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Lexus has unveiled its new range-topping LS saloon at the Detroit Motor Show, 28 years since the first LS400 made its debut in the same city. That original LS disrupted the luxury car market like no other, and the new model looks as if it may be able to do the same again.
Riding on the same platform as the recently-launched LC500 coupe, the LS gets massive 3.1-metre wheelbase, ultra-high quality cabin and seats that adjust 28 different ways. There's also a big 12.3-inch infotainment screen for which Lexus has thankfully both upgraded the graphics and replaced the awkward 'mouse' controller of the RX 450h with a new trackpad.
It's under the skin that the LS represents a big departure, though. That new platform means it has been able to shed around 90kg of weight so for the first time ever in an LS model, there won't be a V8 engine. Instead, Lexus has developed a new twin-turbo V6 petrol unit with 421hp for which is claims a very rapid 0-100km/h time of just 4.5 seconds when fitted with door-wheel drive. Lexus hasn't given us any details of the hybrid version that will follow on, but going by the LC coupe it should have dramatically lower Co2 emissions than the outgoing LS600h.
It's helped by a new ten-speed automatic gearbox which uses an old-fashioned torque converter for smoothness, but which Lexus says can shift as quickly as a high-tech dual clutch 'box. There's also a clever Vehicle Integrated Dynamic Management system which ties together the steering, gearbox, engine and suspension to create maximum comfort mixed with maximum dynamic performance. Lexus says that the combination is 'uncanny.'
As well as the clever new infotainment system and seats that can replicate Shiatsu massage, there's he more serious business of safety - the LS will come with Lexus new Lexus Safety System Plus, which can not only detect a pedestrian wandering into your path but can both brake and swerve around that person. There's also a partially autonomous driving package called Lexus CoDrive which can take partial control on motorways.
"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. We set previously unheard of targets and resolutely pushed ahead towards these ambitious goals. 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."