2018 Lexus LS: New Brand Flagship Bows
If you are like us you are probably unfamiliar with the Japanese concept of Omotenashi, but it is prevalent in the all-new 2018 version of the Lexus LS sedan that has just been unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. Omotenashi is not a type of cuisine but rather the concept of Japanese hospitality, and that graceful, welcoming sense of warmth pervades the LS design and execution. The new LS is intended to be the brand’s flagship, available in about 90 countries, and, importantly it carries the image of what it means to be a Lexus in its luxurious and thoughtful cockpit.
“Not only will the LS symbolize the Lexus brand, it will become the definitive new-generation luxury car embodying Japanese tradition and culture,” said Toshio Asahi, chief engineer for the new LS . “As such, this global pinnacle must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car.”
Exterior design with more flair
In today’s luxury market one can’t design a sedan without calling it “coupelike,” and so it goes with the new LS. Happily the design is swoopy enough to bear the “coupelike” label while still offering a commodious interior. Based on Lexus’ premium rear-drive (GA-L) platform, the new LS is intended to be more involving to drive than the current version of the stately LS, and it backs up that claim with an all-new twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine designed specifically for the new luxury sedan. The move to replace the venerable V8 with a V6 might be surprising to some, but the switch to a forced-induction engine is indicative of the regulatory atmosphere in which we live. By using turbocharging, Lexus engineers were able to improve fuel economy at no sacrifice to power. In fact, the powertrain delivers 415 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, which represent sizeable gains over the current LS model’s 386-horsepower V8. With a projected 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds, the LS should feel as fast as it is good-looking.
The twin-turbo V6 is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission very similar to the one already fitted in the Lexus LC 500 performance coupe. Interestingly, it is a torque-converter automatic, yet Lexus claims its shift times will rival those of dual-clutch transmissions. Typically torque-converter automatics have a smoother feel than dual-clutch units, and we expect that is a key reason Lexus engineers decided to go in that direction. Paddle shifting is available with the transmission, but we expect the paddles will be as lightly used as those in the typical motorboat. The smart transmission features an advanced electronic control system, which anticipates the driver’s input and chooses the ideal ratio by monitoring the acceleration, braking and lateral-g forces in virtual real-time. In other words it probably does a better job of gear selection than you would.
Features that are thoughtful instead of overwhelming
Some car companies approach luxury by ladling on more and more features as if they were portions of soup. But Lexus claims it that, inspired by the omotenashi principle, its designers and engineers sought to instill the new LS cabin with luxury that welcomes and envelops the occupants while not overwhelming them with stuff. Not that the LS lacks features, however. For example, the new seating designs include available 28-way power front seats that feature heating, cooling and massage. The dash design clusters information displays at uniform height so the driver is not required to change her or his seating position to see them.
Partially driven by the demands of the Chinese market, the new LS has a significantly upgraded enhanced rear-seat area. Like the front seats, the rear seats can be heated, cooled and offer massaging action. The available power front and rear seat with Shiatsu massage and a raised ottoman offers the most legroom ever in the LS. For those rear-seat passengers who want the pinnacle of comfort, the seat behind the front passenger in an optional package can be reclined up to 48 degrees and can be raised up to 24 degrees to help assist them in exiting the vehicle.
Lighting inspired by Japanese lanterns
Of course, you might not want to leave because the LS’s interior is filled with engaging touches like the interior ambient lighting inspired by Japanese lanterns and armrests that appear to float next to the door panel. The interior is also festooned with Shimamoku-inspired wood patterns that combine the artistic combination of natural woodwork and Japan’s sophisticated sliced wood and laser cutting.
For times when you seek peace and quiet, new sound suppression methods hush the environment. Active Noise Control further quiets the cabin by detecting the sound of the engine coming into the vehicle and cancelling certain frequencies using antiphase sound from the audio speakers. For those instances when sound is in order, the available 3D surround Mark Levinson audio package features in-ceiling array speakers and can be controlled by a next-generation remote touch controller designed to emulate a smartphone.
As a 2018 model the new Lexus LS is expected to be introduced later this year. Pricing will come much closer to its introduction date.
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