More than 10 years since its predecessor first appeared, the all-new 2018 Lexus LS500 has been revealed at this week’s Detroit motor show – but that badge doesn’t represent a V8 engine.
Confirmed for a first-half Australian launch in 2018, the latest LS brings new looks, new technologies, a new platform and a brand-new heart.
Lexus has conceded the new LS is “overdue”, but the brand has come out of the gates this week claiming that its new-generation limo will represent “a new level of flagship luxury in every aspect”.
The Japanese premium brand says it approached development of the new LS as though it were launching the marque all over again.
To that end, the 2017 Lexus LS introduces a longer and lower design than the outgoing model – and of those before it – but the styling is a clear evolution of the increasingly wild themes coming out of the Lexus studios.
The LS rides on a stretched version of the GA-L platform (Global Architecture – Luxury) that underpins the big new LC coupe, but the real drawcard lies just ahead of the cabin: an all-new twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 310kW of power and 600Nm of torque.
Yes: unlike the LC500 and its V8 engine, the 500 badge on this new LS does not represent a 5.0-litre eight-cylinder package.
Performance enthusiasts may well leap ahead to imagining a new IS F to rival the BMW M3, or even a someday engine swap for the presently 351kW/530Nm V8-powered RC F coupe. But, for now, Lexus is offering no word on plans for the new mill beyond the big LS.
The new engine, offering more power and considerably more torque than the 285kW/493Nm 4.6-litre V8 it replaces in the LS, sends its mojo to the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The RC F’s 5.0-litre V8 is, of course, also more powerful than the outgoing LS’s smaller unit. It is clear, though, that where Lexus has sought to satisfy the performance fan’s lust for an eight-cylinder unit in its hero coupe, the company has aimed its new limo at a buyer who appreciates power – but demand economy.
That said, Lexus has yet to reveal just what sort of fuel or acceleration figures buyers can expect, although it promises “excellent” fuel efficiency without sacrificing a tune focused on immediate acceleration and “a constant build-up of torque” toward redline.
Helping drivers find the right balance will be a trio of selectable power modes: Normal, Sport and Sport+.
And, if the exhaust notes of the GS F and RC F have ever failed to tickle you, don’t expect more in this comfort-driven limo. “Just enough of the exhaust note can be heard to enhance the sporty feel,” Lexus says.
A more “authoritative” tone is promised, although an engine-monitoring Active Noise Control system and other sound suppression methods are in play to deliver “utterly quiet cruising”. Good for bystanders, then.
The company is also claiming the LS’s torque-converter 10-speed auto as a first for the segment, following its debut in the LC 500 grand-touring coupe. And, as it does with the LC, Lexus claims shift times to rival a dual-clutch auto.
Other driving systems include a new development of the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management chassis control technology, which uses braking, steering, power and suspension to moderate body movement.
Active stabiliser bars also feature, along with four-wheel steering as part of the Lexus Dynamic Handling system.
Lexus says it has used liberal amounts of aluminium and ultra-high tensile steel to shave around 90kg from the outgoing model – a figure to which the new V6 engine also contributes. The suspension system, a multilink arrangement, also features “extensive” use of aluminium. The current LS weighs in the neighbourhood of 1900 to 2150kg.
At the time of writing, Lexus has not yet revealed photos of the new LS model’s interior. But, no surprise, the company leans on a Japanese philosophy in describing the inspiration for its cabin design: omotenashi, the art of selfless hospitality.
Ambient lighting, “inspired by Japanese lanterns”, is featured in the cabin, while the outboard armrests were designed to give the appearance of a floating look.
Safety systems in the new LS will include speed-moderating active cruise control, lane-keep assist and adaptive high beam lights.
As a luxury offering, the new LS gets 28-way power adjustment in the front row, with heating, cooling and massage features. Likewise, the rear gets options for heating, cooling and massage, while the seat behind the front passenger can be reclined up to 48 degrees. It can also be raised 24 degrees, to aid with exit.
The new LS also sits 15mm lower than the previous model, which has moved Lexus to add an “access” function to the available air suspension package. When the vehicle is unlocked via the key fob, it will both raise the body and also open the seat bolsters.
Adding to interior comfort, the new LS comes in at 5235mm long and rides on a 3125mm wheelbase, making it noticeably longer than the 5060mm length and 5179mm footprint of even the stretched ‘L’ version of its predecessor.
To its credit, the new LS is also longer than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which offers a 3165mm wheelbase in its stretched form – although the footprint of the new Maybach variants stretches from 3365mm to a massive 4418mm.
A shorter version will not be offered, although it remains to be seen if an even longer variant will appear.
Above: the LF-FC concept that previewed the new LS
Further details on the new LS, including any word on advanced autonomous driving features to rival those of the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class – among others – are still to be revealed.
Likewise, the company has yet to confirm specific plans for other powertrains in the range, although a hybrid model – a staple of the Lexus range – could be on the cards.
Watch for further details to come in the weeks and months ahead.