Unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the new sedan is destined to repeat LS history as a car that redefines and advances expectations of luxury motoring and customer satisfaction.
Lexus says its approach was to start from new - reimagining what a flagship sedan should be, as if launching the brand all over again - just as the first LS did when it launched Lexus onto the global stage 28 years ago.
Longer and lower than the sedan it replaces, the all-new LS debuts a strikingly bold design with a coupe-like silhouette punctuated by the new Lexus design language.
It rides on a new platform that delivers unprecedented agility and comfort and is powered by an all-new twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 engine that channels its 310kW and 600Nm outputs through a 10-speed automatic transmission.
A common thread through all LS models remains: Omotenashi, the concept of Japanese hospitality - taking care of the driver and passengers, anticipating their needs, attending to their comfort and helping to protect them from hazards.
LS chief engineer Toshio Asahi said the new flagship sedan reflects a strong, unique identity and approach to luxury, achieving previously unheard-of targets.
"Not only will the LS symbolise the Lexus brand, it will become the definitive new-generation luxury car embodying Japanese tradition and culture," Mr Asahi said. "As such, this global pinnacle must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car."
The next-generation LS is expected to arrive in Australian Lexus dealerships in early 2018.
A new driver-centric performance feel comes from building the LS on the company's all-new global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA-L).
This premium rear-wheel-drive platform, an extended version of the one used for the stunning new Lexus LC 500 coupe, will offer a more dynamic experience on the road while further elevating renowned Lexus comfort.
The new Lexus GA-L meets the challenge of providing greater handling agility and performance feel without sacrificing comfort.
The new platform debuted in the LC 500 coupe and now, with a longer wheelbase, underpins the new LS. For optimum weight distribution and low centre of gravity, the new LS is offered only as a long-wheelbase model, with a wide and low design.
The GA-L platform is the stiffest in Lexus history, setting the stage for enhanced handling, ride smoothness and cabin quietness. The 3125mm wheelbase is 33mm longer than the current LS long-wheelbase model.
Helping to provide the uncanny ride and handling balance in the new LS is the latest generation of a chassis control technology known as Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM).
This system implements co-operative control of all vehicle subsystems - braking, steering, powertrain and suspension - to control basic longitudinal, lateral and vertical motion as well as yaw, roll and pitch. Optimal control of these motions helps to enable exceptional ride comfort, enhanced traction and safety and handling agility.
Handling is further enhanced by available features including active stabiliser bars and the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) System with independent front and rear steering.
VDIM is even capable of aiding stability when the car is traversing split-friction surfaces, such as dry pavement and ice.
In creating the new LS, engineers used lightweight materials including ultra-high tensile steel sheet and aluminium to carve more than 90kg from the current LS platform and body. These savings, along with the implementation of the new V6 engine and enhanced body rigidity, allow for a more dynamic driving experience.
Critical to its driving performance, the new platform lowers the car's centre of gravity by placing most of the mass, including the engine and the occupants, in a position that is more centralised and lower in the chassis.
Special braces in the engine compartment, stiff aluminum front and rear suspension towers along with other features help bolster the strength of key chassis structures.
The multilink suspension employs double ball joints on the upper and lower control arms to help allow for control of the smallest movements from the driver inputs and road conditions. A dual ball joint arrangement helps optimise suspension geometry to increase wheel control and yield more precise steering response with better initial effort.
Aluminium is used extensively in the suspension to reduce unsprung weight and aid agility and comfort.
LS performance and smoothness redefined
For both high power and excellent fuel efficiency, Lexus designed an all-new 3.5-litre V6 engine specifically for the new LS with all-new twin turbos developed through the company's F1 technology.
The new engine in the LS is indicative of the more dynamic approach being taken by Lexus, offering V8-level power without sacrificing fuel economy - all while minimising noise and vibration.
The outputs - 310kW of power and 600Nm of torque - offer sizeable gains over the current LS model's V8.
The long stroke and optimised stroke-to-bore ratio contribute to high-speed combustion and the efficiency of the twin turbos.
Lexus tuned the engine and transmission to deliver instant acceleration and a constant build-up of torque toward the engine's redline.
A ladder-frame structure in the cylinder block, redesigned engine mounts, electric waste gates and numerous other features help ensure the Lexus hallmark of remarkable powertrain smoothness.
The driver will be able to tailor powertrain response and feel by choosing from Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes - and just enough of the exhaust note can be heard to enhance the sporty feel.
