CC Outtake: The Lexus Alphabet Soup – So Those Initialisms DO Mean Something!

When Lincoln switched to alphanumeric names like MKX and MKZ, they were justifiably pilloried for implementing a confusing naming system. Where the Germans (and now Cadillac and Infiniti) had relatively logical names with a clear hierarchy, Lincoln’s names were all over the place. One brand that’s largely avoided criticism is Lexus, whose naming structure is similarly arcane. Turns out, however, the names do mean something, as I discovered upon visiting Lexus’ Australian site.


You might have known LS stood for Luxury Sedan (sorry, ahem, Saloon) and RX stood for Recreational Cross Country (partial credit if you thought “Crossover”), but did you know the IS was “Intelligent Sport”? Or that the NX was “New Crossover”, a name that already seems obsolete as an even newer Lexus crossover (the UX, or “Urban Crossover”) is arriving soon.

Not pictured is the GX, which isn’t sold in Australia. According to Wikipedia, GX means “Grand Crossover” which makes no sense considering it’s an old-school, body-on-frame SUV, although it does align this mid-sized truck with the mid-sized GS. There’s an argument for keeping these seemingly nonsensical names, however. The ES and LS have been around since Lexus’ introduction, while names like IS and RX are almost as old. They may not be evocative names but they have name recognition.

Because I know any discussion of modern Lexus’ inevitably leads to discussion about their design language, I’ll say this: I may be the lone, dissenting voice on Curbside Classic – at least among our more vocal commentariat – who genuinely loves the styling of new Lexus models. That includes the RX which I initially found unpleasant to look at but which has quickly grown on me. In fact, I’d say Lexus’ aggressive design language has helped reinvigorate my interest in the brand and the whole reason I visited the Lexus Australia site was to ogle an IS350, a car very much at the top of my shopping list. Lexus’ vehicles aren’t always class-leading but I really like the direction the brand is going and I want them to succeed.

Even if their names don’t make much sense.