Even grander de­sign

The lux­ury Ja­panese maker has given the LS much more than just a nose job

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - JOSHUA DOWLING joshua.dowling@cars­guide.com.au

LEXUS has given its flag­ship model its sec­ond makeover in six years — but it vir­tu­ally needed anaes­thetic for this plas­tic surgery.

At a glance it looks as if Lexus has sim­ply grafted the new HSV-like grille on to the LS limou­sine’s nose. But the com­pany says there are more than 3000 changes and 13 Lexus firsts. Only the doors, roof and glass carry over.

It’s loaded with tech­nol­ogy — in­clud­ing seats that will heat and cool faster than be­fore, air­con­di­tion­ing that mois­turises the oc­cu­pants’ skin and hair and a tiny cam­era to check on drowsy driv­ers.

The big changes will try to ar­rest the sharp fall in su­per lux­ury sedan sales.

In the past six years, sales of lim­ou­sines priced above $100,000 have dropped by 33 per cent. In that time, the mar­ket has grown by 10 per cent.

This year the cars classed as the top end of town have dropped a fur­ther 27per­cent as buy­ers go for lux­ury SUVs.

Lexus is lucky, how­ever. It says 90per­cent of its LS buy­ers come back to buy an­other Lexus. And the Ja­panese maker is hop­ing it’s this one.

The new LS goes on sale from Fe­bru­ary with sharper pric­ing across the range and a new sports model.

The V8 and V8 hy­brid power out­puts are un­changed but are slightly more fuel-ef­fi­cient. The price is still eye­wa­ter­ing at $189,900 — $1000 less than the old model.

But the new LS is far cheaper than the V8-pow­ered Ger­man com­pe­ti­tion, which starts at $238,000 for an Audi A8, $281,000 for a BMW 7 Se­ries and $296,500 for a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

But the Ger­mans have diesel mod­els un­der $200,000, whereas Lexus has a V8 hy­brid, which also hap­pens to be all-wheel-drive. And costs $217,900.

‘‘The ($100,000-plus) lux­ury car mar­ket has be­come more com­pet­i­tive and di­verse,’’ says Lexus Aus­tralia chief Tony Cramb. ‘‘In 2006 pas­sen­ger cars ac­counted for 71 per cent of the to­tal lux­ury mar­ket. That has fallen to 64 per cent (with the bal­ance be­ing lux­ury SUVs).’’

Cramb says the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis also killed much of the long-wheel­base sedan busi­ness.

‘‘The large lux­ury car scene in Aus­tralia can now be char­ac­terised as pre­dom­i­nantly a driver mar­ket rather than a driven mar­ket . . . Aus­tralian buy­ers (of these ve­hi­cles) now pre­fer to drive them­selves rather than be chauf­feured.’’

TECH­NOL­OGY HIGH­LIGHTS

Clock au­to­mat­i­cally changes to day­light sav­ing time and new time zones thanks to GPS.

Tim­ber steer­ing wheel goes through 67 pro­cesses and takes 38 days to make. Seat warm­ers have more power (dou­bled to 200W) and heat up in half the time. Per­fo­rated seats have larger holes to pro­vide 42 per cent bet­ter air­flow for faster cool­ing. Front seats ad­just 16 ways. Built-in fa­tigue man­age­ment sys­tem fo­cuses the tiny cam­era on the steer­ing col­umn on driver’s face and eye­lids.

Lexus claims the new LS is the qui­etest car in the world. A hol­low sec­tion in the al­loy wheels saves weight and cuts noise.

The 12.3-inch screen in the dash is still the big­gest in the au­to­mo­tive world and Lexus claims the LS has the small­est LED fog lamps.

The in­di­ca­tors can be pro­grammed to flash 3, 5,7, 9, or 11 times at half a move­ment of the stalk.

Chauf­feurs out: Lexus LS600h hy­brid, main pic­ture, and LS460

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