A shiatsu massage on wheels
LEXUS is hoping to shoulder its way into the super luxury segment where BMW’s 7 Series and Merc’s S-Class currently rule the roost, with an all-new version of its flagship sedan, the LS 500.
This fifth generation of the giant Japanese limo is taking a unique approach however, with a pure focus on quality and comfort, rather than following self-driving trends. The new LS’s lengthy media release, which accompanied the car’s unveiling this week goes into great detail about Shimamoku wood patterned interior panels, Japanese lantern-inspired cabin lighting and Shiatsu massage functions, but makes no mention of any autonomous technologies.
And it might not be just a clever tactic. Lexus believes modern luxury sedan owners are demanding a more in touch experience from their cars, not only when sipping saki at the back but also steering themselves between board meetings.
The 5.2 metre-long limo rolls on the same platform as the recently introduced LC 500 coupé but lengthened to a wheelbase of 3124mm for obvious reasons and equipped with a fancy air suspension that offers premium waftability and self raises to allow easier entry and exit. The air ride also combines with a new chassis management system which ties together the car’s braking, steering, suspension and drivetrain, and adjusts everything according to drive mode selection.
The new LS also gets four wheel steering which should help keep things true at high speed, and aid in manoeuvrability in tight situations.
The new LS 500 ditches the outgoing model’s 4.6-litre V8 for a twinturbo 3.5-litre V6, but power goes up from 285kW and 493Nm to 309kW and 600Nm.
The current LS 460’s eight-speed gearbox also makes way for a new 10-speeder - the same as used in the new LC. Lexus says the LS, which weighs 90kg less than before, can go from 0-100km/h in around 4.5 seconds putting it in contention performance-wise with the 750i and S500.
Wheel sizes range from 19 to 20-inches, and of the five new designs four feature a new hollow rim structure designed to suppress road noise. And while on the topic of road noise, the LS also adopts active noise cancelling technology which deletes unwanted frequencies by anti-phasing audio speakers (including those in the ceiling) in the onboard Mark Levinson 3D sound system.
Lexus has emphasised the LS’s driver’s car nature by including foldable rear ottomans and reclining backrests as optional extras, while at the front you’ll find 28-way adjustable seats with heating, cooling and massaging (yes, shiatsu) functions as standard equipment. The driver’s side bolster also relaxes when the door is opened to make it easier to slide in and out, and dashboard controls have been laid out in a way that the driver shouldn’t have to adjust their posture to reach anything. There’s also a handwriting touchpad for infotainment entry commands, even if similar setups have proven tricky (or nearly impossible) to use in rival models.
The multimedia and navigation interface uses a large 12.3-inch colour display, but Lexus has also devised a massive 61cm head-up display which projects onto the windscreen in full colour - again as an optional extra.
Expect pricing for the new Lexus LS 500 to become available closer to the South African launch in around a year’s time.
New Lexus LS 500 opts for ultimate comfort rather than self-driving tech.