been part of the Lexus lineup from the beginning, debuting as the LS400's little brother. The "Executive Sedan" may not have the dynamic prowess of the RWD IS or GS models, nor is it as plush as the larger LS, but it excels in several important areas, including comfort, quality, and luxury.

It's not the most exciting sedan out there, but it's the perfect car for those who just need a comfortable commuter. Lexus recently bestowed several welcome updates to the lineup, including an athletic-looking F Sport styling kit and handling packages.

2022-2023 Lexus ES Hybrid Rear View Lexus

Lexus LS

The car that started it all. The Lexus LS (or Luxury Sedan) shocked the automotive industry when it was first unveiled and raised the bar for precision engineering, refinement, and quality. The newbie from Japan startled the European automakers into action and turned the luxury sedan segment on its head.

Now in its fifth generation, the LS isn't the obvious choice it once was, but the flagship retains key characteristics first instilled in the original LS400: quality, attention to detail, and stellar refinement. The LS F high-performance model is rumored to have been canceled by the automaker, and that's a shame.


Lexus RC

The RC, which stands for Radical Coupe, is named as such because Lexus wanted to challenge the idea of what a hybrid vehicle should look like. While not available as a hybrid stateside, the sleek coupe was offered with the electrified setup in certain markets.

The RC was designed to prove hybrids don't need to be boring. Instead, they could be classy two-doors with plush interiors and exciting driving dynamics. The existing RC is the first of its kind and indirectly replaced the IS Convertible.

2019-2023 Lexus RC Frontal Aspect Lexus

Lexus SC

Beloved by wealthy retirees and the country club set, the Lexus SC failed to capture the rest of the world's imagination. Unsurprisingly, SC stands for Sports Coupe. While the first generation (also known as the Soarer) could live up to that name, its replacement was far from sporty and wasn't a coupe. Despite the voluptuous exterior styling, trick folding hard-top, and posh innards, it couldn't compete with the Mercedes-Benz SL and co.

As such, it was retired in 2010 and Lexus reentered the segment a few years later with something far more desirable.

2006-2010 Lexus SC Open Top Lexus

Lexus LC

And that car was the Lexus LC. When it first hit the scene a few years back, jaws dropped across the world. It's arguably one of the most beautiful cars money can buy today; it's equal parts dramatic and elegant, without being shouty or vulgar. It's a true masterpiece and lives up to the Luxury Coupe nomenclature given to it.

In the US, buyers can choose between a fabulous 5.0-liter V8 with 471 horsepower (and an intoxicating exhaust note) or a more anodyne hybrid setup. We know which one we'd choose.

2018-2022 Lexus LC 500 Front Angle View Lexus

Lexus UX

The company's most compact crossover yet is the Lexus UX, which stands for Urban Crossover. According to Lexus, the name stems from the development process, where engineers aimed to design a car that "embodied a free-spirited style" that would appeal to contemporary urban dwellers.

America isn't lucky enough to receive the all-electric UX 300e, but we have reason to believe a more powerful hybrid model (dubbed UX300h) will soon make its way over to our shores.

Side Perspective Driving Lexus

Lexus NX

The Lexus NX is an interesting one. The Nimble Crossover (yes, that's what NX stands for) is said to be the point at which an off-road vehicle meets a mid-size luxury saloon. Thanks to its more compact size, it's more athletic than the RX but plusher than the UX.

It's a great car, but with any crossover, it's a compromise. The NX doesn't handle as well as any midsize luxury sedan and isn't adept at traversing rutted tracks, either. Still, it's a fine crossover for small families and those looking for a well-made commuter with plenty of tech and luxury.

2022-2023 Lexus NX Driving Front Angle Lexus

Lexus RX

For many, the RX (Radiant Crossover) is the quintessential Lexus. When the first generation was unveiled in the '90s, it undoubtedly started the craze for plush crossovers that is still so prominent today. The RX remains the best-selling Lexus SUV, a trend that's only expected to grow stronger with the advent of the new model.

The RX range has the honor of being the first Lexus to receive the hybrid treatment. In 2005, the marque introduced the RX400h, which paired an electric motor with a V6 engine. It's quite the trailblazer, being the first-ever premium hybrid production vehicle to go on sale.

Forward Vision Lexus

Lexus GX

The Lexus GX (Grand Crossover) is a very interesting vehicle. Even though its name suggests it's a regular crossover, the body-on-frame GX is far from it - this is one seriously capable off-roader. That's partly because the GX is a polished version of the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, a premium off-roader sold in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia.

America is one of a handful of markets that receives the GX, and while it's not the last word in refinement or cutting-edge technology, it's brilliant off the beaten path, has a proven V8 powertrain, and superb build quality. If you can't stretch it to the LX, you won't feel short-changed by the GX.

2020-2023 Lexus GX Front Angle View Lexus

Lexus LX

The Lexus LX, yet another staple in the Japanese automaker's lineup, has a relatively simple name: Luxury Crossover. Again, this range-topper is far removed from a crossover and, despite the gaudy chrome embellishments, is one of the most capable SUVs money can buy.

Based on the venerable Land Cruiser 300, the LX builds on the already luxurious interior of the Toyota with beautiful materials and plenty of features. As you'd expect, it doesn't come cheap. With a starting price of $89,160, it's only for the wealthier off-road enthusiasts among us.

2022 Lexus LX Front-End Bumper CarBuzz

As For The Rest...

Perhaps the most famous Lexus of them all is the LFA supercar. This superbly engineered supercar is powered by a 4.8-liter V10 that will go down in history as one of the best-sounding powerplants ever made, and rightly so. While it's a dramatic and soulful machine, its name is rather clinical - LFA stands for Lexus F-Sports Apex.

First seen on the IS F super sedan, Lexus introduced the high-performance F models as a riposte to BMW's M and Audi's RS. The letter is a tribute to Fuji Speedway in Japan, which is the brand's main test site for its sportiest models.

Lastly, we have the CT. Undeniably the biggest flop in Lexus' otherwise excellent history, the entry-level Creative Touring failed to impact the premium hatchback segment, which is now dying out globally. Rumors suggest the CT will return as a crossover, but that remains to be seen.

2012 Lexus LFA Front View Driving Lexus 2008-2014 Lexus IS F Front Angle View Lexus 2011-2013 Lexus CT 200h Rear Angle View Lexus
2012 Lexus LFA Front View Driving
2008-2014 Lexus IS F Front Angle View
2011-2013 Lexus CT 200h Rear Angle View

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2021-2023 Lexus IS Front View 2016-2020 Lexus GS Three Quarter Front Left Side View In Motion 2022-2023 Lexus ES Hybrid Rear View

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