12/14/2010—Designers. Test drivers. Chief Engineers. Takumi. We, the dedicated editors at Lexus magazine, have been working hard to bring you insights from some of the great minds that brought you that beautiful precision automobile in your driveway.

Which is why we’d like to share some quotes from our recent chats with a man that much of the automotive world has never heard of, but has had enormous influence over the final design of your Lexus: Hirokazu Koga, whose unofficial title, until this year, has been “Lexus Performance Meister.”

You see, Koga’s longtime job was to oversee a seemingly intangible aspect of any car: how it feels to drive, or perhaps, more accurately, how you’re supposed to feel when driving Lexus vehicles.

What, you may ask, are we talking about here? Well, if you’ve ever felt a mild adrenaline rush during a graceful, high-speed curve, or maybe felt satisfaction during a strong left-lane pass on the highway, or felt relief after a smooth stop when braking hard for a surprise hazard, then you know what I’m talking about. That’s the work of Mr. Koga.

It turns out that the job of putting emotions into a Lexus isn’t so intangible after all. It’s a lot of engineering and perfecting—mostly around the forces of driving like stopping, turning, and accelerating—and then evaluating the human emotional response. That takes special instincts. Heck, that takes a special auto manufacturer to even care about this kind of thing. But, as always, we’re talking about Lexus. Take it away, Mr. Koga:

On Lexus’ approach to handling:
“You know the film, The Bodyguard? The character played by Kevin Costner is so quiet, but he is just like a Japanese samurai—not many words, it’s all up in his head. There’s a scene where Costner shows such elegant speed and precision with this perfectly balanced samurai sword. We like to use this analogy for Lexus vehicles because people think, ‘ah, I understand that!’”

On how he shaped the desired “feeling” of the first LS back in the 1980s:
“We did some work with the British sports car maker Lotus because we loved the way they tested their cars on public roads. I remember they had an ex-Formula One driver, John Miles, and a Lotus engineer, Roger Becker. We’d go on these incredible rides in the French countryside. Sure, there were speed limits, but it was remote so I could test the cars’ performance in almost every way. It was a great way to consider changes, and to make, ultimately, better cars. I came away feeling strongly about these methods at the time. I feel exactly the same way today, with Lexus.”

On why Lexus vehicles corner so well:
“It’s hard to explain in simple terms all we do to handle the different forces. But with cornering, body control is important. This comes from features like a very strong and rigid construction and suspension design, or ‘geometry,’ that keeps all four wheels evenly balanced on the road. We also measure and align the driver’s steering input with the steering angle. The result, for all our cars, is smooth precision and comfort, even at speed or when evasive maneuvers are needed.”

On why Lexus braking systems are first-class:
“We set very strict targets for all our cars when it comes to outright stopping power. But we also pay close attention to brake character. This is about the driver’s expectations of the responses of each model—the CT 200h, LS, GS, IS, and even the bigger RX SUV. Even so, the systems are engineered so drivers can recognize the core values of Lexus braking performance, regardless of model.”

On why a feeling of “smoothness” is so important to Lexus:
“It’s never just about power. The power needs to be there, but it has to be fluid. We are obsessive about smoothing out the ‘shock’ moment between gear changes or the transition between hybrid power sources.”

On why, to Lexus, physics and emotions are forever linked:
“We engineer each value to define the dynamics and sophistication of Lexus performance. And that, ultimately, is an emotional quality with huge meaning to us. Yes, there is speed, sharpness, and precision, but there is also smoothness, quietness, and ever-increasing efficiency.”