Luxury Disruptor

Twenty-eight years after Lexus challenged the status quo, the all-new 2018 LS sedan aims to repeat history

January 10, 2017

True Luxury -- The all-new fifth-generation Lexus flagship takes omotenashi (Japanese for hospitality) to a higher level by anticipating its driver's and passengers' needs, attending to their comfort and helping to protect them from hazards.

Make no mistake: When Lexus introduced its first vehicle – the original LS 400 sedan – 28 years ago, it put the leading European brands of the day on notice.
 
The Japanese upstart wasn’t simply looking to compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW on their terms. Rather, it sought to disrupt their previously staid and stable market niche, advancing a bold new definition of what constitutes true luxury.
 
That dynamic is still very much in play today. But while competition among automakers once drove change, now it’s the ever-more discriminating needs and wants of luxury customers that are forcing all luxury brands – including Lexus – to keep pace.
 
Enter the 2018 LS. Lexus unveiled its all-new, fifth-generation flagship sedan at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.
 
“The customers who are going to want to own this car are already surrounded by luxury on a daily basis,” said Toshio Asahi, chief engineer for the new LS. “These are people who have a sharp eye for authenticity. We wouldn’t turn their heads with a conventional premium product. So we set previously unheard of targets and resolutely pushed ahead toward these ambitious goals.”
 
In other words, Lexus – the original luxury disruptor – is at it again. And, as before, the competition will just have the scramble to keep up.
 
Rather than simply start with the current LS and seek to make incremental improvements, Lexus began the development process afresh, as if it were launching the brand all over again. Throughout, its designers and engineers were guided by omotenashi, the Japanese concept of hospitality introduced at the Lexus dealer meeting in Tokyo in the fall. As applied to a luxury automobile, it means taking care of the driver and passengers, anticipating their needs, attending to their comfort and helping to protect them from hazards.


Progressive Comfort -- The new LS' interior welcomes and envelopes its occupants and treats the driver like an active partner.

A Wealth of Features
 
In what ways does the new LS reflect these core values? Let’s roll some of the highlights:
 
  • New platform – First and foremost, the 2018 LS rides on Lexus’ new global architecture for rear-wheel drive luxury vehicles (GA-L) that made its debut with the LC 500 coupe. This stretched-wheelbase version makes for an LS that’s longer, lower, wider and – well – more exciting. That’s due in part to the use of high-tensile steel braces and an increase in body welds that help make it one of Lexus’ stiffest platforms. This enhanced structural rigidity helps handling and ride and contributes to a quieter cabin. All of the above are further aided by shifting the vehicle’s overall center of gravity lower and more toward the center.
 
  • Chassis control – The new LS’ multilink suspension employs double ball joints on the upper and lower control arms. These adjust for small movements in driver inputs and road conditions for more precise steering response. When integrated with the latest generations of Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management and Lexus Dynamic Handling System, this generation promises be the most agile LS ever.
 
  • Driver-centric performance – The new LS will be powered by an all-new 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine that benefits from the lessons learned through the company’s Formula One motorsports program. It generates up to 415 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque, considerably more robust than the current powerplant. And it will be mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission, a luxury sedan first. Its closely spaced gear ratios make for optimal performance across a wide power bandwidth, from vibrant acceleration at the low end to effortless, serene highway cruising at the high end.

Best of Both Worlds -- Interior trim elements combine traditional Takumi artisan methods with advanced manufacturing techniques.
 
  • Organic skin – The new LS’ lower and leaner GA-L platform gives the four-door sedan a sleeker coupe-like silhouette. This stretched, ground-hugging appearance will likely prove especially appealing to younger luxury customers, a key demographic to Lexus’ long-term prospects. Further, this LS is the first to adopt a six-window design with glass mounted flush with the side pillars. An outer slide-type panoramic moon roof helps preserve headroom. And the LS’ unique rendition of the brand’s iconic spindle grille appears to change in different light, the result of intense CAD development to perfect the design.
 
  • Progressive comfort – The new LS’ interior welcomes its occupants, and treats the driver like an active partner. Take, for example, the available 28-way power front seats that incorporate heating, cooling and massage. Rear-seat passengers are also treated to lavish attention, with seatbacks that can recline up to 48 degrees and be raised up to 24 degrees, and an available power seat with Shiatsu massage and a raised ottoman. Interior trim elements combine traditional Takumi artisan methods with advanced manufacturing techniques. Aural cues balance a more authoritative exhaust note with premium audio systems – including the audiophile-worthy Mark Levinson package – and the serenity of Active Noise Control. Visually, the driver can interact with a 12.3-inch navigation display and a 24-inch heads-up display that projects vital information – including warnings and alerts – directly in front of the driver.
 
  • Advanced safety – The strengthened GA-L platform offers a high degree of passive safety for occupant protection in certain severe collisions. And the new LS incorporatres a wide array of active safety technologies, from the brand’s Lexus Safety System + suite of features to the available Advanced Safety Package. The latter features the world’s first system with Intuitive Pedestrian Detection with Active Steering. With this system, if a pedestrian is detected in the lane ahead and a collision is imminent, the LS is designed to automatically brake and potentially steer around the person while staying in the lane. The available color heads-up display is used to help alert the driver.

Lavish Attention -- Rear passengers can settle into seatbacks that recline, with the added luxury of available power Shiatsu massage and raised ottoman.

The New Standard of Luxury
 
Look for more specifics on this groundbreaking multi-faceted luxury sedan to be revealed as we approach its on-sale date near the end of the year. For now, it’s clear that the fifth-generation LS will indeed carry forward the tradition set in motion by its predecessor 28 years ago.
 
“The LS is the king of the Lexus brand,” said Chief Designer Koichi Suga. “More than any other model, it embodies the history and image of Lexus and serves as a symbol for everything the brand stands for.”
 
By Dan Miller

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