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Will The Next Generation Lexus LS Remain a Sedan?

For many Lexus enthusiasts, the notion of a Lexus LS – the flagship of the brand since its debut in 1989 – being anything other than a full size sedan is laughable. But in the face of a massive consumer shift to crossovers, could the sixth generation LS do the unthinkable?

The explosion of new luxury crossovers marks a consumer shift to utility vehicles, and many sedans have become victims of that trend, including Lexus’ own GS. Last year, light trucks and crossovers accounted for a whopping 76% of all vehicles sold in the United States. It’s become increasingly difficult to make the case for production cars, even at the high-end level of the Lexus LS.

The LS also sees competitive pressure from within its own lineup. With the seventh-generation ES sedan shifting to the full-size TNGA-K architecture, the vehicle now offers better or comparable rear seat legroom, headroom and comfort when compared to the big brother LS. The two cars are similar sizes and yet the ES costs half as much, though it does not match the LS’s attention to detail, build quality or option list.

And while the LX has long been the Lexus SUV flagship, its body-on-frame construction puts it in a different class compared to the new breed of flagship crossovers from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Tesla, and many others. When the LF-1 Limitless debuted at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, it appeared to fill the glaring hole in the Lexus lineup. Yet since its reveal two years, information and speculation on the LF-1 production model has been virtually non-existent — a strange turn of events given the model’s importance in the Lexus lineup.

Considering these facts, perhaps the case for a crossover LS doesn’t seem so crazy. Continuing with this theory, Lexus National Dealer Advisory Council chairman John Iacono made some interesting comments about the future of the LS in an interview with Automotive News:

Automotive News: How is Lexus working to attract younger buyers?

Iacono: RX is our bread and butter vehicle — you always want that RX to be what it is, because it pays the bills. And then everything else that we have that is getting upgraded, starting from the GX, to the LX, to the LS. Not too many people really understand where we’re going with the LS, which will be a true benchmark for the brand.

Is it really a sedan that tomorrow might be the flagship of our brand? Or will it be an ultimate SUV? I really think it’s going to be the latter of the two. Not as many people look at a sedan as being the ultimate vehicle that they look to aspire to drive.

Iacono makes it clear that something about the sixth generation LS will change. Could it be that the LS will transcend its historical position as a sedan and become a crossover? Iacono’s last point about fewer people aspiring to own sedans certainly leaves us scratching our heads in the context of an LS, as the flagship sedan has always been the crown jewel of Lexus.

Let’s revisit a few quotes from the LF-1 Limitless Concept press release. There are no qualms about this vehicle being positioned as a flagship in the Lexus lineup:

Now, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept introduces a new genre of luxury vehicle: the flagship crossover. Combining high performance with unrestrained luxury, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless is a showcase of technology, innovation and the latest evolution of design at Lexus.

“This is our vision for a new kind of flagship vehicle that embraces crossover capability without giving up the performance and luxury delivered by today’s top sedans,” said Kevin Hunter, president, CALTY Design Research. “The LF-1 Limitless concept incorporates imaginative technology while creating a strong emotional connection by improving the human experience for the driver and passengers.”

“There’s no doubt that luxury crossovers are an increasingly popular choice for luxury customers,” said Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken. “This LF-1 Limitless concept illustrates what could happen if Lexus were to add a flagship crossover to our line-up. It’s a gorgeous execution and we’re anxious to see our customers’ and dealers’ response.”

It’s plausible that a next generation LS could live alongside a production version of the LF-1 Limitless, but is it actually realistic? Putting the LS name on a vehicle like the LF-1 Limitless would leave a few current owners scratching their heads, but for the broader market, it’s hard to imagine a more successful move for Lexus. The LS has long been Lexus’ most iconic model and applying that name to a vehicle they so badly need seems like the right move at the right time. Furthermore, the space and smoothness of a crossover – especially an ultra luxury, technology-laden model like the LF-1 Limitless – seems like a great evolution of the LS nameplate.

The question then becomes: would would it be called? The most logical one that comes to mind is “Lexus LS SportCross” hearkening back to Lexus’ last attempt at evolving a sedan into an in-between form. Let us know what you think in the Lexus Enthusiast forum.

Gecko

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But why does it need to be an LS? Mercedes-Benz didn't call the new GLS 'S-Class'.

Ford really irked a lot of people with the Mustang Mach-E. It didn't need to use the Mustang name so why?

This post is a lot of speculation, so nothing is set in stone and it could all be wrong. But I think the stage is pretty well set for something about the next LS to change.

