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Detroit show: Lexus LS range-topper debuts

New look, new powertrain for flagship model

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The new Lexus LS range-topping saloon unveiled at the Detroit show, has been dubbed “the definitive new generation luxury car” by its designers.

Destined to be sold in 90 countries across the glove, the new Lexus LS will target very strong rivals including the mass-selling Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Lexus claims to have imagined it was launching the brand all over again before creating the fifth generation of the model that launched the upmarket arm of Toyota in 1990.

The resultant Lexus LS is certainly distinctive. At 5.2m in length, it measures up 15cm longer than the car it replaces, on a wheelbase of 3.1m. This is 4cm longer than the long-wheelbase version of the current LS, and Lexus says the new car will only be offered in this form.

Coupe silhouette

It sits lower too – the ride height shrinks by around 2cm, the bonnet 3cm and the roof by some 4cm. Despite this and the coupe-like silhouette, Lexus promises both plenty of space and top quality inside the LS.

Lexus LS 03

The new Lexus design language is applied to the brand’s latest GA-L platform. Also used for the new LC coupe and extended for the LS, it is described as the stiffest architecture in Lexus history. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel-drive will be an option.

Lightweight materials are used throughout, including ultra-high-tensile steel and aluminium, helping to cut 90kg from the shell weight. Together with the extra rigidity and a lower centre of gravity significant handling improvements are promised.

These will be further aided by the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). This oversees all of the car’s sub-systems including braking, steering, powertrain and suspension. Further input comes courtesy of active anti-roll bars the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) system, which uses independent front and rear steering.

New 3.5-litre engine

The Lexus LS debuts a new powertrain, a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine matched to the first ten-speed automatic transmission in a luxury saloon.

With 421hp on tap and 600Nm of torque, the new twin-turbo V6 is significantly more potent than the V8 in the current LS – all-wheel-drive versions will boast a 4.5-second 0-62mph time. The unit is also said to offer significantly improved efficiency, though Lexus is yet to release figures.

The 10-speed auto debuted in the LC coupe. While a torque convertor unit, Lexus claims auto shift times to rival dual-clutch designs. Paddle controls allow the driver to shift manually if desired.

Industry observers also expect Lexus to produce a petrol-electric version of the LS drawing upon Toyota’s extensive hybrid technology. Its effective sister car the LC Coupe is offered in hybrid form.

Lexus LS 04

Lexus chief designer Koichi Suga claims that interior of the LS is like no luxury car ever previously seen. The front seats include 28-way power, heating, cooling and massage functions, also featuring on the rear seats to which particular attention has been paid.

Rear-seat passengers can specify an ottoman leg rest, and the seat behind the front passenger can be reclined by up to 48 degrees and raised up to 24 degrees to ease exit from the car.

Further interior highlights include new wood slicing and laser-cutting techniques for the trim and the latest generation of the signature Mark Levinson in-car entertainment system.

The Lexus LS is expected on sale towards the end of 2017, and Suga is in no doubts to its importance to Lexus, saying; “More than any other model, it embodies the history and image of Lexus and serves as a symbol for everything the brand stands for.”

Lexus LS 02

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.