2018 LEXUS IS - Image: Lexus / Newspress
4x4, high tech, lexus, Motoring News, new models

Lexus re-imagines its flagship LS sedan for a fifth time

  • Radical design. coupe-like silhouette
  • Best agility and comfort yet in an LS
  • All-new 310kW twin-turbo V6 engine
2018 LEXUS IS - Image: Lexus / Newspress
GLISTENING GRILLES: While the whole new Lexus IS package looks to be brilliant, the re-designed grille is especially shiny thanks to a special finishing tecnique.  Image: Lexus / Newspress

BACK IN THE 1980’s Toyota decided it needed a luxury brand to distinguish a new range of vehicles vastly more upmarket than the family sedans it had until then been producing.

Arch-rival Nissan co-incidentally – or perhaps because of the Toyota move – did much the same with a new Infiniti brand. Today most people are probably unaware of the connections and that, from a marketing point of view, is exactly what each company desired.

Their success is indisputable.

2018 LEXUS IS - Image: Lexus / Newspress
2018 LEXUS IS Image: Lexus / Newspress

But this feature is about Lexus, whose first model, launched in 1990, was the LS 400, a car described by its maker as “a breakthrough approach to luxury, comfort, powertrain smoothness, build quality and the application of innovative technologies, supported by unparalleled levels of customer service and satisfaction”.

Mercedes and BMW perhaps sneered a little as the word spread.

Now, nearly three decades later, and we have the world debut of the fifth-generation Lexus LS at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It’s a car described by its maker as “all-new, inside and out, reflecting a strong and uniquely Japanese identity, a true global car destined for 90 countries worldwide”.

LS chief engineer Toshio Asahi told The Corner in a media release: “The LS symbolises the Lexus brand, a definitive new generation luxury car embodying Japanese tradition and culture.

“As such, it must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car.”

2018 LEXUS IS - Image: Lexus / Newspress
2018 LEXUS IS Image: Lexus / Newspress

The re-imagined LS will make its South African debut in the first quarter of 2018 with local specification to be published closer to local release.

The 2017 LS is longer and lower than its predecessor, is described as more coupe-like than sedan and is built on Lexus’ new global luxury platform, an extended version of the rear-wheel drive GA-L platform also used by the new LC luxury coupe.

“The original LS,” Lexus recalls, “won acclaim by anticipating what luxury customers wanted rather than simply amplifying what established prestige automobile brands then offered.

“In that spirit the new LS’s spacious cabin, unique appointments and forward-thinking technology will redefine what’s expected of a global flagship saloon.”

Asahi added: “We set previously unheard-of targets and resolutely pressed ahead towards these unprecedented goals. People who’ll want to own a Lexus LS are already surrounded by luxury and have a sharp eye for authenticity.”

READ MORE Lexus features on Carman’s Corner

Each previous LS, the automaker says, advances in luxury, craftsmanship, performance and safety, the most recent version “adding much more emotional design and engaging performance to the mix”.

“To create the new LS we started afresh. We re-imagined what a flagship saloon should be, as if launching the brand all over again. The goal was not to improve what had been done but to exceed the expectations of luxury customers worldwide.”

The GA-L platform is Lexus’ stiffest yet. The 3125mm wheelbase is 35mm longer than the current LS long-wheelbase model and, Lexus says, has exceptional ride and handling balance.

2018 LEXUS IS - Image: Lexus / Newspress
2018 LEXUS IS Image: Lexus / Newspress

“This system implements co-operative control of all vehicle sub-systems – braking, steering, power train and suspension – to control the car’s basic longitudinal, lateral and vertical motion, as well as yaw, roll and pitch.”

The 2017 LS includes light materials, among them ultra high-tensile steel and aluminium, to carve more than 90kg off the weight of the current LS.

MORE CENTRED CHASSIS

“These savings,” Lexus says, ” together with a new V6 engine and greater body rigidity, contribute to the car’s more dynamic driving quality.

“The new platform has dropped the car’s centre of gravity by placing most of the mass, including the engine and passengers, lower and more centred over the chassis. Braces in the engine compartment and stiff aluminium suspension towers help; to bolster the strength of key chassis structures.”

The multilink suspension has double ball joints on the upper and lower arms to permit control of the smallest steering movements and road conditions. They also, Lexus says, help to optimise suspension geometry. Aluminium is used extensively in the suspension.

V6 STRONGER THAN PREVIOUS V8

The V6 bi-turbo engine is hooked to a transmission which raises the bar to 10 gears. Each unit was designed specifically for the new LS as part of a drive for power and fuel efficiency.

“The engine is indicative,” Lexus says, “of a more dynamic approach – V8 power without sacrificing fuel economy while minimising noise and vibration. The unit is capable of 310kW / 600Nm, each more than the V8 in its predecessor.

“Its long piston stroke and optimised stroke-to-bore ratio contribute to high-speed combustion and the efficiency of the twin turbos, helping the LS to a projected 0-100km/h acceleration time of 4.5 seconds (with all-wheel drive).”

2018 LEXUS IS - Image: Lexus / Newspress
2018 LEXUS IS: The Japanese automaker has taken its top luxury sedan to a new level with the fifth generation of the cars. It’s due in South Africa in the first quarter of 2018. Image: Lexus / Newspress

Drivers will be able to tailor power train response and feel by selecting Normal, Sport or Sport+ modes. The 10-speed auto transmission is the first in a luxury sedan, first appearing in the new LC coupe with shift times close to those of a dual-clutch transmission. Ratio shifts can also be made from paddles on the steering column.

Chief designer Koichi Suga told The Corner: “The LS is the Lexus flagship, embodies the history and image of Lexus, and is a symbol of everything for which the brand stands.”

NEW MESH ON ‘SIGNATURE’ GRILLE

The new LS is described as having a stretched, ground-hugging, appearance. It’s 15mm lower than the previous model and the bonnet and boot lines are, respectively, 30 and 41mm lower. The car is the first Lexus sedan to have a six-side window design and the first with glass flush with the side pillars.

The mesh on the ‘signature’ grille seems to change with the light and was “created using intense CAD development and the hand-adjustment of thousands of individual surfaces”.

Five new wheel-rim styles are available, among them 19 and 20″ designs, the latter given a brilliant look through an electro-plating technique known as “spluttering”.

New seat designs, those up front having 28-way power adjustment and heating, cooling and massage functions. The rear seats also have heating, cooling and massage options and each is available with a leg rest as part of a luxury package that offers more legroom than any previous LS.

BETTER CABIN SOUND SUPRESSION

Because the new LS is lower than previous models it has a Range Rover-style access system similar to that requested originally on a new Range Rover by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth but now common among top-end luxury cars. The LS, if unlocked with the smart key, raises the vehicle and opens the seat bolsters to welcome the driver.

New sound suppression methods have been used to silence the cabin. They detect the sound of the engine cancel their frequencies with “anti-phase” sound from the audio speakers.

The standard premium audio system is a Mark Levinson unit with in-ceiling speakers. In addition to a 31cm satnav display, the LS can have a 61cm colour head-up display – the largest in the world – that projects a variety of information into the driver’s line of vision.

HIGH-LEVEL DRIVING SUPPORT

The cars will be equipped with Lexus’ ‘Safety System+’ and benefit from the world’s first intuitive pedestrian detection function with active steering: if a pedestrian is detected and a collision is imminent the LS will automatically brake and steer around the person.

Lexus Co-Drive, a high-level driving support system, is also being introduced with the new LS. It provides steering control in accordance with the driver’s intention and continuous driving support on motorways.

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