LEXUS LS 500-A FLAGSHIP REBORN
It is possible that no single automobile has, upon introduction, upended its category as decisively as the first Lexus LS did when it launched the luxury brand 28 years ago. The 1990 LS 400 was the original luxury disruptor, winning critical acclaim and astonishing customers by setting new benchmarks for comfort, powertrain performance and smoothness, quietness, build quality, attention to detail, and dependability. The brand supported that groundbreaking vehicle by setting and maintaining new standards for customer service and satisfaction.
Now, Lexus is about to repeat history with the introduction of the all-new, fifth-generation LS flagship sedan for 2018, unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. Inside and out, the new LS reflects a strong, uniquely Japanese identity and approach to luxury. Yet, the LS was designed to be the brand’s latest global citizen, available in about 90 countries.
“Not only will the LS symbolize the Lexus brand, it will become the definitive new-generation luxury car embodying Japanese tradition and culture,” said Toshio Asahi, chief engineer for the new LS. “As such, this global pinnacle must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car.”
Longer, Lower, Wider – and More Exciting
Longer and lower than the sedan it replaces, the all-new LS debuts a strikingly bold design with a coupe-like silhouette punctuated by the new Lexus design language. A new driver-centric performance feel comes from building the LS on the company’s all-new global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA-L). This premium rear-wheel drive platform, an extended version of the one used for the stunning new Lexus LC 500 coupe, will offer a more dynamic experience on the road while further elevating renowned Lexus comfort.
The original Lexus LS won acclaim by anticipating what luxury customers would want, rather than simply amplifying what established luxury automobile brands offered at the time. In that spirit, the 2018 LS sedan’s spacious cabin, unique appointments and visionary technology will once again surprise customers by resetting expectations for a global flagship sedan.
“We set previously unheard of targets and resolutely pushed ahead towards these ambitious goals,” said LS chief engineer Asahi. “The customers that are going to want to own a Lexus flagship are already surrounded by luxury on a daily basis, people who have a sharp eye for authenticity to begin with. We wouldn’t turn their heads with a conventional premium product.”
A Flagship Reborn
Just as the original LS launched the Lexus brand, the all-new 2018 LS continues the brand’s more dynamic direction. Each generation of LS sedans leading up to this iteration advanced luxury, craftsmanship, performance and safety in their own way, with the most recent also introducing a far more emotional design and engaging on-road performance.
To create the all-new LS, Lexus took the approach of starting from new, reimagining what a flagship sedan should be, as if launching the brand all over again. The goal was not to improve on what Lexus has done, but to exceed expectations of global luxury customers.
A common thread going through all LS models remains: Omotenashi, the concept of Japanese hospitality. Applied to a luxury automobile, it means taking care of the driver and passengers, anticipating their needs, attending to their comfort and helping to protect them from hazards.
More than ever before, luxury sedan drivers demand greater handling agility and performance feel without sacrificing comfort. It’s one of the most difficult balances to achieve in a vehicle, yet the new Lexus global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA-L) meets the challenge. The new platform debuted in the LC 500 coupe and now, with a longer wheelbase, underpins the new LS. To enhance center of gravity height and weight distribution, the new LS is offered only as a long wheel base model, with a wide and low design.
The GA-L platform is the stiffest in Lexus history, setting the stage for enhanced handling, ride smoothness and cabin quietness. The 3,125 mm wheelbase is 35 mm longer than the current LS long-wheelbase model.
Helping to provide the uncanny ride and handling balance in the new LS is the latest generation of a chassis control technology known as Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). This system implements cooperative control of all vehicle subsystems – braking, steering, powertrain, and suspension – to control basic longitudinal, lateral and vertical motion as well as yaw, roll and pitch. Optimal control of these motions helps to enable exceptional ride comfort, enhanced traction and safety and handling agility. Handling is further enhanced by active stabilizer bars and the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) System with independent front and rear steering. VDIM is capable of aiding stability when the car is traversing split-friction surfaces, such as dry pavement and ice.
In creating the new LS, engineers used lightweight materials including ultra-high tensile steel sheet and aluminum to carve over 200 pounds from the current LS platform and body. These savings, along with the implementation of the new V6 engine and enhanced body rigidity, allow for a more dynamic driving experience.
Critical to its driving performance, the new platform lowers the car’s center of gravity by placing most of the mass, including the engine and the occupants, in a position more centralized and lower in the chassis to help enhance the center of gravity. Special braces in the engine compartment, stiff aluminum front and rear suspension towers, and other features help bolster the strength of key chassis structures.
The LS has a history of outstanding suspension compliance, yet Lexus saw opportunity for new gains in this realm as well. For example, the multilink suspension employs double ball joints on the upper and lower control arms to help allow for control of the smallest movements from the driver inputs and road conditions. Beyond sharing workload, a dual ball joint arrangement helps optimize suspension geometry to increase wheel control and yield more precise steering response with better initial effort. To reduce unsprung weight and therefore aid agility and comfort, aluminum is used extensively in the suspension.