This is the all-new Lexus LS luxury saloon, unveiled this week at the Detroit Motor Show. It’s longer, lower and lighter and it’s out to do what its grandpappy did 28 years ago – by what Lexus calls “upending” its category and resetting expectations in the luxury segment.
JAN 10th 2017
Detroit 2017: Sleek new Lexus LS makes its debut
The 1990 LS certainly did that. But revolutionising a sector of the car market with a true disruptor model once is rare, doing it twice is unheard of. Still, Lexus has, in its own words, been pursuing saloon car perfection for 28 years now so has something of a head start…
How has Lexus reinvented the LS for this fifth-generation model? The short answer is by ladling out the dynamic appeal. The LS couldn’t get much quieter or smoother so why not make it sexier and more engaging to drive – is perhaps how the reasoning went.
So the car gets longer, lower and wider, new proportions that are clearly evident from the stance. Incidentally, one reason it doesn’t look immediately like an LS is that this is the first LS to have a six-light cabin, whereas all others have done without the extra rear quarter lights.
That, asserts Lexus, is part of the new model’s “coupe styling”, something you could never accuse previous LSs of having. Compared to previous designs, this car is sleek, lithe almost, and all the better for it, while at the same time avoiding the confrontational looks that make recent Lexus SUVs such Marmite cars. The sedan market, especially in the US, is a conservative one.
Inside there is the signature Japanese aesthetic approach in design and materials, and all manner of luxury accoutrements. Lexus says it has gone to town on the backs seats, which it claims offer the most legroom of any previous-generation LS. Expect seats with heat/cool and Shiatsu massage functions as well as – a nice touch this – optional ottomans. It’s not often you see “ottoman”on a car’s options list…
There seems little doubt this new LS will be the most engaging LS to drive. Its launch comes hard on the heels of the well-received new LC500 coupe, with which the LS shares a new rear-wheel drive platform. The LS gets a long wheelbase version that Lexus says is its stiffest platform yet, delivers more agility (thanks to a much lower centre of gravity) while offering the expected LS luxury ride, quietness and room inside.
The car has so far been seen only in US trim in Detroit and for that market it comes, to begin with at least, a new biturbo 3.5-litre V6 and 10-speed transmission, also as used in the LC500 coupe and claimed to be the first 10-speeder for a premium passenger car. It is a torque-converter automatic with shift times that rival those of dual-clutch transmissions, says Lexus.
In this spec, the new LS has 415hp and a 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds. More important, this new engine design with its ladder frame structure, redesigned engine mounts, and electric wastegates is said to deliver all the silence and smoothness that LS powertrains are known for. There is, however, a Sport button which is said to allow “just enough” exhaust noise into the cabin for when the driver is in a sporty mood…
The spec of UK-bound LSs is not yet known. But other engines are sure to follow, most likely including a version of the hybrid unit from the LC. This Multi-Stage Hybrid is a next-gen system that puts the emphasis on performance and increased driver involvement while still claiming a hybrid’s efficiency advantages. Uniquely this drivetrain uses two transmissions: a CVT as well as a torque converter unit.
With sales in its most important market of the US not due to start until the end of 2017, the new LS will be a 2018 car for UK buyers. So there’s a lot more to know yet about the car we will get, though what seems sure is that this will be a far more exciting and involving luxury saloon to drive than previous models. That’s in line with Lexus’s desire to inject more passion into the brand. An LS you can love?
As LS chief engineer Toshio Asahi said in Detroit: “Not only will the LS symbolize the Lexus brand, it must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car.”
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