It’s a fitting venue, North America, for the unveiling of the 2018 Lexus LS luxury sedan, considering that its ancestor, the original LS – the LS 400 – spearheaded Toyota’s thrust into the North American market with its then-infant Lexus sub-brand. Here in its fifth generation, the Lexus LS also marks the inaugural deployment of a turbocharged powerplant in the marque’s flagship.
Underpinned by the GA-L base which made its debut in the LC 500 coupe, the company’s new global architecture for luxury vehicles, a 3.5 litre, twin-turbo petrol V6 replaces the previous-generation’s naturally-aspirated V8, here producing 415 hp and 599 Nm of torque.
Power is channeled to a 10-speed torque converter automatic, which then sends drive to either the rear wheels or all four wheels in the launch variant, the LS 500.
The GA-L platform is Lexus’ stiffest yet, according to the manufacturer, and the lower, wider design of the fifth-generation LS isn’t just for looks; it is to enhance its centre of gravity as well as its weight distribution.
Measuring 5,235 mm long with a 3,125 mm wheelbase, 1,900 mm wide and 1,450 mm tall, the fifth-generation LS sports a wheelbase that’s 33 mm longer than that of the outgoing, fourth-generation long-wheelbase LS. Compared to the older car, the new LS is 15 mm lower, with the bonnet and boot measuring 30 mm and 40 mm lower than before, respectively.
In a couple of Lexus firsts, the LS is the first Lexus sedan to feature a six-sided window design, while the flush-surface windows integrate smoothly with the pillars. In the company’s efforts to reconcile two conflicting goals, sufficient headroom with a low roofline, the new LS employs an outer-slide-type moonroof instead of the conventional, internally retracting item.
The single most intricate item on the new LS is probably the mesh spindle grille, which Lexus says is “the result of both intense CAD development and hand-adjusting thousands of individual surfaces.” Five wheel designs on the new LS include two new designs measuring 19 inches and three designs measuring 20 inches in diameter.
The larger items wear an electroplated sputter finish for a more brilliant shine, while four out of the five designs employ a hollow-rim, resonance-combating design for aiding road noise reduction.
On the inside – where a luxury car really matters, some would say – new seating designs are applied to 28-way adjustable powered front seats which feature heating, cooling, and massage, while the dashboard design positions the information displays at a uniform height, which assists the driver with the ‘seat-in-control’ layout in operating “all systems without the need to change posture.”
At the business (person’s) end of the cabin, the rear seats also feature heating, cooling and massage functions, while a rear seat luxury package adds a raised ottoman for the greatest amount of rear legroom in any LS model yet, says Lexus. In traditional rear seat comfort emphasis, the rear seat behind the front passenger with this optional package can be reclined up to 48 degrees, with the scope to be raised by up to 24 degrees to assist the rear passenger exit the LS.
Noise control is a key factor in any luxury vehicle, and the new LS adds Active Noise Control to its kit, countering noise with opposite-phase sound waves played through the speakers to cancel out noise. As for the noise from the new engine’s exhaust, Lexus has tuned it for a “more authoritative tone,” yet designed the cabin for quiet cruising.
For sounds actually desired, the new LS features 3D-surround Mark Levinson audio with in-ceiling array speakers. Its next-generation, remote touch infotainment interface is said to be designed to mimic smartphone operation, with support for handwritten input. Alongside the 12.3-inch navigation display, the LS can be specified with an optional 24-inch, colour HUD (heads-up display) for the driver’s view – the largest HUD in the world, says Lexus.
In addition to “a high degree of passive safety for occupant protection in collisions,” the new Lexus LS packs a suite of active safety systems which includes the Lexus Safety System + and the Advanced Safety Package, which in itself includes Intuitive Pedestrian Detection with Active Steering within the lane – another world first, according to Lexus.
This setup aims to handle scenarios where it will detect a pedestrian ahead in the car’s lane, and if a collision is looming, the new LS is designed to automatically brake and avoid said pedestrian, while staying in its own lane.
It’s been ten years since the last full-model-change LS; what do you think of the latest in Japanese luxury?