Lexus’ Modern Luxury Flagship Is Finally Here

I’ve become more and more of a fan of Lexus over the years. It’s not because I’ve gotten older and more mature, either, it’s because they’ve improved their approach to building cars. High performance and driving dynamics used to mean nothing to Lexus, it was all about having a silky ride with unparalleled build quality and reliability. What I really love about Lexus’ coming of age in the last decade, or so, is how their gains in dynamic performance have not come at the expense of their foundational values. Sure, the F models may compromise a silky smooth ride in the name of handling prowess, but they’ll still run over 200,000 miles without breaking down. Lexus is still Lexus, just a better version of themselves.

You have to remember that Lexus was only founded in 1989, four years after Mercedes-Benz had celebrated it’s first century of building cars. In the luxury realm, they are still a very young marquee.

In the past, a Lexus was a simpler alternative to the many German luxury options. It was always a nice car, very well built, and could be counted on for many, many years. They always lacked most of the fancy new features found in the German cars, though, you know, the sort of cool stuff you want when you spend a lot of money. Well, here in 2017, I finally feel like Lexus isn’t lagging behind their German competition. This is the new Lexus LS 500, and the Germans should be pretty nervous.

I’m not going to go into every little press release detail (you can check that out here). This is about my takeaway on the Lexus brand now that their new flagship has broken cover. The LC Coupe was incredible when it bowed last year, and the new LS shows that Lexus is really committed to their new brand direction.

For me, the biggest sign of improvement is the fact that the LS 500 has a twin turbo V6 instead of a big archaic atmospheric V8. Big, powerful modern luxury cars aren’t even that inefficient anymore, and it’s all thanks to turbochargers. Lexus was late to the game, but it’s great they’re finally here. One less drawback, but of course I do hope Lexus has made a turbocharged engine that will easily go over 200,000 miles without any major issues. That’s always been a challenge, but if anyone is going to succeed at it, it’ll be Lexus.

Features wise, the new LS mostly matches the crowd, with massaging seats, more infotainment than you’d ever ask for, and a plush styled interior. It’s great, and it’s more than enough. Lexus is also touting a new safety system that can stop for, or steer around, dumb pedestrians that jump out in front of you. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t, but I have a feeling the blokes on the Grand Tour may have a fun time finding out.

Looks wise, I’m absolutely floored. Lexus’ used to be boring as all hell, but this new LS is quite stunning. I love it’s sleek shape, and I love the detail work in the grill and the contours. People want style in the luxury market, and I think the LS will finally fulfill that desire.

I have to be honest, if I were looking for a modern luxury cruiser, it would really be hard to choose an S-Class, a 7-Series, or an A8 over this new LS 500. It now does everything the Germans will do, but with Lexus’ reputation for quality behind it. You just don’t see any German luxury cars going 200,000 miles without lots of expensive problems. Meanwhile, Lexus has always built their cars to last 25 years, and nearly all of their cars, when well maintained, have proven capable of big mileage, trouble-free.

In psychology 101, one of the first things you learn is that past behavior is the most reliable indicator of future behavior. The Japanese may lag behind on some things, sometimes to a frustrating degree, but they don’t often overcomplicate things like the Germans do. The new LS takes a step into new territory for Lexus, but I trust it to be a well-thought-out step.

PS: Look out for an upgraded version of the LS 500’s twin turbo 3.5L V6  in the next generation RC F and/or IS F, hopefully with 500hp. I did love the 5.0L V8 in the RC F, but in 2017, it’s turbo time!

-Nick Walker



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