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).

LS 400 sat nav History of Lexus navigation systems

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.

LS 430 sat nav History of Lexus navigation systems

Switching optical media from conventional CD to DVD meant that 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.

Reversing camera History of Lexus navigation systems

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 debuted the next generation system – now known as Lexus Navigation System – with new guidance functions, improved graphics and faster processing speed.

IS 250 sat nav History of Lexus navigation systems

Still DVD-based, the speed of calculation increased 65 per cent, while the graphic draw performance was three times faster. Voice activation was now available in three languages (English, French and German), 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.

LS 430 sat nav History of Lexus navigation systems

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 RX 450h. 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. This intuitive new controller worked like a computer mouse, allowing the user to control all audio, navigation, climate, phone and set-up functions from one remote location.

Lexus RTI History of navigation systems

The latest system is powered by an immense 40GB hard disc drive (HDD) memory in support of its navigation functions, 10GB of which provides on-board storage for around 2,000 digital music files. It is 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.

LS 460 History of Lexus navigation systems

This HDD-based system remains at the heart of all current Lexus satellite navigation systems. Screen sizes are increasing, however, with the 12.3-inch wide multimedia display fitted to the LS and some GS models being the largest on the market.

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. Re Ella Churchill’s of 11th Oct. Yes, I have and no help. It appears I am not the only one. See Jamz of 27th Sept. I suspect we would both like an FOC update/upgrade to see if that solves the issues.

    1. Hi Rob,
      Thanks for getting back to us. Could you provide us with your case reference number? We can look at the status of your case and advise from there.

  2. I have two lexus a LX570 and a CT200H both have the worst SAT Nav there is on the matarket
    I certainly will not be paying for a Lexus sat nav update the last one cost $300 aAustralian and now I am advised it will now cost $800 I have bought a cheap TOM TOM to use and it is great and updated every 3 months for free
    Les Harris
    Perth Western Australia

    1. Hi Les,
      Thanks for getting in touch. We’re sorry to hear you’re unhappy with your navigation system. Have you spoken to Lexus Australia about this?

      1. many times it all started when i bought my first Lexus a RX350 and 5 Lexus later not much improvement, its only becuase of the quality of the cars and the excelant service from Lexus of perth that I still buy Lexus I understand that Audi are no better

        1. Hi Les,
          Thanks for getting back to us. Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on service given by Lexus Australia. We would have to advise getting back in touch with them to voice your concerns. We’re glad to hear you still buy Lexus cars and we’d like this to continue Les.

          1. Hi
            This is ali from tehran.
            I have a lexus ES350 model 2010.unfurtunatly dvd map inside navigation system is belong gcc countries.i heared the said dvd map has not been produced for iran why?
            How can help me?

          2. Hi Ali,
            Thank you for your comment. Please could you contact Lexus in your region as they would be in the best position to assist you. Many thanks.

  3. Can you help please. I have a UK(RHD) 2012 lexus IS 250 which I have decided to update the maps. Even though the car is registered on, mylexus, and verified, you cannot identify the nav system. It certainly does not look like one of the three pictures available as choices.
    I also went to

    where there are 9 possibles. My nav system handbook (appendix, page 402) says it is
    type EM01A1

    Without being able to cross reference this to the availble choices how am i supposed to buy the correct map update?

    My local Lexus dealer (who did not supply the car) is frankly out of their comfort zone…

    Help please

    1. Reading the posts- above the reg no of the car is BV62UZW and its an IS250, ie the top of the range(=expensive) at the time

      You really should be able to identify the parts you put into the vehicle with this info.

    2. Hi Johnnief,
      Thank you for getting in touch. We’d advise contacting your local dealer as they’d be in the best position to help. Similarly if you provide your reg or VIN number we will be able to look into it for you and pass this information on. Thanks.

      1. very unsatisfactory response. The dealer has already had the information and told me that this model of Lexus would need to be taken to another location 50 miles away. You have already had the registration number and its verified on the mylexus site – see post above.
        Now kindly answer the question- which of 9 possibles is the correct system to choose on the lexus-mapupdates.eu website

        1. Hi Johnnief,
          Sorry about the confusion. We’ve passed your email on to our Multimedia Team and they will contact you directly. Thanks.

        2. My experience with the dealer was similar. My issue was never resolved. The dealer even asked if I had the radio switched on(problem being that satnav not picking up speed cameras!) It is a poor system. If I were you I would use a different system

  4. I have a Lexus RC with premium Sat Nav. I Agree with the comments on how many steps it needs to shut the nice lady up.:_ However, my question is the opposite, Can you get the last instruction repeated, and or the updated guidance between the last instruction and the next?(which is the same)
    All the other Sat navs will do this, although its not necessarily obvious how.
    Many thanks

  5. Hello everyone I have a 2001 Lexus IS200 with the flip up sat nav on top of the dash my question is this can I fit a reverse parking camera and connect it to the sat nav to act as the screen when in reverse many thanks Colin

    1. Hi Colin,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We would advise contacting your local Lexus Centre who will be able to advise you on this further. They will also be best equipped to discuss parts, pricing and fitting.


    1. Hi Yohannes,

      Thanks for getting in touch. We appreciate Lexus was not the first manufacturer to offer satellite navigation in a production car. However, the mid-life refresh of the second-generation LS 400 was the first car to have satellite navigation fitted as standard in the European specification.


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