2018 Lexus LS Preview
- Redesigned flagship Lexus sedan
- Launches as the LS 500
- Twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6
- 10-speed automatic transmission
- Rear-wheel or all-wheel drive
- Improved driving dynamics
- Greater luxury, safety, and technology
- On sale near the end of 2017
Any car that lasts more than a decade between complete redesigns is an old one, and that’s the case with the current Lexus LS. It arrived for the 2007 model year, and while it has been updated and upgraded since that time, it isn’t the flagship sedan that an A-list luxury brand ought to be selling.
At the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the company introduced the new 2018 Lexus LS 500, which has what it takes to credibly cap the automaker’s lineup.
“The LS is the flagship of the Lexus brand,” said chief designer, Koichi Suga, with regard to the redesigned 2018 LS. “More than any other model, it embodies the history and image of Lexus and serves as a symbol for everything the brand stands for.”
While this is true, Lexus approached the redesign as though it were re-launching both the brand and the LS for the first time. Instead of trying to improve on what existed, the company ripped up the recipe and built a car designed to “exceed expectations of global luxury customers.”
Characterizing the new LS as “strikingly bold” and featuring a “coupe-like silhouette,” Lexus explains that the new car is longer, lower, and wider than the model it replaces.
Up front, the controversial spindle grille design boldly announces the LS as a Lexus, the mesh insert designed to change visual texture depending upon the light. L-shaped LED running lights and taillight patterns also signal the LS 500’s provenance.
For the first time, the new LS uses six flush-mounted windows on each side, resulting in more visual clutter just forward of the rear roof pillars. Five new wheel designs debut in 19-inch and 20-inch diameters, and all but one of them employs a hollow-rim structure to reduce resonance sound from the tires.
Side character lines visually taper into the LS 500’s rear haunches, where a relatively long rear overhang, architectural styling themes, trapezoidal exhaust outlets, and flared taillamps give the car a sense of identity and presence.
Once you climb inside the new Lexus LS, you’ll find an interior environment like no other. Inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics, the cabin is themed around the concept of omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality. As such, the new Lexus flagship aims to predict needs, attend to comfort, and protect occupants from hazards, according to the company.
Artistically rendered, the interior is open and spacious but employs cockpit-style instrumentation within a rather small binnacle. This nod to the Lexus LF-A sports car effectively conveys the brand’s recent lean toward performance without impeding upon what the company characterizes as a serene environment.
Ambient lighting schemes take inspiration from Japanese lanterns, and Lexus claims the armrests appear to float within the door panels. Mosaic-style speaker grille patterns, as well as quilted and perforated leather, lend themselves to the calming, zen atmosphere within the new LS. Natural wood patterns include Art Wood Organic, Art Wood Herringbone, and Gray Sapele Wood with Aluminum, each demonstrating bold contrast for a more vibrant appearance, according to Lexus.
Because the car is closer to the ground than before, and the seating hip points are also lower, the optional air suspension includes an access function that raises the car and opens the seat bolsters for easier entry. Also, in order to preserve interior headroom, the sunroof slides open on the outside of the car.
With regard to options, Lexus revealed that the new LS would be offered with heating, cooling, and massage functions for the front and rear seats. The driver and front passenger can adjust their seats 28 different ways, and a Rear Seat Luxury Package installs power rear seats, a recline function with a raised ottoman, and the ability to raise the seat for more graceful egress from the car.
Additionally, a 3D surround sound Mark Levinson audio system is available complete with in-ceiling array speakers. A dual screen rear infotainment system with individual tablet-style displays is also offered as an extra-cost item.
Under the Hood:
The new LS 500 sedan sits on an extended version of the platform introduced under the LC 500 coupe. It is the stiffest platform in Lexus history, and the new LS boasts a 1.3-inch wheelbase stretch over the current LS long-wheelbase model. Also, the new platform reduces the center of gravity, improves weight distribution, and sheds more than 200 pounds compared to the outgoing model.
For now, a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 is the only engine choice. It makes 415 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque, more than the outgoing model’s V8 engine, and Lexus expects the LS 500 to accelerate to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The LS is a rear-drive car, with all-wheel drive offered as an option.
A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard, equipped with paddle shifters for manual control. Lexus promises that shift times will rival dual-clutch automated manual gearboxes, and that the transmission monitors acceleration, braking, and g-forces to ensure that it always chooses the ideal gear ratio for the task at hand.
Normal, Sport, and Sport+ driving modes alter the car’s driving character, and a next-generation Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system optimizes driving dynamics while controlling unwanted body motions.
To reduce unsprung weight, Lexus employs extensive use of aluminum in the LS 500’s suspension componentry. An available air suspension, active stabilizer bars, and a Lexus Dynamic Handling System with rear-wheel steering all improve the ride and handling equation.
Lexus did not detail each of the LS 500’s safety advancements, but with a modern, stronger and stiffer architecture, it certainly must be capable of deflecting crash energy away from occupants should a collision occur.
With the new LS, Lexus has confirmed a comprehensively outfitted Advanced Safety Package that contains every driving assistance and collision avoidance technology the company holds within its arsenal. For example, the new Intuitive Pedestrian Detection with Active Steering system is designed to detect a pedestrian, automatically brake, and steer the car within the current lane of travel in order to avoid the person.
Lexus claims the new LS is loaded with “visionary technology.” That remains to be seen, of course, but we have no doubt that it will be impressive.
For now, the company says that the LS features more appealing infotainment system graphics, rendered on a 12.3-inch display. A next-generation version of its Remote Touch control interface is said to mimic smartphone operation, and it adds support for handwritten input.
An optional 24-inch color heads-up display will be available, Lexus calling it the largest one in the world.