Car Reviews

2018 Lexus LS First Look: Building a Bolder Flagship

Twin-Turbo V-6 Replaces V-8

Twin-Turbo V-6 Replaces V-8

A flagship has to offer something above and beyond the usual luxury car. And with impressive technology now cascading across all vehicles, premium advances are becoming harder to find. But with its upcoming LS flagship, Lexus believes it has raised the ante in the prestige-sedan segment.

Unveiled at the Detroit auto show, the 2018 Lexus LS is a marvel of powertrain, suspension, and safety advances that the automaker feels will trump its German rivals.

“Not only will the LS symbolize the Lexus brand, it will become the definitive new-generation luxury car embodying Japanese tradition and culture,” Toshio Asahi, LS chief engineer, said in a press release. “As such, this global pinnacle must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car.”

The LS will replace the outgoing 4.6-liter V-8 with a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 that Lexus says was developed specifically for the LS. Boasting 415 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque (compared to 386 hp and 367 lb-ft of the old V-8), the new LS should accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, Lexus says.

2018 Lexus LS 500 front three quarter 02

2018 Lexus LS 500 rear three quarter 03

Putting the power to the pavement is a 10-speed automatic, which though run through a torque converter, has claimed shift times that rival those of dual-clutch transmissions. Paddle shifters are available, but Lexus says its electronic control system, which anticipates the driver’s input, might be better at choosing the ideal ratio by monitoring the acceleration, braking, and lateral-g forces. The powertrain can also be manually tuned from Normal to Sport to Sport+ modes, depending on the driver’s mood.

Underpinning the LS is a multilink suspension with double ball joints for the upper and lower control arms.

The LS will also offer a multi-stage hybrid powertrain that is available in the LC coupe, a Lexus source said. There also may be a separate engine only for the Chinese market.

The LS is the lead vehicle for Lexus’ all-new global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA–L) platform. Despite 1.3 inches more wheelbase than the outgoing LS, the LS is 200 pounds lighter and is the stiffest vehicle Lexus has made. The automaker promises enhanced handling, ride smoothness, and cabin quietness. The GA-L platform will be shared, in shortened form, with the LC 500 coupe.

Lexus has installed a new generation of its Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management chassis-control system that senses longitudinal, lateral, and vertical motion as well as yaw, roll, and pitch for more precise handling and better traction control. The LS also offers optional rear-wheel steering.

The LS will offer the usual safety features, and offer the world’s first system with intuitive pedestrian detection—meaning the car will automatically brake and potentially steer around a wayward person while staying within a lane.

The new model is about 0.6 inches lower, and the hood and trunk are approximately 1.2 inches and 1.6 inches lower. As such, its pronounced over-fenders and scalloped doors give the appearance of a lithe passenger cabin sitting atop muscular haunches.

In terms of styling, the front fascia follows Lexus’ current design motif of squinty, zigzag headlights and spindle grille—except that the latticework inside the grille looks more like a cinched corset than the Predator. The roofline glides gently through the C-pillar and into the rear deck, though technically it remains a sedan and not a fastback.

Inside, those used to Lexus’ bank-vault silence will find new levels of isolation provided by active noise control suppression, which cancels certain frequencies using antiphase sound from the audio speakers. In what can only be described as overkill, 28-way power front seats feature heating, cooling, and massage—the rear seats also feature heating, cooling, and Shiatsu and can be reclined up to 48 degrees. Because the car is lower than before, the LS’ air suspension raises the car for easier access when unlocked by an approaching smart key.

One interior item of note: The infotainment system still uses the trackpad interface we have vilified in other Lexus products—though, obviously, we have yet to test it in this iteration.

“The customers who are going to want to own a Lexus flagship are already surrounded by luxury on a daily basis, people who have a sharp eye for authenticity to begin with,” Asahi said. “We wouldn’t turn their heads with a conventional premium product.”