The Lexus LS sedan, the declarative answer to the question of “can the Japanese really compete in the luxury market” is getting a big update for 2018, and it just bowed at this year’s North American International Auto Show.
The new company leader is longer and lower than the outgoing model and rides on an extended 2018 version of the premium rear-wheel drive platform, known as GA-L, used for the new Lexus LC 500 coupe. Lexus correctly feels that luxury sedan drivers demand greater handling agility and a performance feel without sacrificing comfort.
The engineering difficulty is that the LS is a big guy, especially by Japanese standards. The LS rides on a 123-inch wheelbase, 1.3-inches longer than the current LS long-wheelbase model.
Dynamic Control & Suspension Tech
Lexus gets its big ride to behave thanks to the latest generation of chassis control technology known as Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management. VDIM controls all vehicle subsystems – braking, steering, powertrain, and suspension – to regulate basic longitudinal, lateral, and vertical motion as well as yaw, roll, and pitch. The system is boosted further by active stabilizer bars and the Lexus Dynamic Handling System with independent front and rear steering.
Lexus also went with lightweight materials including ultra-high tensile strength steel and aluminum to shed over 200 pounds versus the last LS. To reduce unsprung weight, aluminum is used extensively in the suspension. The engine compartment uses special braces and ridged aluminum suspension towers, front and rear. All of this lowers the car’s center of gravity and centralizes the mass lower in the chassis.
Styling & Design
Style-wise, Lexus went for a design that offers the room, comfort, and prestige of a “three-box” sedan, but with the silhouette of a four-door coupe. In other words, they try to have it both ways, and we’ll let you decide if it works or not. The “four-door coupe” thing really appeals for younger luxury customers, it seems.
The buyer can select from five different wheel choices, two 19- and three 20-inch wheel designs.
Power & Performance
Propelling all this down the highway is an all-new 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin turbos. The new LS plant fabricates 415 horsepower and 442 lb-ft. of torque, which is more than the current LS model’s V8. This motivates the LS to a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds.
Lexus’ first-ever 10-speed automatic transmission is fixed to the mill and “shifting” is done via paddles. Although in fully-auto mode, the slush-box system chooses the ideal ratio by monitoring the acceleration, braking, and lateral-g forces and does the work for you. The torque converter locks up in all ranges except from a dead stop to provide a more engaging driving experience.
As one would expect, the interior is drowning in techno goodies and luxo features. 28-way power front seats with heating, cooling, and massage. Optional heating, cooling, massage, and a raised ottoman for the rear seat plebes. Shimamoku wood patterned trim decorates the cabin while Active Noise Control quiets it. An available 3D surround Mark Levinson audio package with in-ceiling array speakers blends nicely with the 12.3-inch wide navigation display.
There is also an optional 24-inch color heads-up display, the largest in any car today. Shoot there’s probably a ninja in the trunk too, at this rate.
Expect the 2018 Lexus LS at dealerships in the United States near the end of the year.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.