History of Lexus navigation systems


Satellite navigation systems have been in operation since the 1960s. Designed primarily for the military, it wasn’t until relatively recent history that the Global Positioning System (GPS) was opened up for civilian use. GPS-based navigation systems then started to appear in vehicles from 1995 onwards.

While Lexus was not the first manufacturer to offer satellite navigation in a production car, the mid-life refresh of the second-generation LS 400 was notable for being the first car in the world to have satellite navigation fitted as standard (European specification).

Known then as Lexus Navigator, this GPS voice navigation system may appear antiquated to modern eyes but on its debut in 1998 it featured cutting-edge technology such as CD-based data storage and touch-screen operation. The colour display sat within a bespoke housing in the middle of the centre console surrounded by the car’s climate controls.

Two years later the technology had evolved, so the new third-generation LS was equipped with an enhanced and much more user-friendly version of the original Navigator system. Switching optical media from conventional CD to DVD meant there was now 13 times more data from which to draw on. This allowed the storage of road systems for many European countries without needing to change discs, when previously it had only been possible to store information for mainland UK. It provided information on points of interest, allowed restaurants around Europe to be programmed according to food type (French, Italian, fast food etc), found the petrol stations nearest to your location, and offered precise guidance to individual house numbers.

The appearance of the latest Navigator was much improved too. Now displayed on a 7.0-inch wide LCD screen with an infra-red, touch-sensitive face, visibility and ease of use noticeably increased. The number of buttons surrounding the navigation system were reduced by consolidating some climate control and car audio functions into the central screen. Now only the most frequently needed audio and air-conditioning functions were set around the multi-display.

Another few years down the line and the 2003 LS 430 added a couple of extra functions to Lexus Navigator. ‘Whole route’ display gave you the option to programme a street intersection as a destination, while ‘Compass mode’ showed the direction of travel and data on the vehicle’s current location. A new voice recognition function was added that recognised more than 200 spoken commands relating to the navigation and audio systems. It also allowed hands-free use of Bluetooth-compatible mobile telephones.

But possibly the most important advance was Electronic Traffic Avoidance (ETA), which provided intelligent route planning that continuously monitored traffic conditions. With ETA, live traffic information from FM radio signals was automatically fed into the navigation system, enabling the car not only to warn the driver of a traffic problem on a pre-programmed route, but also to plot a way around the congestion.

From 2005 onward, various Lexus models used the navigation screen to display a live view from the back of the car. Rear Park Assist Monitor improved the safety and simplicity of reverse parking manoeuvres. Towards the end of 2005, however, the new second-generation IS (below) debuted the next generation system – now known as Lexus Navigation System – with new guidance functions, improved graphics and faster processing speed.

Still DVD-based, the speed of calculation increased 65%, while the graphic draw performance was three times faster. Voice activation was now available in three languages (English, French and German) but voice guidance could be given in ten languages, and a new Help function was incorporated so the user could receive further instructions via an on-screen help button. A lane guidance feature was also incorporated that forewarned the driver of an impending lane change before issuing further instructions. It remained one of the few systems on the market to combine the advantages of both touch-screen and voice activation, thus avoiding the limitations of hand-eye coordination imposed by conventional control knobs.

The next technological leap came in 2009 with the launch of the third generation Lexus RX. Moving the screen higher up the dashboard to a location that was more easily readable and therefore safer to use, the touch-screen function became redundant. So the RX 450h debuted a new, centralised control system called Remote Touch (below). This new system worked like a computer mouse, allowing the user to control all audio, navigation, climate, phone and set-up functions from one remote location.

The system was powered by a 40GB hard disc drive (HDD) memory in support of its navigation functions, 10GB of which provided on-board storage for around 2,000 digital music files. While the Remote Touch interface was not universally liked, the navigation system behind it was widely regarded as one of the fastest-responding and most accurate guidance systems on the market, offering full-map coverage across Europe, with automatic links to local traffic information data for efficient route planning.

This HDD-based system remained at the heart of Lexus satellite navigation systems for a number of years, during which time screen sizes increased to the 12.3-inch wide multimedia display fitted to the fourth generation LS and some fourth generation GS models (above).

Towards the end of 2012, Lexus introduced the MoveOn navigation system into higher specification CT 200h models. This TomTom supplied solution was integrated into the dashboard and could be operated through the touch pad in the centre console. It offered access to live information services such as local searches, weather forecasts, mobile speed camera locations, and real-time traffic data through a built-in SIM card connection.

Although head-up display technology had been available within the Lexus line-up since 2009, the fourth generation RX of 2015 (above) was the first model include direction graphics from its Lexus Premium Navigation system directly into the driver’s eye line. A few years later, further upgrades were applied to this top-selling model during its 2019 refresh, when it became the first Lexus to receive smartphone connectivity through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Since then, and in recognition of the market’s increasing reliance on third-party navigation systems, every new or refreshed model has received similar connectivity. But there was much more to come from embedded systems.


