Detroit Motor Show: Lexus shows off new LS flagship saloon

New luxury saloon gets styling cues and 10-speed gearbox from the LC500 sports car

Almost three decades on from when the original LS400 made its Detroit show debut, and rocked the world of premium motoring to its core, Lexus is using the 2017 Detroit show to unveil its fourth-generation LS.

"Not only will the LS symbolise 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."

Longer and lower than the outgoing LS, the new saloon takes more than a few styling cues from the impressive LC500 coupe, but it draws back from some of that car’s more controversial touches. Instead, it looks clean, crisp and more than a little attractive.

The GA-L platform, also shared with the LC coupe, means the car has a 3.1-metre wheelbase in standard form, 35mm longer than that of the current LS, which should prove a boon to rear-seat space.


Lexus says that the car has an “uncanny” mix of ride and handling thanks to the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system which controls all of the vehicle subsystems – braking, steering, powertrain, and suspension – to manage basic longitudinal, lateral and vertical motion as well as yaw, roll and pitch. In other words, its computers work furiously to keep the car steady at all times.

V6 engine

It’s also 90kg lighter than the outgoing version, allowing Lexus’ engineers to use a V6 engine where they would previously have had a heavier and thirstier V8. The 3.5-litre engine uses twin turbos to achieve 421hp and a 4.5 seconds 0-100km/h time when fitted with optional four wheel drive.

The company claims the new V6 delivers the same refinement as the old V8, (thanks in part to an active noise-cancelling system) while retaining just enough of a sporty exhaust note to keep keen drivers happy. It drives either the rear or all four wheels through a new 10-speed automatic gearbox, which Lexus says can match the shift times of a dual-clutch box in spite of using a more conventional torque-convertor automatic.

“We set previously unheard of targets and resolutely pushed ahead towards these ambitious goals,” said LS chief engineer Asahi. “The customers that 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. We wouldn’t turn their heads with a conventional premium product.”

The cabin draws from the current Lexus range, but uses a taller, deeper instrument console and has long, drawn-out chrome accents across the centre of the dash.

12.3-inch infotainment display

The 12.3-inch central infotainment display gets updated graphics (at last) and ditches the clunky mouse controller of the RX450h in favour of a laptop-style track pad. The seats look as if they’re going to be the best part of the cabin though – adjustable in 28 directions, they’ve been designed to “emphasise the driver’s ability to operate all systems without the need to change posture”.

“I suggest that you simply open the door and experience that immediate, intuitive sense that you’re looking at an interior that is unlike any luxury car before,” said chief designer Koichi Suga.

The LS will feature the brand’s Lexus Safety System + and offer an advanced safety system, which features the world’s first intuitive pedestrian detection with active steering. With this system, if a pedestrian is detected in the lane ahead and a collision is imminent, the LS will automatically brake and steer around the person while staying in the lane. There’s also a partially autonomous driving system called Lexus CoDrive which can take control for short bursts on motorways and main roads.

No word yet on the hybrid version, but that will be coming, using the same V6-plus-batteries system seen in the LC500h coupe, and it should score far better in Co2 terms than the big, thirsty, outgoing LS. Thirty years on, it would seem, Lexus still has the ability to upset the luxury car applecart.

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring