UP­PER-CLASS CLASH

Lexus bows in with a brand-new LS. Strik­ingly de­signed and lav­ishly equipped, how does it fare against the re­cently facelifted Mercedes-benz S-class?

Car (South Africa) - - BRAND FEATURE -

SPARE a thought for the pre­mium man­u­fac­tur­ers ... Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Lexus have gamely de­vel­oped gen­er­a­tions of grand sa­loons, only to see them de­feated by Mercedes-benz S-classes in count­less com­par­a­tive tests. Across each gen­er­a­tion – but es­pe­cially the last two, in­clud­ing this W222 vari­ant – Stuttgart’s lux­ury flag­ship has en­dured with its un­par­al­leled blend of ride com­fort, re­fine­ment and qual­ity. Some have come close – most no­tably, the con­tem- po­rary 7 Se­ries – while oth­ers have cho­sen a path less trav­elled to dis­tin­guish them­selves from the lux­ury-car tem­plate set by the S-class (the quirky XJ, for ex­am­ple, and, more suc­cess­fully, Porsche’s Panam­era).

An­other ve­hi­cle that’s cho­sen to sculpt a dis­tinct iden­tity is the lat­est Lexus LS. Pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions have of­ten felt like car­bon copies of the Benz – unashamedly so in the case of 1989’s first gen­er­a­tion – but this new­est XF50 model re­turns the fo­cus to its Far Eastern roots and taps its in­spi­ra­tion from the Nip­ponese hospi­tal­ity con­cept of omote­nashi, em­pha­sis­ing hu­man-cen­tric en­gi­neer­ing in its crafts­man­ship, de­sign and dy­namism. That’s ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial press re­lease, and they’re claims we’re test­ing here by com­par­ing the LS500 against the S560L.

On pa­per, they’re evenly matched. The 5 235 mm long Lexus is avail­able in one body style, while in our mar­ket Mercedes-benz of­fers only long-wheel­base ver­sions of the re­cently facelifted S, with the

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