The word luxury is becoming harder and harder to define, especially when it comes to cars. The lines have become increasingly blurred as the entry-points to premium brands limbo lower and lower.
In the era of ratified-by-committee, under the supervision of a team of bean counters, trying to determine a definition requires someone with a MacGyver-like mind.
So can the word luxury be defined by a badge? We think not, luxury is now in the eye of the cheque book holder.
Enter the new, fifth-generation 2018 Lexus LS500, for the unfamiliar, this is Japan’s answer to the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Every car in this class represents the flagship offering of each manufacturer and as such, that word luxury is never far from the thoughts of those that get anywhere near them.
For the new LS, Lexus has taken a different approach to the design. The LS is now built on the GA-L platform, which gives designers additional scope to innovate. This is the same platform that underpins the brilliant LC500 coupe.
Described by Lexus as having a coupe-like silhouette, the LS has that long, low and wide stance going for it. It looks purposeful, serious about its role with a dash of something exotic. If Benedict Cumberbatch was a car, this would be it.
In keeping with the contemporary tastes of new money, there’s also a bit of bling on the 20-inch wheels and the surround of the front spindle grille.
The panel gaps are so thin, they could have been cut by a scalpel in the hand of a talented surgeon.
Now the cabin, prepare to be impressed. To make entering the cabin easier, Lexus has included an access mode that automatically raises the car by 40mm to reach a 555mm hip height. When the engine starts the LS hunkers back down.
Fact, Lexus do brilliant interiors. The Takumi craftspeople are real artists (we would love to see what they could do with a large block of carrara marble) and the interior of the new LS is fit for all manner of royalty and rock stars. It is dripping with sophistication. Not many interiors present what can only be described as a feast for the senses.
Every surface is wrapped in the highest quality materials - even the bottom of the door cards – an area usually forgotten about feels expensive to the touch. Nothing looks out of place, every stitch has been executed with the forensic level of detail that Lexus is becoming famous for.
Gorgeous caramel leather and open-pore wood deliver a look and feel that will easily get the aristocracy’s blood pumping. It’s stunning, and that’s just the front seat.
Along with the striking presentation, the LS cabin is packed with technology. The list of standard electronic equipment and safety tech is so long, Andy Dufresne could have passed his time in Shawshank by reading it.
Occupants have the benefit of every electronic piece of gadgetry available in a modern car. Everything is electronically controlled, heated, cooled and adjustable to cater to every whim.
In what sounds like something out of Blade Runner, there’s even a climate concierge with infrared body temperature sensors to ensure the comfort level is nothing short of perfect.
What makes these long wheelbase limos different isn’t just their overall opulence and tech-laden interiors, it’s the emphasis on back-seat comfort. The whopping 3125mm wheelbase affords acres of room to passengers in the back seat.
Those fortunate enough to ride in the back are treated to a sublime level of comfort. Beautifully sculpted seats offer climate control and most importantly a massage function.
This is a car where the back seat experience is nothing short of incredible. The Lexus LS is certainly a car to be driven in, there is no need to wrestle the keys out of anyone’s hands.
Regardless of what the best seat in the car is, we must discuss the drive. Lexus offers the LS with a choice of two powertrains; a hybrid consisting of a naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with two electric motor generators or a completely new twin-turbo V6 engine, it’s the latter under the bonnet of our tester.
It’s a surprise not to see a V8 option given the commitment Lexus continues to show towards eight-cylinder engines.
This new twin-turbo V6 is as sweet as a nut. It’s remarkably smooth, even at high revs. It’s good for 310kW of power and 600Nm of torque which moves the car around effortlessly. There’s also no noticeable lag when the hammer goes down. The new LS500 can hit triple figures in 5.0 seconds from a standstill.
The straight line performance is even more impressive when you consider the car’s 2290kg kerb weight.
To get the most out of the engine, Lexus has again deployed its new 10-speed automatic transmission. The closely spaced ratios keep everything suave irrespective of the driving situations. Lexus claims the 10-speed box offers shift times that rival those of dual-clutch transmissions, we agree.
For a limo, the LS500 provides better performance than should be expected from a car of these proportions.
Let’s get serious, the LS is never going to be a car for those who desire performance, it’s for those chasing supreme comfort and refinement.
The new Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) does a stellar job of ironing out undulations in the road. Lexus has tuned the system to continually adjust the damping control in response to driving operations and road surface conditions. The AVS contributes to a cosseting drive that buyers will no doubt appreciate.
The steering has been reworked to provide better manoeuvrability at low speeds, however, it really shines at higher speeds. It’s crisp, responsive and provides a high level of feedback.
It must be said, the LS features an overly large head-up display, it’s width at times became distracting to the point we disengaged it.
In terms of refinement, the LS is nothing short of exceptional. Acoustic windows, noise-dissipating 20-inch alloy wheels and active noise cancellation from the car’s premium audio speakers contribute to a lovely cabin atmosphere.
As a result of not really wanting to get out of the LS, we travelled a lovely 1256 kilometres during our test week, returning a combined fuel consumption figure of 9.7L/100km. A great result for a car of this size and weight.
Lexus has yet to undergo the enlightenment that leads to capped-price servicing. Maintenance intervals are set at 12 months/15,000km. Lexus does stump up a four-year warranty when all of its competitors are anchored on three.
Speaking of competitors, the LS mounts a strong case amongst a decorated field. To take ownership of an LS500 requires a spend of $190,500 plus on-road costs, the Sports Luxury trim we are driving adds $5,000 to the price.
The LS500 has the juice to squeeze the German monopoly. The exterior design and the gallery-worthy interior offer a level of personality and individualism the big three German limos can’t match. Lexus is bringing some much-needed panache to the equation.
It’s everything a limo should be, it’s refined and comfortable with enough performance available to ensure people aren't fighting over which seat to occupy.
So to answer our initial premise, when it comes to cars luxury isn’t that hard to define, it’s the new Lexus LS.
2018 Lexus LS500 Specifications
Price from $190,500 plus on-road costs Engine 3.5-litre V6 turbocharged petrol Power 310kW @ 6000rpm Torque 600Nm @ 1600-4800rpm Transmission ten-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 9.5L/100km Tank Capacity 82L Performance 0-100km/h 5.0 seconds Length 5235mm Width 1900mm Height 1450mm Wheelbase 3125mm Turning Circle 11.82m Kerb Weight 2235-2290kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty four year/100,000 kilometre
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