This past weekend, we were given a sneak peek and brief drive in the Lexus LS 500 sedan that will only be hitting dealer floors in July.
The idea was that we get to feel what true luxury and attention to detail is all about, rather than simply be exposed to only horsepower and handling.
With multiple world and Lexus firsts, the large luxury sedan is said to break new ground in design, technology and performance.
More than any other model, the LS embodies the history and image of Lexus and serves as a symbol for everything the brand represents – a luxury lifestyle offering amazing experiences – and that is exactly what we had.
Japanese aesthetics, which draw on the skills of master craftsmen and the “omotenashi”, or hospitality, principle reflects the human-centred engineering and attention to detail inherent with the Lexus brand.
This touch gives the Lexus brand its soul, sets it apart from its competitors and makes this vehicle appeal to a different type of owner.
As always I don’t really get into styling because it is such a subjective topic, but you can’t help but recognise a Lexus by its spindle grille.
And the grille on the LS 500 has an intricate mesh design with 5 000 individual surfaces which took highly skilled CAD modellers several months to produce followed by further precision adjustment by hand.
Note, this attention to detail is for the front grille only.
The LS 500, built on the GA-L platform, is 15.2mm lower, with the bonnet and boot lowered even further – by 30.5mm and 40.6 mm respectively – over the outgoing model.
You also get 20-inch run-flat tyres with high-gloss cast alloys and in South Africa, 11 exterior paint finishes are available including a new Manganese Luster shade, Black Titanium, Sonic Agate and the new Sonic Titanium.
Perhaps the bigger news is that under the bonnet there is an all-new 3.5 litre V6 turbocharged engine that has been designed specifically for the new LS.
The engine is indicative of the more dynamic approach taken by Lexus, offering V8-level power without sacrificing fuel economy whilst minimising noise and vibration.
The output figures of 310kW of power and 600Nm of torque,
especially on the Reef where the old naturally aspirated V8 engines suffered because of the loss of power caused by the oxygen deprived air here, represents sizeable gains in surge over the outgoing LS.
The engine’s long stroke and optimised stroke-to-bore ratio contribute to high-speed combustion and with the efficiency of the twin turbos, it is said that the LS 500 will get to 100km/h in just 5 sec.
And making full use of the normal to sport drive modes, a first in a luxury sedan, the 10-speed automatic transmission makes driving a pleasure.
It is a torque converter automatic, yet with shift times that rival those of dual-clutch transmissions.
The wide bandwidth afforded by the 10 closely spaced ratios is ideal for all forms of driving, providing an optimal gear for all conditions.
Torque converter lockup is activated in all ranges except when starting off to provide a direct feel while supporting fuel efficiency.
Top speed for the LS 500 is electronically governed to 250km/h.
Fuel consumption is claimed at 9.5 litres per 100km.
Suspension compliance has been a defining element in the ride quality and comfort of successive Lexus LS generations.
With the latest model a new, high-mounted multi-link system has been developed for both the front and rear suspension, allowing even better performance to be achieved.
The LS 500 is available with a new, more advanced adaptive variable suspension (activated when in sport S+ mode) that provides continuous adjustment of damping control for all four wheels in response to the way the car is being driven and road surface conditions.
This continuously variable capability has increased the number of control levels from nine in the previous LS system to 650.
A new, electronically controlled air suspension is also available, providing exceptional ride quality. It uses a closed system in which compressed air is stored in a pneumatic tank so that it can be supplied to the suspension at the instant it is needed to raise vehicle height.
The design of the new LS 500’s interior combines traditional Japanese aesthetics with advanced manufacturing techniques, reflected in elements such as the soft ambient lighting that makes the armrests appear to float next to the door panels and new ways of working with wood to create trims with vibrant and detailed grain patterns.
The new LS provides a driver-focused cockpit and a front passenger seat area designed to gently envelop the occupant.
Elements such as leather, precise stitchwork and detailed metal and wood accents add to the welcoming ambiance with a range of textures and surfaces that are pleasing to the eye and touch.
Two interior colours are available, black and crimson and black. The trim choices include Art Wood Organic and Herringbone.
The LS 500 marks the introduction of new technologies that provide leading safety performance and a new level of driver assistance that signals Lexus’ progress towards developing future automated driving systems.
Designed to detect the risk of an impact and operating in unison with warning and braking systems, the pre-crash system helps lessen the damage sustained in a collision.
The system is designed to recognise other vehicles using data from a forward recognition camera and the radar sensor.
Visit their website at lexus.co.za or pop into a dealership come July and have a look for yourself.
The Lexus LS 500 retails for R2 141 400. The F Sport model should be here later this year and the Hybrid in the middle of 2019.
Lexus has expanded the customer care for which it is renowned, announcing a best-in-class seven-year or 105 000km warranty and full maintenance plan.
The vehicle service intervals are at every 15 000km, alternatively once a year.\
By Mark Jones