Tested: the hybrid with V8 performance
Lexus was looking to standout out from the crowd with its top-shelf luxury sedan. And the first thing you notice is the LS's big metal grin. But the more you live with it you understand the little things that make this a special car including one of the best sound systems you'll find in any new car. Here are five things you need to know about the Lexus LS.
The styling grows on you
Lexus wanted to make a statement with its flagship sedan and that massive, shiny front grille certainly did the trick - there are more sharp edges than a Masterchef kitchen. Lexus calls it "evocative" but some will find it a little flashy and extravagant for their tastes. I started the week in the latter camp but was somewhere in-between after a week living with it. The car's profile is much easier to like - it's understated, muscular and well proportioned, while the craftsmanship and quality is obvious in the finer details of the exterior styling, including the gorgeous 20-inch alloys.
The cabin is opulent
While the exterior styling is divisive, there would be few who could find fault with the LS's cabin. The attention to detail is obvious, from the hand-pleated cloth trim on the doors and the stitched faux-leather on the dash to the polished metal highlights and real woodgrain inserts. The opulence extends to the rear seats, where occupants get their own illuminated vanity mirrors, acres of legroom and plush carpet to run their toes through. The rear passenger on the opposite side to the driver can shift the front seat forward to liberate more leg room at the press of a button. Our F-Sport model's white leather accented seats with black imitation suede inserts felt suitably racy but you can option red if you dare.
Old world meets new
While its German rivals have gone totally digital, with "virtual" instruments in front of the driver, Lexus has retained a single physical gauge in the middle. It's borrowed from the LFA supercar and it gives the controls an analog feel. The touch pad for the infotainment controls remains a hit and miss affair but the head-up display on the windscreen is huge and has almost every detail you need, from navigation instructions to song choices. On the topic of music, the 23-speaker Mark Levinson "logic immersion" surround sound system is brilliant, producing a great live sound that balances a thumping bass sound with excellent clarity. And the audiophiles will be glad to know Lexus has retained the CD player.
It's not a V8 but …
Traditionally, the flagship in a luxury car maker's line-up is a V8, but LS buyers get a choice of twin-turbo V6 power or a hybrid V6 that is claimed to use just 6.6 litres per 100km. The hybrid costs roughly $600 more at about $204,000 on the road. If you're careful with the accelerator, you can achieve that number quite easily in a mix of highway and urban driving. Be more enthusiastic with the throttle and you'll be seeing double figures in no time. The V6 is nothing special on its own, but dual electric motors and a compact lithium-ion battery make it both punchier (the combined output is 264kW) and more frugal. In line with its brief, though, it's more at home wafting along in impressive silence on the freeway than pinning the ears back. The continuously variable transmission mimics ten gears and feels more refined than most examples.
You can have fun in it
No one expects a 5-metre plus luxury limousine to drive like a sports car, but Lexus has done a good job of making the LS feel smaller than it is. Adaptive air suspension smooths out the wrinkles in the road while still retaining composure through the bends. Sports mode sharpens the responses further, adding more weight to the steering and more urgency to the throttle. The F Sport version also gets bigger brakes and high friction pads for better stopping power. Give the chauffeur a day off and you'll be impressed by what it can do on a quiet country road.
Originally published as Tested: the hybrid with V8 performance