For the 2024 model year NX, Lexus has launched Predictive Efficient Drive technology, which is designed to work in tandem with hybrid and plug-in hybrid systems to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. With the help of the Lexus Link app, embedded navigation systems with Predictive Efficient Drive are able to learn a driver’s regular routes and driving style, while simultaneously looking ahead via live traffic data to anticipate ways to save fuel. More economical driving is automatically achieved by optimising the charging and discharging of the battery on hybrid models, and the use of full-electric or hybrid modes on plug-in vehicles.

For example, when upcoming traffic is noted, the system proactively charges the battery to reduce future engine use when traffic flow slows or stops. Additionally, the technology analyses upcoming traffic and road conditions, such as up/downhill or urban/highway sections, and seamlessly adjusts battery charging and discharging for lower fuel consumption. And it becomes increasingly effective the more the vehicle is driven as the volume of data at the system’s disposal increases.

What features will mark the next generation of satellite navigation systems? You can be sure that Lexus engineers are working on them right now.


  1. 1999 is200 european model fitted a 6.5 inches wide16:9 screen with cd based computer. It had no touch screen but a remote in the central console near the handbrake. It’s still now usable and really accurate. In the 2001 restyling version a 7 inches dvd based navigation system took place of the cd based and voice input command was added working for both na and radio in the USA, while in Europe it just drove the nav system.

  2. I have just bought my first Lexus, a 2014 CT200H Luxury with sat nav, Love the car and the sat nav so far seems to do a good job BUT, for me, and I suspect others, there is one facility missing which would improve it significantly.

    I come from a Tom Tom touch screen background and find that a one touch voice on / off is a massive plus. I can turn off the the voice easily if I just want to follow the guidance and switch it on again if upcoming directions look complex or I need a reminder if the turn off is some distance off. I sometimes like to make my own twist on a journey and do not want an annoying voice telling me to get back onto the guidance route. The other help is that the arrival time is always displayed so I can monitoe my progress towards my destination.

    Unless someone can explain an alternative system to do the same with the Lexus satnav it takes several steps to turn the voice off by going into the car’s settings menu and adjusting the volume down. Putting the voice on again takes as long. Doing this whilst driving would be dangerous and to have to stop would be a real pain!! – I currently use the “suspend navigation” facility which takes 3 steps (eyes can be kept on the road) but of course you loose the arrival time.

    Surely it would not be difficult for Lexus to add perhaps a “voice on/off” feature with a maximum of two stages?? – It could be added to the next map / firmware update when the car is serviced.

    If anyone has found a simple work around using the currrent system perhaps they could let me know.

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Robin,
      Thanks for your post.
      Unfortunately there are currently no alternative means of switching voice navigation on/off. We appreciate your feedback regarding this and will be sure to pass it on to the relevant product team for future software updates.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Tobi,

        Thank you for your reply – I hope the relevant product team can come up with something!! Meanwhile I shall continue to enjoy my new Lexus!!


  3. Are any of the new systems available as retrofit for the 2005 LS 430? What is the latest system compatible with 2005 that has maximum number of features now available in the 2014 models?

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for taking the time to contact us.
      Unfortunately the navigation systems are not interchangeable as the wiring and connections are different.
      We would recommend contacting your local Lexus centre who’ll be able to take a look at your current system, and advise on any map or software updates.
      Hope this helps.

  4. I have a lexus is300h which is a really good car except for the sat nav, I find it impossible to operate despite reading a 111 page booklet!! I now wish I had gone for an Audi

    1. Hello Chris
      Thanks for your post and sorry to read your comments about the satnav.
      Your Lexus dealer would be more than happy to help go through the operation of the satellite navigation with you. If there are any areas you need help with or you would like us to get them to contact you directly, please let us know as we would would like to help.

      1. I agree with Chris’ comment about Lexus navigation. Although I can use it, it is cumbersome. My daughter had the use of an Audi while her Lexus CT was having accident damage repaired. I looked at the Audi nav and it is far more intuitive than the Lexus system. Makes the Lexus system look really inferior. However despite this I personally would not want an Audi car over a Lexus. But Lexus really ought to improve this aspect as they must lose sales in an open market.

        1. Thank you for your post Bob.
          We would like to pass this feedback to the Lexus product team so if there are specific areas of operation which are not so straightforward then please let us know.

          1. Hi David – hope you don’t mind me chipping in here? I just picked up my first Lexus a couple of weeks ago: a 2010 RX450h, and I’m absolutely delighted with it, but have a couple of suggestions about the SatNav based on my experience so far (apologies if newer versions have already addressed these complaints!).

            1. There’s no easy way to turn the voice guidance on/off, without having to go through umpteen menu options. There’s a button marked ‘MAP [VOICE]’ right next to the remote touch controller – it would be great if you could press & hold this for 1 second to toggle voice guidance on/off

            2. The menu up/down buttons don’t do anything when in the map view – why not use them to zoom in/out?

            3. There should be some way of entering a new destination from the map screen – maybe a new on-screen button at the bottom? Or how about clicking on the arrival time/distance box on the left?

