When it comes to luxury cars, there’s a very good chance that the first thing to come to mind would not be a Japanese-built car. Luxury and car is usually linked with the usual suspects like Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin and the lot. But cook up a long list of luxury cars and there’s bound to be one Japanese marque in there, that would be none other than Lexus.

Known for its impeccable attention to detail, fine Japanese craftsmanship by skilled ‘Takumi’, and a fierce focus on comfort, Lexus has been leading the charge for Japanese luxury cars since the brand was first introduced by Toyota in 1989. Since then, Lexus has grown to offer its customers a few different models and variants, but sitting right at the top of the Japanese luxury throne is the Lexus LS.

And when you think Lexus, the majestic LS comes to mind. And rightfully so too, as Lexus is the only Japanese luxury brand with a car to compete in the S-Class and 7-Series segment.

The Lexus flagship model has been giving its more established rivals from America and Europe a run for their money for some years now. It was the first model introduced by Lexus, and immediately asserted itself as a serious contender in the luxury segment. Today, the LS is not the car you get if you are bored with a Mercedes, BMW or Audi, but it is among the first few cars you consider when you think of purchasing a luxury sedan.

Over 730,000 units have been sold since its introduction 23 years ago, and is currently in its fourth generation. Fourth generation you say? Isn’t this new LS the fifth generation? Apparently not. Though the new LS features over 3,000 changes over its predecessor, Lexus still refuses to call it an all-new model. Almost everything about it is different, which is why when we first wrote about the LS we called it a full model change. Apparently we were technically wrong.

From the overall design, to the way it drives, but it still shares some parts with the older model. Some switches, some oily bits, the power trains, have all been carried over from the out-going model, so in view of that, Lexus has refrained from calling it ‘all-new’.

In explaining the decision not to sire it as an all-new LS, Chief Engineer Hideki Watanabe said, “The new LS is an extensive improvement over the previous model. We have changed many things, but the LS is our flagship model, so we are constantly looking for ways to set the benchmark for other manufacturers. We were a little bold with the design, and we know it might take time for people to warm up to it, but we have had great response, but expect the all-new model to be even greater than this.”

The new LS is the second Lexus model to receive the now iconic L-finesse design, the first was the GS. Admittedly there were some question marks with the design of the car as it looks bolder and more aggressive; language that’s usually reserved for sports car that are meant to be driven hard, and not for cars that are designed to pamper and be driven in.

But there’s a reason behind it, according to Watanabe-san, the United States is one of the largest market for Lexus, and in that segment American’s generally prefer to drive than to be driven in, and that’s one of the reasons why the new LS comes fitted with technology that makes it a more involving drive as well.

The body of the car for example is now more rigid thanks to laser screw welding, and adhesive bonding techniques. Though more rigid, the comfort levels of the car has not been compromised thanks to new ‘Frequency Adaptive Damping’ shock absorbers and the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) air suspension that actively adjusts the car’s pitch and bounce. Both systems work to keep the car flat on uneven surfaces, this gives the driver better control over the LS, and keeps the occupants comfortable on varying road surfaces.

The driver is also able to adjust the car’s character to suit his own driving style with the new Drive Mode Select system that features up to five switchable driving modes – Eco, which gives better fuel economy and suppler ride, and in hybrid models, the Eco mode also limits the voltage of the LS’s Power Control Unit which provides a more comprehensive control over the air conditioning and seat heaters, and lowers the cars dependence on the engine and electronics system.

Comfort mode adjusts the suspension characteristics to provide a smoother, more comfortable ride. Sport and Sport S modes take the LS to its full potential, maximising throttle response and engine power output to accelerator pedal inputs. There’s another mode called the Sport S+ and is only available with cars that are fitted with the AVS system. Sport S+ enhances performance by adjusting both the chassis and steering control systems while the AVS system works to reduce vehicle roll, sharpen handling, and optimise steering feel. What this translates to is a massive car that is able to tackle corners and engage the driver with impressive power.

Speaking of power, the LS features two powertrain options that have been enhanced to improve efficiency, boost power, and lower CO2 emissions. The 4.6-litre V8 engine powers the LS460 and LS460L. Dubbed the most technically advanced internal combustion engine ever to have been developed by Lexus engineers, the engine features a host of technological advancements like a dual-pipe intake system, an acoustic control induction system, D-4S stoichiometric direct injection, and a third-generation Dual VVT-i.

These systems work to make the engine more pleasant to the ear, and to churn out more power as well. The engine generates the highest specific output amongst normally aspirated V8 units in the premium automotive segment. It now produces 387hp and 493Nm of torque, mated to what was the world’s first 8-speed automatic transmission, the LS460 accelerates from 0-100km/h in only 5.7-seconds, and on to a top speed of 250km/h.

The LS600h on the other hand is now credited as the world’s most powerful full hybrid V8. Its 5-litre petrol engine produces a whopping 445hp when combined to the electric motor and features 300Nm of torque that is available instantaneously and seamlessly from standstill. Though boasting more power, the LS600h will catapult to 100km/h in 6.1-seconds, and on to an electronically-governed top speed of 250km/h. The LS600h also leads its class when it comes down to fuel consumption, it sips just 8.6-litres of fuel on the combined cycle, that’s equivalent to a car that’s powered by a 3.5-litre engine.

There’s also a top of the line version for those who prefer a sportier edge to their cars, the F-Sport version that’s available for the LS for the first time. Available for both V8 petrol and full hybrid models, the F-Sport variants feature unique body kits, aggressive 19-inch wheels and 6-piston Brembo front brake callipers. It also has a unique interior trim as well as a lowered ride height, enhanced body rigidity, and a Torsen limited slip differential and Active Stabiliser system. To top it all off, Lexus has fitted an intake sound creator for a louder, more engaging engine note.

The interior has been redesigned and now has a clean, elegant dashboard that feels well-built yet easy to operate thanks to it being separated into two distinctive zones; an upper display zone with a 12.3-inch LCD multi-display screen which is also the largest in the industry, as well as the lower ‘operation zone’ that has all the switches and the second generation Remote Touch Interface that operates everything from radio controls, GPS, and even air-conditioning settings.

Other than the touch of modernity, the interior feels like it has been crafted rather than engineered, the ‘Shimamoku’ wood steering wheel for example, takes 38 days to manufacture and has to go through a total of 67 unique processes just to get it perfectly right. The interior is available in a choice of six colour schemes with a number of ornamentation that includes Walnut, Ashburn as well as Bamboo finishing.

The air-conditioning uses 13 sensors inside the car to detect your body heat. If the system concludes that you are feeling warm, it will turn up the intensity and lower the temperature of the air-conditioning system. It’s that intelligent. The wheels on the other hand now feature noise-reduction technology and contributes to the fact that the new Lexus LS is the most quietest car in its class.

The new LS was launched last week in Malaysia with four variants – the LS 460 (RM788,000), LS 460 F Sport (RM818,000), the long wheelbase LS 460L (RM878,000) and the top of the line LS 600h L (RM1,068,000). All prices are on-the-road without insurance.