Water Protection

A look at Lexus’ anti-water technology, from rain-sensing windshield wipers to special glass that guides water off the vehicle.

Your Lexus has been engineered to perform in wet conditions as well as dry. And when we talk about rain-fighting technologies, there’s a tendency to focus on the performance features—things like Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM)—that aid driver control, disc brakes that help deliver stopping power, and water-channeling all-season tires.

But with Lexus, no detail is too small. So we checked in with the experts at Lexus College for a quick look at some of the more subtle Lexus innovations that have been adopted in recent years, innovations that help your car perform and keep you safe when the clouds let loose.

This feature has been around for the better part of a decade, and in current models it’s found on the front driver and passenger windows. “It’s a titanium-silica coating on the glass that helps make water bead up and run off, making it easier to see through the window and to see your mirrors when it’s raining,” says Charles Hubbard, senior dealer education administrator for Lexus College. “The effect is similar to what those aftermarket window treatments can do.”

The difference, of course, is that unlike some aftermarket products, this titanium-silica coating is permanent; it never needs to be reapplied, and it requires no special treatment. Just clean it as you would the rest of your glass.

Water-repellent glass is a subtle innovation, but one that’s easily appreciated by simply comparing the side-by-side behavior of water on the front and rear passenger windows; on the front, rain will bead up and roll off quickly, whereas on the rear, the water tends to sheet.

Incidentally, this is a reason to insist on genuine Lexus parts if you ever need a window replaced, as an aftermarket product likely won’t have this treatment.

Sure, you use these all the time. But did you ever wonder how they work? “There’s a sensor in the upper center portion of the windshield, right by the mirror, that shines an LED light (infrared ray) through the glass,” explains Hubbard. “If the system detects no water present, the light bounces back. But when it does detect water, it allows the light to go through the glass, and when it does that, the wipers turn on.”

Hubbard points out that there’s actually a lot of intelligence going on here. Not only is the sensor engineered to detect precipitation; it can also detect the amount of rain hitting the car, and then set or adjust the wiper speed accordingly between INT (intermittent), LO, and HI.

By the way, this is why your owner’s manual recommends keeping the area around the windshield sensor clean, since dirt and bugs can interfere with the sensor. And, just as with the side windows, this is a reason to be selective about who does the work, should you ever need to have the windshield replaced. “If they don’t get that sensor mounted just right, you can have some problems with the automatic wipers,” says Hubbard.

Standard on: LS, IS F, LX, GX, LS Hybrid and GS Hybrid; available on GS, IS, IS C, RX, CT, HS, and RX Hybrid.

While we’re on the windshield, here’s another interesting feature that is offered for the HS 250h, CT Hybrid, and certain Lexus luxury utility vehicles. It’s an electric grid embedded in the glass—similar to your rear-window deicer—that runs along the base of the windshield and up the driver’s side A-pillar. Its purpose is to warm those areas to help keep the wipers free of ice and snow.

Standard on: LX, GX, CT

These are available on many models and standard on vehicles with LED headlights. Can you guess why? LED headlights are so efficient that they don’t throw off enough waste heat to keep the headlights free of ice in severe conditions. So this system automatically squirts washer fluid onto the lens when the headlights are turned on or you activate the windshield washers for the first time. The fluid comes from the same reservoir as your window washer fluid, and should be rated for sub-freezing winter driving conditions.

Standard on: LX, CT, LS, GS; available on all other models except ES.

You know that little groove on the A-pillars on either side of your windshield? It’s not just a design touch; that channel in the sheet metal (standard on all Lexus 2011 models) also has a practical application. “In light to moderate rain, they’re designed to carry the water up and over the top of the car, instead of letting it come around the side and obscure the mirrors,” says Hubbard.

So in a sense, even the L-Finesse design of your Lexus can be said to impact its wet-weather performance. Now that’s attention to detail.