Lexus takes a classic approach to luxury in its most luxurious car.
While German rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz’ S-Class and BMW 7 Series focus on technology, with cameras that scan the road for bumps and gesture-controlled stereos, the Lexus path is different.
Updates to the LS focus on tiny details intended to make life more comfortable — thicker seat foam, reworked shock absorbers, sound-absorbing wheels and a more intuitive touchscreen.
Lexus owners don’t bellow “hey Mercedes, I’m hot” to tweak cabin temperature, or waggle a frustrated finger in the air to reduce stereo volume. They reach out and adjust a tactile and beautifully damped knob to make a quick adjustment.
Instead of focusing on cutting-edge tech that doesn’t always work convincingly — or at all — Lexus turns its attention to quality you can appreciate every day.
The build quality is as fine as you will find in any car, delivering chiselled-from-stone sensations free from squeaks or rattles.
There’s rare personality in the warm glow of interior mood lighting inspired by traditional paper lamps, armrests floating clear of origami-inspired leather quilting, and jewel-like doorhandles framed by painstakingly crafted ornamental elements.
Customers can have interior highlights finished in a range of treatments including “Kiriko” cut glass similar to the ornate crystal of a vintage liquor cabinet and “Nishijin and Haku” metallic surfaces interlaced with platinum foil replicating the appearance of moonlight on water at night.
It all adds up to a unique sense of occasion. Rather than in-your-face cleverness, it delivers quiet sincerity and craftsmanship.
But it’s not perfect.
There’s a lack of headroom in the front and back, where particularly tall drivers might feel short-changed by a lack of space.
Bigger drivers are hemmed-in by the LS’ slightly cosy approach, and technophiles won’t like the long list of features found in other cars but missing here.
Sure, there’s a new 12.3-inch touchscreen display representing a welcome departure from the brand’s traditional trackpads. But wireless phone charging or smartphone connectivity isn’t available.
Engineers finessed the car’s 10-speed automatic transmission and the electronic throttle programming to ensure that the lightly revised engine is as smooth as possible in everyday driving.
The petrol motor preferred by Australian customers is a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 that makes 310kW and 600Nm, delivering smooth and effortless punch accompanied by a distantly purposeful growl. You can also have it with a 264kW hybrid system that trades muscle for miserly 6.6L/100km fuel consumption that is 34 per cent better than the turbo model.
They cost the same money — $195,953 plus on-roads in “sport” form, or $201,078 as a more luxurious “sport luxury” model adding four-zone climate control, twin rear-seat screens, a rear passenger massage system and more.
One with the lot is about $225,000 drive-away.
Whichever way you go, the LS delivers a beautifully tuned ride that flows with the road surface. There are no harsh or sharp edges to a driving experience that retains a surprising degree of poise on twisty routes. It doesn’t reef the steering wheel in your hands, automatically change lanes when you flick an indicator stalk, or jack up the outer suspension to try and lean into corners.
This is the old-school approach to luxury motoring. And it’s magnificent.
The Lexus LS is a Rolex in a world of Apple watches. Though it might not have the latest tech, its quality, attention to detail and classic luxury offer timeless appeal.
LEXUS LS 500 SPORTS LUXURY VITALS
Price: About $215,000 drive-away
Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbo petrol V6, 310W/600Nm
Warranty/servicing: 4 years/100,000km, about $2400 for 4 years
Safety: Not yet rated, 12 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert
Cargo: 440 litres
Spare: None (run-flat tyres)