2018 Lexus LS 500 Benchmarked the Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Lexus designers and engineers targeted European flagship sedans when developing their brand new LS sedan, the same thing they did three decades ago.
When the original LS 400 went on sale for model-year 1990, it upended the luxury market. Not only did it launch the Japanese marque, but it also set new standards for refinement, vehicle quality, and customer care.
Fast forward to the 21st century and Toyota’s top-tier brand is once again looking to redefine this rarified segment with its latest large sedan.
Cribbing from their own playbook, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class was again a top benchmark. Vince Salisbury, training manager at Lexus College admitted, “It’s beautiful. They just did a great job,” when talking about rival products, kind words like these are not often heard from product spokespeople. He also noted that Audi’s A8 and the BMW 7 Series were prime targets. Clearly, team Lexus has respect for a job well done, even if it’s not their own. Other automakers should be so humble.
Broadening its appeal, the S-Class is offered in coupe and convertible variants, but it’s unclear whether the LS will come in different flavors, though to date, it hasn’t. Chad Deschenes, also of Lexus College said, “At this point in time, we don’t have anything we can discuss.” He did note that the car’s advanced architecture, called GA-L in Lexus parlance, could support such models.
It’s one thing to make a carbon copy of existing products, quite another to do something that stands out from the crowd. Still, this is exactly what the folks at Lexus feel they’ve done.
Setting the LS 500 apart from competitors is something special. Deschenes said “attention to detail and craftsmanship” are key elements to this car. Truth be told, these traits are minimum requirements in the segment; what the LS offers that’s different is unique pedigree.
Omotenashi is the concept of Japanese hospitality, something that served as a cornerstone during development of the 2018 LS. It means taking care of passengers, keeping them comfortable, anticipating their needs and protecting them should something unexpected happen. “These aren’t just machines,” said Deschenes. “[We’re] bringing the human element to it as well,” something that’s arguably lacking in other flagship sedans.
Of course, the LS 500 must provide an opulent on-road experience but it can’t handle like an overloaded tractor-trailer just because it’s luxurious. Deschenes said that Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation and a true automotive enthusiast, played a major role in making sure this machine behaves properly while in motion. “[It] has to meet his standard of what a driver’s car should be.”
With a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 and 10-speed automatic transmission, the LS should have no issue accelerating. Rear-wheel-drive models ought to hit 60 miles an hour in as little as 4.5 seconds, thanks to the engine’s 415 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque.
In typical Lexus fashion, a hybrid model is also in the works. It’s scheduled to debut at the Geneva Motor Show next month, though no powertrain or efficiency details have yet been shared.
The same is true of any performance variants. Unlike some pricey and slow-selling cabriolet, a more athletic F Sport version of the LS could be a possibility. Salisbury said, “That actually has some volume.” Lexus’ F Sport models benefit from more aggressive styling, unique wheels, stiffer suspension tuning and other tweaks to make them look and perform better than the standard models on which they’re based.
The 2018 Lexus LS 500 is slated to go on sale near the end of this year. According to Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice-president and general manager, they plan on selling around 1,000 of these cars per month. As we get closer to its market arrival, Salisbury said, “Stay tuned; anything’s possible,” hinting that the company may have more news to announce in the coming months.
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Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
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