Tradition is something we know the Japanese for.
The way they proudly preserve their culture and history, the way their make products like technology or even old world techniques for carpentry, even the way they painstakingly prepare their food, all these and more point to a country deeply rooted in a tradition of excellence. Their work ethic shows a rigorous adherence to tradition where perfection is pursued above all every single day, and this is something that Lexus takes to heart.
But now they're showing a different side of their brand. From 'pursuit to perfection', Lexus now comes with a new promise for you to 'experience amazing', a new mantra to represent its new definition of luxury.
We try to experience what sort of amazing the fifth-generation LS flagship sedan can deliver. Expectations are great, especially since Lexus LS chief engineer Toshio Asahi said: “Not only will the LS symbolize the Lexus brand, it will become the definitive new-generation luxury car embodying Japanese tradition and culture. As such, this global pinnacle must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car.”
Lexus pulled off quite a surprise when it officially lifted the covers off the 2018 LS, a saloon with a styling statement that's rather off the charts for its target market. The XF50 (the code for this generation of LS) takes an extreme departure from its usual conservative and stately character. It gets a sharper pair of headlights that helps you, well, cut through the darkness. In the middle of it all is a bolder iteration of Lexus' rather 'debated' spindle grill. The flowing line continues through the side that feature flush-surface windows, which tuck in neatly with the pillars. The rear meanwhile greets you with a pair of rather unsually shaped tail lamps that won't fail to remind that this is a Lexus.
Lexus has also decided to stick to one length, effectively dropped the SWB and LWB versions. Based on the TNGA GA-L platform, it now measures 5,235mm long, with a 3,125mm wheelbase. It is also wider at 1,900mm, but sits lower compared to the previous model at 1,450mm to complement its dynamic lines.
The interior takes all that is good from the sharp and modern design and blends it with premium materials such as dark wood, fine grain black leather with contrast stitching, a 24-speaker Mark Levinson reference audio, an analog clock, and aluminum trim. The digitized instrumentation and '90s sportscar inspired controls are similar to that of the LC500 sports coupe. The front seats get more bolstered to keep you from sliding around in case you feel like switching the car to 'Sport +' mode to have a little fun. Seat coolers and heaters are likewise standard.
Open the rear doors and occupants are welcomed by plush leather seats with a new digital armrest control panel where a plethora of adjustments can be made, all to make land sailing through town even more comfortable. The major change is that this new model forgoes the massager function for rear occupants in 5-seater variants; the in-seat massagers have been relocated to the front seats. It does retain the drink chiller where you can enjoy your sparkling water cold. Privacy window shades for both rear windows and the rear windshield are still standard. It does come with a new infrared body temperature sensors on the seats that Lexus says helps maintain precise climate control for each passenger. There's also a hands-free trunk lid operation which you can swipe your foot to open or close it.
Under the hood is a new twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine which Lexus says was derived from their F1 technology offering V8 performance with less fuel consumption. Rated at 420 PS and 600 Nm, the engine is significantly more potent than the 4.6-liter V8 powering its predecessor. It is mated to a 10-speed automatic with 'AI-shift' control which combines data from the on-board G-sensor to optimize downshifts under braking to improve driving feel.
The very dynamic exterior of the new-generation encourages you to be livelier behind the wheel. With a lot of performance on tap with the lighter twin-turbo V6 powerplant, you get a lot of power on demand. While generally quiet, the 'sound generator' gives you that fast car feel when you step on the throttle while on Sport or Sport+ modes. On cruising speeds and more comfortable modes, the engine quiets to a purr while sailing through the highway. The 10-speed automatic is very smart and you end up just leaving it to 'Drive' rather than paddling your way through gears in manual mode.
The suspension consists of high-mount multi-links up front and a 5-link setup at the rear with adaptive dampers to deliver an optimal combination of performance and comfort. However, engineers may have tuned the car more on the performance side compared to its more genteel predecessor.
It handles well through winding roads and powers very well out of sweeping corners, if you're thirsty for a little excitement. Handling is quite respectable and much improved over the XF40, as previously mentioned. Although ride is a bit firmer, likely due to the run-flat tires fitted. Like its predecessor, the brakes are very responsive, providing the ride amount of stopping power for its heft.
While the LS was an exceptional drive, we must remember that most if not all of its top executive buying demographic won't have time to drive themselves. Setting yourself in the backseat is quite an experience itself, from the feel of the seat material to the door trims and the perfectly tuned Mark Levinson audio system. The adaptive variable suspension impeccably absorbed bumps and road imperfections quite well. Sound insulation seemed pretty good as noise from the outside and the road are very-well controlled. The adjustable seats give you that extra level of 'float' as you cruise from boardroom to boardroom.
The Lexus LS500 delivers more than expected and demanded of it: a luxury car for the discerning few who may have everything money can buy. It commands prestige and respect without really asking for it. The 5-seat version with the PhP 8,908,000 price tag definitely hits the sweet spot for those who want to cruise through traffic in style, but something tells me that the more luxurious 4-seat version could sway the still-traditional clientele towards this not-so-traditional LS500.