            4. Postcode search is the most common way most people are going enter a destination, so why is it on page 2? This should be the first option on page 1

            5. There are no speed cameras listed in POIs, as I’ve seen in other systems – this would be a really useful addition

            Having said that, I find the rest of the system really good to use, and the map view and guidance instructions (diagrams and voice) very clear and understandable – it’s just a bit cumbersome having to go through so many menus all the time.

          2. Hello Stephen
            No problem in chipping in and great to hear your thoughts about ownership. Glad that you are enjoying your RX 450h. In terms of the points you have raised these were sent to our Lexus product team earlier to go through and we will be posting a reply once we have some further feedback.
            In the meantime thanks again for taking the time to post this. It really is the case that hearing from owners can help shape product in the future.

          3. Hello Stephen
            I have received feedback from our product team in relation to your comments. We are aware of these issues and have raised them with the Lexus Division. On the first point we do take on board the turning off/on of the guidance and accept this could be a bit more straightforward and have passed on this feedback. The same also applies to points 2 and 3. With the postcode search, we have raised this previously as you are correct, post code is the most common way to search. We have also received requests for the addition of speed cameras to the system. By providing us with your comments we would hope to add these improvements for future product. Glad you are enjoying your RX 450h and please let us know if you have any other questions or queries.

  5. I am on my 5th Lexus and just love the cars I have owned 3 RX and my wife now has CT200H and I have the LX 570
    the only down on Lexus is the Sat Nav system none of the cars have had a decent one I found the ones bought in local shop far better than the lexus unit they are easy and cheap to up date as new roads are added a lot user friendly I would just like a system that I can put in my car to replace the lexus one but still use the same display. I have spoken to lexus of perth hundreds of times when buying and having service done but their hands are tied they cannot offer a solution

    1. Hello Les,
      Thank you for your post. We’re sorry to hear of your comments about the sat nav, however we are solely responsible for the Lexus operations in the UK market. We would recommend contacting Lexus Australia regarding your concerns. To help further here is a direct link. http://www.lexus.com.au/contact/.

  6. I have recently taken delivery of a 2010 RX premium which is fully loaded. The sat nav does not show speed limits for the current road. Could this be added on an update? Otherwise a very fine car.

    1. Hi Mark,
      Thank you for your post. Unfortunately this is not possible on this system. If you have any other questions please let us know.

  7. Our 2008 Lexus will not accept the 8 characters of the U.K postcode. Is there any way we can update the software?

    1. Hi Peter,
      Thank you for your post. We have spoken with our technical department and to look into this further please could you advise us on your make and model car and registration? Many thanks.

  8. I have a RX400 executive limited addition and would also like to know if it possible to allow full post-code searching on the sat nav? Thanks

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for your post. Unfortunately a full postal code search is not available, however current models do allow this facility. Many thanks.

    2. Geoff
      I am now on my 5 th Lexus and the Sat nav is no better than the first so I also have a Tom Tom it is more accurate and better information

  9. I have as is300h 2013. I find that the sat have system picks up speed cameras on a route , then fails to pick up those same cameras later the same day in the same direction. At the same time the sat have is working accurately. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Rob,
      Thank you for your post. Do you have Premium or Standard Navigation in your vehicle? If your IS 300h has the Premium Navigation System there is a software upgrade which may include fixes to solve this issue. Many thanks.

      1. Premium.
        Is the upgrade chargeable?
        How likely to include fixes to the issue?
        I need to know whether or not I can rely on the system.

      2. Hi I have gone from an is250 2012 model to a gs250 2013 model however despite having the premium Navigation system my gs does not have any speed camera notifications nor does it show up as POI despite my older is250 having this feature along with my partners 2013 ct. I have queried this several times with the dealerships service department but they seem to know less and have only advised that something could be disconnected (which they are yet to find) or that i need to pay an extra £400 for a full system upgrade despite already having the premium installed that should already have this feature and just to point out they cannot confirm a system update will resolve the issue. I’m a little surprised that the service departments haven’t a clue as to what the issue is and how to resolve it.

        1. Hi Jamz,
          Thanks for getting in touch. It would be helful if we had the VIN (or reg no) as well as the map version and map Update ID. If you could provide us with this, our technical team can have a look into this for you. Many thanks.

        2. It would appear there is an issue with the 2013 version of the premium nav. Question is what are Lexus prepared to do about it. I certainly won’t be paying Lexus for an update, which may not solve the problem.
          Come on Lexus – premium brand?

      3. Hi i have a 2013 rx 450h with premium sat nav but it will not pick up speed cameras pleas advise.

        1. Hi Steve,
          Thanks for getting in touch. Have you been to your Lexus Centre about this issue? Many thanks.

          1. Hi i have called the lexus dealer and they say it should work automatically.

  10. Why can’t u say whether or not this upgrade is chargeable and likely hood of a the fix working.this question seems to be moderated out?

    1. Hi Rob. Please accept our apologies. You post was held in our moderation queue over the weekend. We would advise you visit your local Lexus centre, who can take a look at the system and determine if an update would help. There may be a cost attached to this – your dealer will advise. Thank you.

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