In a segment marked by ego massages and megalomania, the Lexus LS offers a powerful 4.6 L engine, dramatic comfort features and handling skills surprisingly agile for a 2.4 tonne leviathan. The engine is unchanged but there is a lot more refinement in the cabin, and the stylishly aggressive LS F-Sport is also new to the Lexus flagship lineup. For a complete picture, join me on this dual drive, aboard the Lexus LS 460 L & the LS 460 F-Sport.
UPSIDE: Class-leading executive comfort, Silent cabin, Widest LCD screen, Intuitive paddle shift in F-Sport, Convincing handling
FLIPSIDE: Rivals are more powerful, moderate cornering skills, Voice command not across functions
The Price: Lexus LS starts at AED 325,000 and the LS 600h (Hybrid – Long wheel base) costs AED 575,000. DriveME Test cars: LS 460 L (Long wheel base): AED 498,000 LS F-Sport: AED 395,000
If I told you that the Lexus LS F Sport handles even better than the Lexus GS, you might make a face that is more twisted than the new spindle grille of the Lexus. But consider the larger size and overall weight of the LS and the fact that the GS is created in a sportier spirit as well. Indeed, these full-size luxury sedans from Lexus handle exceptionally well even during quick manoeuvers on speedy six lanes. Except for a minor oversteer and a brief pause for breath when tackling corners at speeds, the LS is unhurried, stable and yet quick to respond to your command.
The steering feels slightly smaller yet heavier than usual but the mild vagueness remains, as is the norm with Lexus. The new 8-speed gearshift of the Lexus LS is easygoing with its 382 hp powerhouse and there is never a power surge even in the S and S+ mode. Each time you nudge the accelerator, you can actually sense what the car is capable of and that’s when you actually experience the full glory of the sound box, otherwise just a gentle eight-winged flutter.
The paddle shifts in the LS F-Sport too respond smoothly and intuitively. Easing into gears almost unnoticeably in comfort mode – actually one couldn’t be bothered with the paddles on the comfort mode, or even the sport mode – the intuitive gearshifts become self-evident in the sport plus mode.
The transmission instantly grooves down from the eight speed run to D5 and if you will, even further down by a couple of notches to a D3 rev. Interestingly, the effortless poise the car maintains while doing this is perhaps even better than what you could achieve if you went about it manually.
Among the LS variants, the F-sport does have a very aggressive design especially with the new Lexus spindle grilles, which I thought befitted the GS the most. But the new character lines give the new LS a sharper silhouette unlike the earlier boxy designs that used to overflow the parking lot and made a statement of luxury with largeness, as with the LS 430 of yesteryears.
The 19-inch wheels that complement the drive are adorned with 20 spoke alloys for real Lexus extravaganza. As expected, dual exhausts bring up the tail.
Cabin and Controls
There is an air of butler-serviced luxury about the Lexus LS cabin. Be it the way the doors soft shut or the way the central armrest smoothly slides back into place; how the reclining seats go back all the way or how the front seats slide back for access and remember the steering and seat positions; how the air suspension individually controls the dampers for a smooth ride along with the option to raise and lower the chassis height… the luxury of the flagship Lexus is all-pervasive.
As for cabin assistance, the navigation is quite updated and on the signature 12.3-inch screen, what I call the ‘i-max of navigation screens’, you can conveniently monitor more than one function. I’m usually not a fan of the Lexus ‘mouse’ but in the LS, the navigation control knob appeared friendlier and less fidgety.
The switches and controls are neatly laid out, but they are all over the place. You can’t blame the designer because there are so many features that add up to the luxury of the Lexus. However, I was surprised to find out that the voice command still works only for the telephone; it is high time Lexus applied it for the navigation and radio!
Family Drive / Executive Ride
Driving on Emirates Road, against moderate wind speeds, the LS cabin had a pasteurised silence. Even if you chose to drown yourself in its 19-speaker Mark Levinson Reference Surround experience, you wouldn’t invite a fine as you could for sound pollution these days. On a normal drive, the eight cylindered Lexus LS sounded more like a V6, but that’s part of the refinement that cares for sleeping babies and company executives – many of the latter are as whimsical as babies anyway!
The splendid leather or semi-aniline seating in the Lexus LS can set the benchmark for the segment but whether it’s the five-seat version or the 4-seat one, the central rear seat is practically just a separator. As for the boot space in the Lexus LS – regular readers will remember that I offer the mother-of-all-prams challenge to all the boot spaces I encounter. Well this one simply is the mother of all boots!
There is more in the Lexus LS 460 L…
12 cm longer than F-Sport, the long wheel base version of the Lexus LS comes in the 5-seat Titanium and 4-seat Platinum versions. The dramatic rollover of the front passenger seat in the LS 460 L, in order to make way for first-class siesta comfort in the rear, is perhaps the most adroit manouever performed within a luxury cabin to please a fastidious passenger. Add to this the facility to control the entire cabin dynamics from the rear central armrest – including the new Blu-Ray® player, the sun screens and the air conditioning – and you’ll understand why I name the Lexus LS 460 L the leader in executive luxury.
The Essential Lexus LS 460
The Lexus LS is about no-bother driving and no-holds-barred pampering. Even its parking brake is engaged and released by itself, as the gear shifts into and out of P! It is perhaps the only model in the full size luxury segment that rides with just one engine – the 4.6 L V8 – besides the 5.0 L hybrid variant and yet manages to create the ideal cocktail of power, comfort and executive butlery. Among the variants, Lexus LS L defines luxury as ‘customization for comfort’ while the F-Sport appeals to the more individualistic of drivers with its aggressiveness in styling and handling.
Drive Courtesy: Al Futtaim Motors
Pictures: Altas Ali/Sudeep Koshy/Supplied