Bold new Lexus flagship noses into Detroit
Remember the Lexus LS? Don't be ashamed if you can't – it made its debut a decade ago, making it a veritable dinosaur compared to the newer, more technologically advanced BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class. At the 2017 Detroit Auto Show though, Lexus has finally released its new flagship and, as you can probably see, it's anything but forgettable.
The new LS500 is a new car from the ground up, running on a longer version of the architecture debuted on the equally eye-catching LC500 Coupe. In spite of a 1.3-inch longer wheelbase, the new platform is more than 200 lb (91 kg) lighter than the one it replaces, thanks to plenty of aluminum and ultra high-tensile sheet steel. Lexus also says the new underpinnings place more of the car's mass down low. Combined with a lighter engine sitting over the front axle, that should make for a limousine willing to indulge keen drivers (or chauffeurs).
Speaking of the engine, Lexus has poured considerable time and effort into making its new twin-turbo V6 powerful, efficient and smooth enough to make drivers forget the old model had a good old-fashioned bent-eight. It makes 415 hp (309 kW) of power and 599 Nm of torque, enough to top 60 mph (98 km/h) in 4.5 seconds in rear-wheel drive models.
It's hooked up to the same ten-speed automatic gearbox found in the LC500, which runs with tightly stacked low gears for quick acceleration, and ultra-tall top gears for serene, efficient highway cruising. At least, that's the way it works in theory – whether it can match the best dual-clutch 'boxes at speed remains to be seen.
Okay, we can ignore it no more: it's time to talk about the exterior. Seemingly desperate to distance itself from the same-same Germans, Lexus has adopted a styling language best described as bold. Although it's not conventionally handsome like a 7 Series or S-Class, the LS500 certainly has more presence than both combined, thanks to its enormous grille and edgy two-piece headlights. Not everyone is going to like it – we're still not sure how to feel, and that's after a proper poke around in Detroit – but if being seen is the goal, the Lexus fits the bill perfectly.
Move past the polarising exterior, and you'll find one of the nicest interiors this side of a Maybach. The optional front seats can be adjusted in 28 different ways, and that's before you start playing around with heating, cooling and massage functions. What's more, rear seat passengers are treated to thrones that recline to 48 degrees. When it comes time to exit the car, they can be raised up to 24 degrees for an easier, more dignified exit – a touch likely to be appreciated by pampered kids on the school run and pampered starlets on the red carpet.
On the tech front, the driver is treated to a full-color head-up display measuring in at a whopping 24 inches, and infotainment is handled by the console-mounted 12.3-inch display. Unfortunately, it's still controlled by the same fiddly mouse-style pointer as the rest of the Lexus range.
There's no word on pricing yet, but we now know pricing for the LC500 will kick off at US$92,000. Given the extra seats, doors and luxury on offer in the LS500, you can expect a healthy sticker increase on that figure when the car goes on sale.
Stay tuned for all the action from the floor of the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, where New Atlas is on the ground.