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 Leisure

The all-new 5th generation Lexus LS 500

17th March, 2018

By ASWAN YAP

When it comes to luxury brands, their true worth is not measured just by their mass-market offerings but rather by their halo models. And not necessarily the halo performance models (cars like the BMW M3 or Mercedes-AMG C 63 S) but by their halo luxury models – the ones with prestige and would usually see the owner sitting in the back seat.

But even among these halo models, there has been a dark horse which is quietly regarded as the best in the game over the past 30 years – even if it isn’t immediately apparent to outsiders. It’s the Lexus LS model range and this year sees it going into the fifth generation since being launched to the world in 1989. For the Malaysian market, Lexus Malaysia will offer three different variants: LS500 Luxury, LS500 Executive, and the LS500h Executive.

What made the Lexus LS such a competitive product? The LS was the model that launched the Lexus brand and with its first market being the United States, it was important that the product appeal to local tastes and expectations. It wasn’t going to be just an approximation of what American consumers wanted; it was very much designed and built based on real world testing and feedback in America.

From there, the Lexus model range widened to include a myriad of models and slowly expanded across the world. Throughout the time, the focus has been the same – to combine cutting edge technology with the highest levels of Japanese craftsmanship.

This new generation model has been built from a ‘clean sheet’ rather than being an evolution of the previous model. It has an all-new platform and engine which, though not a V8 anymore and smaller in size, meets social and environmental demands without compromising performance.

Some may feel that the LS is undergoing a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to exterior design, but that’s not really the case. It’s true that the new LS has a much sportier exterior that is the direct opposite of minimalism and understatement but one could argue that the entire segment has gone in that direction.

The interior, on first impressions, is a mishmash of components and details but after a while, you begin to see the cohesion. Lexus products in the last decade of so have overtaken their contemporary rivals in every aspect of interior design and this new LS is no different.

As for the powertrains, the LS may have a ‘500’ in its designation but these days, the number no longer relates to the engine size so it’s not a 5-litre unit. The new one is a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 pushing out 415 bhp and 600 Nm of torque. The LS500h hybrid has similar engine but instead of turbochargers, it has an electric motor with a total system output of 354 bhp. This means that the LS models are the most powerful in class, which is a peculiar twist of fate but still something worth noting.

The LS has traditionally been a comfortable car, even in its Sport variants, so improving on this is not easy. The new platform offers better comfort without the sacrifice of handling. Air suspension helps and provides the ability to raise and lower the body for easier entry and exit.

Beyond that, there are plenty of items and features within the car that make it a proper luxury vehicle. Besides the rather obvious seat materials and high-end material usage for touch surfaces, it’s the small details such as the motorized rear side window blinds, or the large degree of control the rear passenger has over the front passenger seat. In true Lexus fashions, these features are not shouted about but rather small conveniences that add up to a much better ownership experience.

The thing which Lexus prides itself in is the craftsmanship put into every detail, plus the ambience that reflects Japanese hospitality. The subtle lighting is inspired by Japanese lanterns and the wood finish is like a work of art.

In terms of options, the most attention-getting would be the Kiriko-cut glass package. Not only does it add a sizeable moulded glass piece to the door trim, it also includes hand-folded pleats. Just this option alone costs almost RM100,000 and each month, only 60 customers worldwide can get it.

As for pricing, the LS500 starts from RM799,000 (Peninsular Malaysia price) and goes up to almost RM1.5 million for the top-of-the-line hybrid variant. At one time, perhaps, such a price for a Japanese car may have drawn shock but Lexus is credibly right up there with the premium luxury brands and its Japanese origins would matter less to buyers who want something different.

   
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