A shi­atsu mas­sage on wheels

The Star Early Edition - - NEW MODELS - JESSE ADAMS

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.

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