Sunday August 12, 2012
Raising the bar
By HONG BOON HOW
The new and improved Lexus isn’t a new model but it does feature extensive updates.
BACK in 1989, Toyota Motor Corporation introduced the Lexus brand as a luxury car division, and the LS was its first ever model.
Hailed as the most complete luxury car, the LS went on to awe the world with its build quality and refinement.
Simply said, the Japanese-made LS raised the bar for the global luxury car market.
The LS is in its fourth generation and has just received a major facelift. The model has been around for the past six years, and though the latest LS features extensive updates, Lexus does not want to call it the all-new fifth generation model. That’s simply down to the fact that it is not an all-new model: though featuring a completely revised interior and exterior design, the LS still shares the same powertrain, and some traits with the previous LS.
“We do not want to call it an all-new model because it is not. This Lexus LS is an extensive improvement over the previous LS but it still shares some parts.
“When we do release an all-new model, you can expect it to be much better than this model,” said Hideki Watanabe, chief engineer of the LS project, at the global introduction of the new Lexus LS in Palo Alto, California recently.
Speaking about the inspiration behind the new LS, Watanabe said: “At the start of the LS development programme, I had to consciously broaden my horizons, focusing on the finer things in life from the worlds of art, design and technology. I drive around in my own LS every day in Japan, and I had to consciously think about what I would like to see improved in a car that’s already such an incredible luxury saloon.
“The new LS was specially worked on by close to a hundred engineers, all focused on improving a car that to some is already perfect.”
The new LS model range includes the LS 460L, LS 460, LS 600hL and LS 460 F Sport.
Equipped with Lexus Hybrid Drive, the LS 600hL remains the world’s most powerful full hybrid with a V8 engine.
The new LS is the latest Lexus to feature the distinctive spindle grille, first introduced in the Lexus GS late last year.
The new design gives the LS a bold, sports car-like stance, especially so in the F Sport guise – but why would the designers give a car that was originally designed to be comfortable and luxurious a more aggressive look?
According to Watanabe, the engineers and designers agree that the new design may not go down too well with current owners of the LS, but Lexus sells more cars in the United States than anywhere else in the world, and America is a market where people tend to drive themselves rather than be driven.
So with that in mind, the new LS was given a bolder stance to attract a wider audience, and the driving dynamics were also improved with new laser screw welding and adhesive body bonding techniques that increase the car’s overall body rigidity, making the car all the more compliant to the driver’s steering input.
Other than that though, the LS doubles up on the level of comfort and refinement with the integration of a new air suspension system, advanced frequency variable damping, and the drive mode selector, which gives the driver five different modes to choose from, each affecting the car’s behaviour to be either sportier, or to feel like its riding on a plush magic carpet.
For the first time, the LS is available with an F Sport variant, and it retains all of the LS’s comfort and charm but combines it with a sporting character.
The exterior of the LS F Sport is distinguished by a mesh spindle grille, a lower height and redesigned front and rear bumpers together with 19-inch alloy rims.
There’s also the six-piston Brembo front brakes callipers while the interior features a choice of one exclusive colour scheme; black and white-grey topped off with Alcantara roof head lining, and solid aluminium ornamentation.
The drive of the F Sport variant has been given an even more sporting character with the addition of a Torsen torque-sensing limited slip differential and an active stabiliser system that keeps the car level in corners without compromising on comfort. Its steering mounted paddle shifters provide quick and precise gearshifts for an engaging driving experience.
Apart from over 3,000 changes over the previous model, and out of that, three world firsts, the new LS has no less than 15 new features and technical innovations (for a Lexus).
It’s also the first Lexus to be equipped with all-LED exterior lighting, seamless light tube daytime running lights, and noise reduction wheels that feature hollow areas within the wheels to absorb noise, significantly improving interior refinement.
With top priority on quality, the steering wheel itself takes 38 days to build, just so that it fits perfectly in the driver’s hand, and looks flawless.
It even features the world’s first “Advanced Illumination System” that comes with champagne white interior lamps and dynamic LED instrument panel lighting.
There are 13 sensors fitted inside that detect your body’s temperature and control the air-conditioning settings to cool you down as quickly as possible.
We rode in both the standard and long wheelbase version, and though the latter offered more legroom, space was available in abundance throughout the LS line-up.
The rear Ottoman seats in the long wheelbase LS now recline further back, and have an integrated air-assisted massage system that ensures silent operation.
So comfortable are the seats that it is quite possible to doze off within minutes, as experienced by the writer, and that just stands as a testament to the high level of comfort the LS offers.
Lexus Malaysia, a division owned by UMW Toyota Motor, will be introducing these new Lexus LS models this October.