Car manufacturer Lexus sails into the world of luxury yachts with the LY 650 luxury sports yacht

By Gareth Herincx | 09 Apr 2020 | Design, Speed

Tempus reviews car manufacturer Lexus' powerful new wave into the yacht industry

img tempus

Download your complimentary copy of Tempus Magazine issue 67 now 

When car manufacturers decide to extend their brand, more often than not they tend to play it safe. Who isn't familiar with branded travel accessories, fashion lines, timepieces or fragrances designed to capture the lifestyle of a car owner?

Not so for Lexus. This luxury car manufacturer is well known for its concept pieces on the road, but now it's going off the track to take its daring design into a full lifestyle and mobility brand. The result is the new LY 650 – LY standing for 'luxury yacht', naturally – a stunning 65 ft flybridge cruiser that has taken Lexus' nautical vision further than ever before.  

The LY 650 follows the brand's original 42 ft open sport yacht concept, launched in 2017, which was just as eye-catching if a little less ambitious. For its inaugural sports yacht, Lexus embraced futuristic styling with technically advanced, lightweight construction and combined it with the power of twin high-performance Lexus V8 engines – a clear nod to its sporting roots. The proof-of-concept project made a splash at the 2018 Japan International Boat Show, winning a special award, and it was based on this reception that the brand decided to take the next bold step of producing a larger vessel, building on "the advanced nature of the concept while adding more comfort and living space".

The LY 650 picks up where the sleek sport yacht concept left off, sporting the first production maritime expression of Lexus' unique automotive design language. A collaboration between Lexus, specialist American boat builder Marquis Yachts and leading Italian nautical design house Nuvolari Lenard, the LY 650 is priced from £3m, can sleep six and accommodate up to 15 people.

"The LY 650 symbolises the challenge Lexus has taken up in its aspiration to become a true luxury lifestyle brand, venturing beyond the automobile," said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation and Lexus Chief Branding Officer, at the launch. "I am truly looking forward to seeing the advanced, high quality LY 650 display its beauty on the oceans across the globe."

The elegant LY 650 retains the aerodynamic lines and beautiful curves of the sports concept, and features a strong, pronounced bow, while its dynamic hull boasts one of the widest beams in its class. Elsewhere there are curved deck accents, accentuated aft hips and the brand's signature flowing roofline. The ship retains its sleek design across three levels: the hull deck offers three double bedrooms, each with ample headroom and en suite facilities; the upper cabin contains a kitchen, lounge and forward helm; while up above on the flybridge an additional, open-air helm completes the yacht's structure. >>

Related: How beautiful Belize is enticing affluent investors – and eco-travellers – out of their comfort zones

img tempus

Finished in a sumptuous two-tone bronze paint, other highlights include stainless steel exterior design details and Lexus ‘L’ themed window frames.

But as a purely luxury concept, we have to ask whether the LY 650 can really stand up against well-known yachting brands. And the answer is a resounding yes. 

The 40-tonne yacht is capable of reaching impressive speeds of up to 31.4 knots thanks to its pair of Volvo Penta engines, with outputs ranging from 1,050 – 1,350hp per unit. The LY 650 also features state-of-the-art technology including a virtual anchor, which is a system that automatically maintains the vessel’s position and heading, even during strong currents or windy conditions.

But in development for two-and-a-half years, and with a dedicated team of 30 (plus hundreds more along the chain), the project wasn’t without its issues as boatbuilders at Marquis and designers at Nuvolari Lenard worked to realise Lexus' marine dream. 

"Lexus influenced and challenged us to accomplish things in this project that had never been done on a production yacht," said Josh Delforge, Vice President of Design Engineering at Marquis Yachts. "We have the strength of Lexus' brand, and the experience of more than 65 years of boatbuilding from the Marquis side.

"In the end, the product has this flowing, organic feel that really felt critical to the Lexus image. Nothing is a square, nothing is a box – everything has some sort of movement."

This extends to the interior design, which is driven by the Japanese concept of 'omotenashi' – an approach to hospitality built around anticipating guests' needs – and it's clear to see. Once aboard, I was hard pressed to find any features that hadn't already been built in. The attention to detail throughout the boat is remarkable, from its seductive curves to the clever packaging which ensures appliances such as fridges and cookers are hidden inside cupboards and under real wood surfaces. 

There’s extensive use of carbon fibre both above and below the waterline, the material known for its strength and lightness. 

Lexus reckons buyers will be split between those who will skipper the yacht themselves and those who hire a captain, and so the vessel can be operated in a variety of ways, including by wheel, joystick and an innovative LY-Link smartphone wireless connectivity system that controls the boat's functions and uses real-time information to assist navigation. 

Refinement and comfort are hallmarks of Lexus cars, and this translates well into the LY 650. The yacht's extensive sound-deadening materials mean that it is a quiet cruiser, while the advanced hull has resulted in a calm ride, enhancing stability, manoeuvrability and lowering fuel consumption.

With Lexus' predictions that it will build up to eight yachts a year, and with orders already stacking up, our bet is the LY 650 could become a familiar sight at the world’s most exclusive marinas.