The first-ever 10-speed automatic transmission for a luxury sedan, having already debuted in the Lexus LC 500, is also used in the new LS flagship sedan. It is a torque-converter automatic, yet with shift times that rival those of dual-clutch transmissions. The wide bandwidth afforded by 10 closely spaced ratios is ideal for all forms of driving, helping to provide an optimal gear for all conditions.
Shifting via paddles is available, yet many will prefer the advanced electronic control system that anticipates the driver's input. The system chooses the ideal ratio by monitoring the acceleration, braking and lateral-g forces.
Crafting a unique identity
Lexus has created a design offering the room and comfort of a prestige "three-box" sedan, yet with the stylish silhouette of a four-door coupe that holds stronger appeal for younger luxury customers.
Lexus designers took full advantage of the new platform to give the new LS a stretched, ground-hugging appearance. Compared with the current LS, the new model is about 15mm lower, while the hood and boot are approximately 30mm and 40mm lower respectively. The new LS is the first Lexus sedan with a six-side-window design. Also a first for a Lexus sedan, the flush-surface windows smoothly integrate with the side pillar.
To preserve headroom with the lower profile, the new LS features an outer slide-type moonroof. The unique rendition of the spindle grille mesh, with a texture that seemingly changes in different light, is the result of both intense CAD development and hand-adjusting thousands of individual surfaces.
The LS debuts five wheel designs, including two new 19- and three 20-inch wheel designs. The 20-inch premium wheels - standard on Australian LS vehicles - employ a brilliant appearance created using an electroplating technique known as sputtering. All but one of the wheel designs feature a hollow rim structure that helps reduce the resonance sound generated by the tyres.
Progressive comfort with traditional Inspiration
Inspired by the omotenashi principle, Lexus sought to instil the new LS cabin with luxury that welcomes and envelops the occupants while treating the driver like a partner.
New seating designs, including available 28-way power front seats that feature heating, cooling and massage, exemplify this approach.
The organically shaped dash is designed to support a "seat-in-control" layout that emphasises the driver's ability to operate all systems without the need to change posture.
While making the new LS even more of a driver's car, Lexus also lavished attention on the rear seat, developing a design that creates seamless, enveloping continuity between the trim and seatbacks for passenger egress.
Options for heating, cooling and massage make the rear seat a most welcoming environment. The available power front and rear seat with Shiatsu massage and a raised ottoman, part of a wider rear seat luxury package, offers the most legroom of any previous-generation LS. In addition, the seat behind the front passenger in this optional package can be reclined up to 48 degrees, and can be raised up to 24 degrees to help assist the rear-seat passenger in exiting the vehicle.
Because the new LS is lower than previous versions, Lexus for the first time equipped the available air suspension with an access function. Activated by unlocking the car with the smart key, access mode automatically raises the vehicle and opens the seat bolsters to welcome drivers behind the wheel.
The intersection of tradition and technology
Attention to detail is reflected in signature touches, such as interior ambient lighting inspired by Japanese lanterns and armrests that appear to float next to the door panel.
Inspired by Shimamoku wood patterns, the new forms that combine the artistic combination of natural woodwork and application of Japan's sophisticated sliced wood and laser cutting manufacturing technologies can be seen in the new LS.
The sounds of near silence - or great music
Lexus tuned the LS exhaust to convey a more authoritative tone, yet also designed the cabin to ensure utterly quiet cruising. New sound suppression methods further hush the environment compared with previous LS models.
Active Noise Control further quietens the cabin by detecting the sound of the engine coming into the vehicle and cancelling certain frequencies using antiphase sound from the audio speakers.
The serenity of the LS cabin provides an ideal stage for the standard premium audio system or the audiophile-worthy available 3D surround Mark Levinson audio package with in-ceiling array speakers.
The package features a more inviting graphic user interface. Its next-generation remote touch is designed to mimic smartphone operation, also supporting handwritten input. In addition to its 12.3-inch wide navigation display, the LS incorporates a large colour head-up display (HUD) that projects a variety of information onto the driver's forward view.
Advanced safety features
In addition to a high degree of passive safety, Lexus has equipped the LS with technologies that can possibly help prevent crashes from occurring or mitigate their effects.
The LS will feature the brand's Lexus Safety System+, incorporating Active Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist and Adaptive High Beam System.
|2018 Lexus LS basic specifications|
|Vehicle type||Full size premium luxury sedan|
|Engine||3.5-litre V6, direct fuel-injection, twin turbochargers|
|Overall length||5,235 mm|