Gen­er­a­tional leap trans­forms Ja­pan’s flag­ship

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - BARRY PARK

Ja­panese limo per­forms amaz­ing gen­er­a­tional leap

THERE’S some­thing go­ing on at Lexus. Known for its staid, con­ser­va­tive cars that trade on value for cashed-up buy­ers, Toy­ota’s lux­ury arm is now in­ject­ing a wel­come dose of de­sign and dy­namic flair to its range.

The lat­est model to em­body this trans­for­ma­tion is the brand’s flag­ship, the LS sedan. Now into its fifth gen­er­a­tion, this ver­sion doesn’t just shake off the stuffy con­ser­vatism of its lardy pre­de­ces­sor, but slams the door be­hind it.

Gone is the old car’s 4.6-litre V8 for a pair of all-new V6 engines that split be­tween twin-turbo per­for­mance (the LS500), and bat­tery-hy­brid fru­gal­ity (the LS500H). It moves onto Lexus’s fresh GA-L rear-drive plat­form, and the brand’s po­lar­is­ing de­sign lan­guage is used to full ef­fect, com­plete with huge spin­dle grille.

In­side, you’re pre­sented with a space that’s more work of art than tra­di­tional car in­te­rior. Stun­ning Naguri-style alu­minium pan­els sit on doors that fea­ture arm rests that ap­pear to be float­ing. Strips of metal in­lay cas­cade along a dash that wraps around a high-res­o­lu­tion 12.3-inch cen­tral screen, and most of the but­tons are metal, in­clud­ing a beau­ti­ful lathe-turned vol­ume knob.

It all smacks of stun­ning form, but not at the cost of func­tion, pro­vid­ing you dis­count the large console-mounted track­pad that re­mains a source of er­gonomic and func­tional frus­tra­tion.

In Com­fort mode, the LS500 lopes along on air sus­pen­sion with an ease and grace that make long hauls a re­laxed, sooth­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The cabin is mostly well hushed, al­though some tyre roar from the F sport’s stag­gered Bridge­stones (245/45R20 up front, 275/40R20 out back) is no­tice­able from the roomy rear seats.

The mus­cu­lar 310kw/600nm V35A-FTS V6 (a very dif­fer­ent an­i­mal to the Hy­brid’s atmo 3.5-litre unit coded as 8GR-FXS) is re­fined and de­liv­ers de­cent per­for­mance paired with a 10-speed au­to­matic, though lacks the au­ral char­ac­ter of the old V8.

Ac­ti­vat­ing Sport or Sport+ modes tight­ens up the ride and sharp­ens throttle and gear­box re­sponse, and while the LS still isn’t a dy­namic match for an S-class or 7 Series, its new plat­form and four-wheel steer­ing give it a litheness that be­lies its size­able 2440kg heft and 5.23-me­tre length.

In the rear, head­room is com­pro­mised by coupe-es­que styling, but the seats are com­fort­able, there’s am­ple stor­age and touches of lux­ury, like Roll­sroyce-style van­ity mir­rors.

It’s a classy over­all pack­age, that not only looks dif­fer­ent to the Teu­tonic es­tab­lish­ment, but boasts a vastly im­proved dy­namic pack­age.

Model Lexus LS500 F Sport Engine 3444cc V6 (60°), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo Max power 310kw @ 6000rpm Max torque 600Nm @ 1600-4800rpm Trans­mis­sion 10-speed au­to­matic Weight 2440kg 0-100km/h 5.0sec (claimed) Econ­omy 9.5L/100km Price $190,500 On sale Now Rear-seat head­room; ar­ti­fi­cial engine noise; high thirst Spec­tac­u­lar in­te­rior; well equipped; de­cent han­dling for its size

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