This new LS500 is the ultimate Lexus, once you accept the mesmeric LFA supercar was a once-in-a-blue-moon wildcard from Japan’s premier luxury carmaker.
Lexus’ comfort zone has always been right about here – big, imposing, unsporty waftmobiles loaded with tech that offer a left-field alternative to the thrusting, businesslike pluto-barges of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
What the LS has never been, until now, is a good-looking car. It’s always erred on the cautious side of plain, less offensive in design than a white bath towel. But Lexus has been shunning the design-by-vanilla shtick in the last few years, proudly brandishing intricate widemouth grilles, LED headlights slimmer than a samurai sword slash, and body surfacing that looks like it was caught in the crossfire of an Avengers punch-up. And as you can see, not even the most luxurious Lexus has escaped.
We think it looks superb. Imposing, classically proportioned and yet thoughtfully detailed. You might loathe it. But you’ve got an option on the design of a big Lexus, for the first time ever, probably. Job done, then.
Inside, it’s a similar story. There’s LFA inspiration in the mode-switching ‘horns’ that protrude from the digitized instrument binnacle, while the vast sweep of leather-cloaked dashboard encloses a cinema-spec 12.3-inch infotainment screen, finely straked styling lines that flow into the air vents, and mostly exquisite materials. The creased leather on the doors, and the metal speaker pods, are worthy of hanging in an art gallery.
Unfortunately, the contrived mousepad-operated infotainment belongs in a rogue’s gallery, and while that’s not a concern if you’re going to be spending time lounging in the back, a barge this large should have more headroom than this. If you fit – and those six foot and below will do – then you’ll enjoy supremely comfortable seats, stunning in-car audio, and uncannily hushed refinement.
There’s only one powertrain option for the new Lexus LS in South Africa, called LS500: a twin-turbo 3.5-litre petrol V6, good for 310kW and 600Nm. Plenty. Especially considering it has a ten-speed automatic transmission.
Capable of 0-100kph in 5 seconds dead, a 250kph governed top speed and 9.5l/100km average cruising consumption, the LS500 has an awful lot of numbers which make sense. Ride quality is superb, even on the run-flat 20-inch tyres, thanks to air-suspension and agility is decent too, with adjustable dampers countering bodyroll.
At R2 141 400 it’s a significant investment for a Japanese brand, but Lexus customer care and reliability are virtually unrivalled in the South African marketplace. If you wish to sensible and not buy that luxury SUV, this is a very safe place to stash your R2m automotive investment allowance.