Three posts in three days. Yes, it must be a motor show. The latest Detroit piece comes from Lexus. The LS is the brand’s flagship limousine model, to compete with the 7 Series, S Class and A8. This is the fifth generation LS and the goal is to repeat what the original succeeded in; predicting the wants of the luxury client rather than giving them what they already expect.
The design language of this car embodies the silhouette of a four door coupe rather than that of a large saloon. The front is sleek and aggressive, the kind of car that intimidates you in the mirror. Once you get over the ‘striking’ grill that is now as much a Lexus trademark as the kidney grill is a BMW one, the good looks and bold lines can be appreciated. The bonnet is long and windscreen as angled as possible to provide the most efficient flowing line over the top.
Moving down the side of the LS, the aggressive wide beefy doors only give way at the very top to the shallower breadth of the cabin. It looks powerful, but while also retaining a certain level of majesty that the luxury car buyer looks for. Lexus are trying to attract a younger client as well as keeping their existing customer pleased. The rear is as modern as the front with multiple ‘L’ designs in the taillights making it appear wider.
Lexus realises that the luxury sedan drivers demand greater handling capability and performance now more than ever, but are not willing to compromise the comfort. The wheelbase has been elongated over the previous long wheelbase model, and a choice of different wheelbases has been taken away. Even being the longest Lexus ever, the new GA-L chassis platform is also the stiffest. This aids handling as well as ride quality and quietness.
To help provide the best ride possible, the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system works constantly with braking, steering, powertrain and suspension components. Extensive use of lightweight ultra-high tensile steel and aluminium carve 90kg off the current model. The centre of gravity is also improved vertically and longitudinally.
The interior oozes comfort as expected. Inspired by a Japanese theme, the cabin is designed to welcome occupants and make them feel at home. Even before you step in, you are recognised. Upon unlocking the air suspension will raise and seat boulsters open up to allow the easiest possible entry. The sunroof slides to open over the roof rather than into the roof, allowing for greater headroom.
The dashboard is one long horizontal piece only broken by digital screens. All controls are designed to be easily reached by the driver without a change in posture. New seating designs can be adjusted in 28 ways and are heated, cooled and massaged. The rear passengers have not been forgotten about either as this is possibly more important than the front in a car like this. Legroom is at an all time high and the seat behind the front passenger can be reclined up to 48 degrees and raised by 24 degrees for ultimate comfort.
The new LS will be offered with just one engine option and will be called the LS500. It is a newly developed 3.5 twin turbocharged V6. This has greater performance figures than the V8 it replaces and also boasts improved efficiency. 415 hp and 600 Nm of torque mean that 100km/h is reached in just 4.5 seconds. For a car that tips the scales at 1900kg, this is mighty impressive. Rear wheel drive and all wheel drive models will be available.
Transferring this power to the road is a 10 speed automatic gearbox. Yes, 10 speeds. Lexus claim that this conventional automatic has shift times to rival dual clutch systems. I hope that it does because this car will spend a lot of its time deciding what gear to be in with that many options. Steering wheel paddles are available, but i doubt they will be used much.
There are three driving modes in the LS; Normal, Sport and Sport+. Normal mode offers the smoothness that limousine owner expect with redesigned engine mounts and electronically controlled wastegates reducing vibration and controlling noise. By switching to the Sports modes, Lexus say that ‘just enough’ exhaust note is heard to excite the driver.
A quiet cabin is a must for a luxury saloon. Lexus have tuned the LS exhaust to both have a more authoritative tone over previous models while also providing utterly quiet cruising. Active Noise Controls works like a pair of built in noise cancelling headphones. It detects noises coming from the engine compartment and cancels them through the speakers. An optional Mark Levinson sound system features in-ceiling speakers.
Safety is incorporated into the LS too. The ‘Lexus Safety System +’ programme can detect a pedestrian in the lane ahead, and if a collision is imminent, it will automatically brake and steer around the person while staying in the lane. Semi-autonomous driving and lane keep assist is also available for motorway miles.
The new Lexus LS appears to be a great leap forward and ready to battle it out with die Deutschen in the premium luxury saloon market.