Lexus Enthusiast editor Kevin Watts attended the 2017 North American International Auto Show, spending two full days inspecting the new fifth-generational LS 500 sedan. Here are his personal impressions.
The year is 2007. I have owned a first generation LS 400 for six months now, and my obsession with Lexus has hit a very serious, life-altering speed. The newest LS has just debuted at the Detroit Auto Show — it is sleek and bold and powered by a massive 4.6L V8 engine putting out 380 horsepower. It instantly becomes my favorite car, my single point of aspiration.
Without exaggeration, the LS is the reason this website exists in the first place. Flash forward to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, and I’ve been waiting ten years to attend the launch of a new LS. My expectations are sky high.
And. Just. Wow.
So much of Lexus vehicle design is built on contrasts, it’s the YET philosophy of bringing together opposing ideas and finding harmony. It’s this tension that defines the new LS — there’s a deep complexity hidden in every simple line.
Case in point: LS Chief Designer Kouichi Suga explained to me that one of his designers spent six months developing the variable pattern of the front grille. Eight hours a day, for six months.
My time inside the LS was limited, but in this color scheme and this trim, with all the flat slab surfaces and curving details, it’s like sitting inside a yacht.
A commonality of all recent Lexus vehicles is dividing the interior into distinct zones, and the LS matches the LC in its dramatic interpretation — the driver’s seat is a full cockpit, tight and focused, with every other seat in the cabin bright and airy.
With the same underpinnings as the LC coupe, there’s no doubt that this will be the best driving LS ever — it’s easy to extrapolate my experience with the LC in Spain and imagine a performance envelope suitable to a flagship sedan.
Despite some initial confusion with the 500 badging, I have very little concern about this new twin-turbo V6 over a traditional V8. The 442 lb.ft of torque provided by the turbos is far more important, and honestly, the 5.0L V8 engine and its vocal personality would be ill-suited to the experience Lexus is trying to create with the LS.
Stature does not translate very well over the Internet, and presence is a thing best experienced in person. Looking over my photos and video of the new LS, there’s no real way to illustrate my excitement, my relief, my optimism.
In the past, I’ve characterized the vehicles of the spindle grille design era as “confident”, with the idea that Lexus has embraced a bold direction with abandon. That’s not the case with the LS, or with the LC — there’s a maturity to these designs, an authority.
We are past the transformation stage, the LS & LC exist at a higher level compared to the rest of the lineup. The future is no longer bright, it’s simply here.