Generational leap transforms Japan’s flagship
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