Far from the world of stretched luxury sedans, minivans are among the least glamorous vehicles on global roadways. Fair or not, the minivan is often dismissed as a frumpy, unattractive grocery-getter driven begrudgingly by those who have given up automotive passion for no-frills practicality. With Lexus jumping in the game, though, the minivan is getting a new lease on life and might even become something of an object of desire. Will the new Lexus LM help raise the minivan image from "soccer dad" to "jet-setting international power broker?" Probably not, but it does bring some fresh style and luxury to the MPV segment.
Looking the LM over, it appears quite closely based on the Toyota Alphard, dressed up with a Lexus-emblemed spindle grille and all the luxury upfitting that goes along with it. And what of that grill? The spindle grille is a polarizing design element in general, but this absolutely massive version all but swallowing the entire front-end is certain to attract some detractors. But the Alphard itself has a huge grille, so we suppose there was no stopping Lexus designers from going hog wild with the spindle.
Behind the grille, the strong, level roofline and wraparound rear glasshouse provide a convincing foundation for a luxury minivan, and Lexus drives the look home with bumper-to-bumper chrome accenting atop rich, deep-black paint. Those that prefer something brighter can opt for the other paint option, White Pearl Crystal Shine. Outside of the hard-to-love grille, Lexus does a nice job of keeping things understated and elegant, giving the LM the look of an aftermarket business van conversion that comes straight from the factory.
The drama really intensifies once the door slides open. Buyers can opt for the everyday seven-seat family-hauler, but why would they when they can go full-on private business cabin? The four-seat configuration follows Asian preferences for chauffeured luxury vehicles with VIP-style rear seating. The two rear recliners are split off from the driver's area by a divider wall with integrated 26-in display accompanied by Mark Levinson audio. A retractable window makes for easy communication between rear and front.
Rear passengers can kick back in their first-class cocoon and enjoy multimedia content during the ride, controlling everything from seating position to climate with the centralized touch panel. Lexus promises the utmost in comfort thanks to the suction-ventilated rear seating that cushions like a TV room recliner with its low-density urethane foam padding. The cabin also includes a champagne refrigerator and dedicated umbrella holder.
Helping to isolate those very important rear passengers from the road outside is a suspension system relying on the swing-valve shock absorbers introduced on the ES sedan. As Lexus explained last year, the system's ultra low velocity valve is able to react to the slightest jostling of the vehicle's wheels and suspension, ensuring a velvety smooth ride.
The seven-seat configuration drops the status down from exclusive lounge to family restaurant, but it's still a fancy restaurant you'll want to reserve a table at ahead of time. The layout includes a center row with two captain's chairs and a three-seat rear bench, all seats wrapped in leather. Lexus imagines this configuration being popular with business professionals who also want to use the van for family trips.
Lexus will offer its luxury MPV 3.5-liter petrol LM 350 and 2.5-liter hybrid LM 250h variants. All-wheel and front-wheel drive options will be available. Unfortunately for Americans and others outside Asia daydreaming about becoming the envy of travel club soccer practice, the LM has been designed strictly for China and select Asian markets. It makes its debut at the 2019 Shanghai auto show.
Get acquainted with the LM in the short video below.
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