To be the flagship of a renowned luxury brand such as Lexus, a car would need to be something truly special. Not surprisingly, the Lexus LS sedan is all that and more, melding design, performance, and comfort in a way that only the Japanese luxury brand could. The Lexus LS, the fifth generation of the luxury sedan that started it all for the brand, flashes a sensuous, confident style that wraps a package of performance and comfort that’s truly a world-class experience.
Up front is Lexus’ signature spindle grille, rendered large and glorious, with a choice of several available finishes. Z-shaped LED headlamps contain three LED units per side, with triple-bladed L-shaped daytime running lights. The dynamic styling continues to the side panels with pronounced curves on the doors. There’s a chrome strip that continues to a katana-like blade underscoring the rear bumper. Chief designer of the Lexus LS Koichi Suga, said that he and the team were aiming for greater emotion and primal, sexual appeal for the full-size sedan.
The Lexus LS goes out if its way to pamper its occupants, starting even before you step inside. With its available air suspension, the Lexus LS raises itself by 30mm for easier ingress once you open the driver’s door. Aside from the courtesy provided by the air suspension, getting in is made easier even if you sit at the rear. Sweeping roofline notwithstanding, rear headroom has not been compromised. The nearly all-glass greenhouse contains an extra window embedded in the rear pillar. Suga-san calls this a “six-light” design that provides greater all-around visibility.
As you might expect from a Lexus, the interior provides a private sanctuary that embodies the best of Japanese design and workmanship. This includes ultra-soft L-aniline seat leather and hand-pleated upholstery. Lexus even considered the effect of the location of the stitches to passenger comfort when designing these bits. Doors can be ordered with the exclusive Japanese Kiriko glass trim. These cut-glass panels were manufactured using laser-guided patterns, a symbol of Lexus’ dedication to handcrafted quality merged with cutting-edge technology. Wood trim incorporates multiples of the brand’s L logo. The instrument panel contains a bit of retro-looking design, with its thin metal grilles stretching the entire width of the panel. Lexus says these were inspired by a Japanese whisk. For us, it reminds us of 1980s-era Japanese high-end audio components.
Speaking of high-end audio, Lexus has equipped the LS with its signature Mark Levinson system. The Mark Levinson QLI Reference Surround Sound System is a 16-channel 3D surround system that uses 24 speakers around the cabin. There are even four speakers embedded in the ceiling to reproduce concert-hall like sound. You may end up sitting in the LS just to listen to the sumptuous sound.
A key enabler of superb sound is of course, silence from the car’s mechanical components. This has a been a Lexus hallmark ever since the brand’s introduction. The latest LS is no exception, its powerful V6 engine all but silent from within the cabin. The LS 500 sports a 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin turbos, enabling 415hp and 600Nm. As befits the flagship status of the LS, this engine was designed from scratch specifically for this model. It incorporates technology derived from Toyota’s Formula 1 racing days. The reduced engine displacement and size versus the previous V8 allows for better fuel mileage and reduced emissions. With the more compact size, the engine can be placed behind the front axle. The lighter mass also benefits handling.
Lexus’ goal was to make the V6 twin-turbo as reponsive as a naturally-aspirated engine. Indeed, the accelerator pedal is sensitive to the lightest tap. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic, first seen in the LC 500 sports coupe. Shifts are quick while still being smooth and unobtrusive. Drive modes accessible via a stalk-mounted control range from Eco to Comfort, to the performance-oriented Sport S and Sport S+.
The large sedan is surprisingly equally at ease on tight country roads as on wide city streets. The LS uses an adaptive variable suspension. It’s not just a dual mode system that switches between comfort and performance. The system is able to select from 650 levels of damping force and quickly select the appropriate mode depending on the road surface and driver input.
Lexus LS of course pampers the rear-seat passenger, while an extra-long wheelbase. The rear seat back reclines and features a retractable ottoman. The front seat can be remotely folded, to allow even greater stretch-out legroom. All outboard seats feature a massage function.
Since this is a Lexus, there is of course a hybrid option. The objective for the hybrid was not just fuel efficiency but to further increase performance. The electric motor can thus be seen as another boost to the V6 engine’s output. The LS 500h adds two electric motors powered by lithium-ion batteries, to the gasoline engine. Total system output is 354hp, while torque increases to 650Nm. The LS 500h can take off on electric power alone, although all-electric range is limited. The switch from gasoline to electric power is, as expected, smooth and seamless.
The LS takes Lexus to a new level. Its components, from the bespoke twin-turbo V6, to wheel rims that incorporate acoustic channels to cut tire noise, have been engineered to provide the ultimate Lexus experience. Its newfound style and design elements make it stand out from the luxury sedan group, and provide a unique take on Japanese luxury.