Lexus has just pulled the wraps off its new-look LS flagship. Which begs the question: What took you so long?
Back-track to September 1989. That’s when Lexus turned the luxury car world upside down when it debuted the very first LS. It came with a level of quality, comfort and refinement that scared the heck out of the luxury car establishment.
Since then? Well, not too much. Lexus essentially let the LS rest on its laurels and watched nonchalantly as everyone else stole chunks of its market - Audi, Cadillac, Infiniti, even Hyundai.
And while the LS did go through a trio of refreshes since ’89, each one seemingly created a car that was even softer, cushier and more like your grand-pappy’s old Buick Park Avenue. Styling? The term ‘tofu-bland’ comes to mind.
But this latest 2013 version is a welcome step in the right direction. It’s finally got a bit of street presence with its new, bold corporate Lexus front end - which I’m still trying to find the words to describe. Pinched, maybe? Squeezed? Spindle-like?
Pity however that the frontal drama wasn’t continued rearwards. From the windshield back, it’s all familiar soft, marshmallowy curves and traditional, three-box formal sedan lines. It’s as if Lexus designers took one look at the current craze for four-door coupe styling - witness the new Jag XJ, BMW 6-series Gran Coupe, Porsche Panamera and gorgeous Audi A7 - and dismissed it as much too brave.
Lexus will no doubt argue that the enthusiasts of the world will flock to the racy new F Sport version of the LS. It gets aggressive new front and rear bumpers, a lower ride height and standard 19-inch alloys, along with some fancy sportscar technology, like Brembo brakes, adjustable suspension and a throaty exhaust. If they sell a hundred a year, I’ll be amazed.
Ignore the addition of the F Sport and not much else technically has changed. The LS sticks with the previous - yet still pretty awesome - 4.6-liter V-8 and its eight-speed automatic. Even the chassis is carried over.
Thankfully they have upgraded the interior. In recent years, it was starting to look a little plasticky - it had become no match for the new Hyundai Equus. But for 2013, the quality is back with a vengeance; the new optional Shimamoku Espresso wood involves the painstaking layering of angle-cut dark and light shaded veneers in a manufacturing process that takes a staggering 38 days.
There’s lots of cool new technology that would take a week to explain. I like the LS’ new simple things in life - like the new Ottoman rear seating package with built-in Shiatsu massagers. Ooooh, a little to the left please.
As before, the new LS line-up will comprise LS 460 in both standard and long-wheelbase plus rear and all-wheel drive, long-wheelbase hybrid LS 600h L, and the LS 460 F Sport. Expect to see them in a showroom near you come October with pricing largely unchanged.
But if we were writing a school report card we’d have to say: Next time, needs to try harder.