I didn't mention it in the article, but after coasting on the 4th gen LS from ~2013-2017, Lexus gave up a lot of ground to Mercedes (S Class), Tesla (Model S) and others. A number of 4LS owners finally went somewhere else, then when they came back to Lexus to look at the 5LS, the car was smaller inside with a V6, and very different from what many experienced as an LS before. I'm not sure it worked. Layer on top of that the move away from sedans, and I think the LS has been left in no-man's-land. The sales figures prove this pretty well.

Right now, the LS sells what... 300 units a month or so in the US? An "LS 500 SportCross" or "LS-X" - an LS crossover like the LF-1 - would probably be able to sell 2,500 - 3,000 units a month, if not more. Lexus probably knows that. With the ES so dominant and yet so easy to platform engineer off the Avalon, can the LS sedan really be justified on such low volume going forward? I really don't know, but it seems like the answer is "No."

And, I think it's hard to ignore these quotes directly from Iacono:

Not too many people really understand where we’re going with the LS, which will be a true benchmark for the brand.

Is it really a sedan that tomorrow might be the flagship of our brand? Or will it be an ultimate SUV? I really think it’s going to be the latter of the two. Not as many people look at a sedan as being the ultimate vehicle that they look to aspire to drive.

Was the mention of the LS just before that purely coincidence?
 

James

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Sooo instead of switching the LS to a crossover why not come out with the LF1 like they showed us years ago?? Then we still have the LS for those that want a sedan and we have the LF1 like we’ve all been waiting for? Sounds like an easy concept am I missing something...
 

ssun30

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The LS has lost every international market to their own models. American dealers want that 3-row super LX, Asian dealers want 5x production capacity for the LM, and the Oil Czars and Sheikhs have waited too long for a new BOF toy. It will be an international dealer revolt if Lexus just give them another sedan they couldn't sell. There's no place left where people buy a traditional luxury limousine that's not a S-Class. The 7-series and A8 might as well be dead too. And the 5LS lost most of its traditional buyers in Japan and other places. The 'sporty luxury sedan' gamble simply failed.

At this point the most efficient use of resources to build up the 'L' line is: focus on new LX (absolute priority) and LM, transform LS into a LF-30 style full-electric, tech-loaded semi-crossover, and make LC-F if funds allow. The 6LS is a great opportunity for them to try a more revolutionary style shown in the LF-30: a body style that incorporates the practicality of CUV and aerodynamic efficiency of coupe into a 4 door passenger car. This is a segment never touched by any manufacturer yet, and we know Lexus is known to venture into and thrive in new niches no one have even thought of.
 

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Here are a few other points, some that even negate my first post - and all of this is deeply speculative.

I) Just because the LS is "changing direction" doesn't mean it is necessarily going to be the LF-1. It would be wise for Lexus to turn the next gen LS lineup into hybrid only, or potentially even BEV only. That would be bold indeed - and it could certainly remain as a sedan if this happened.

II) Iacono's comments also come in a year when we are expecting a new LX. Could they be foreshadowing that going forward, the LX will become Lexus' priority flagship vehicle? That would make sense given the state of the market.

III) Either of the above could happen with or without the LF-1: LS could become a hybrid-only or BEV model, we still get the LF-1 and we get a new LX. Or maybe between RX, TX and RZ, the LF-1 is off the table all together.

But let's consider a few other points. Right now, the LS is selling worse than the GS when Lexus decided to kill it - by about 50%. Many global markets don't get the LX and won't because of emissions. In those places, RX would be the most prestigious Lexus CUV... so it feels like some sort of premium CUV is still needed at the top of the pecking order. It needs to be something that can support batteries, hybrids and fits within the targets for lower emissions. That's not an LX in any form.

An LS-X or LS SportCross could easily share parts and platforms with the rumored Toyota Crown and Century CUVs, creating a much better use case for a next gen RWD/FR platform. Maybe even a revised version of GA-L. Aligning those products makes a lot of sense. These models would have the same type of synergy we see on TNGA-K with the RAV4 and upcoming NX, and Highlander/RX.

Above all, it seems like the writing is on the wall for sedans. Not only are they no longer the status symbols they once were, but they also tend to sell at a discount with lower profit margins. The ES costs as much as an IS and is as big as an LS, so Lexus may very well decide that 1) it's not worth further investing in the sedan segment when the ES is already a juggernaut and 2) the only way to stay there is with a platform-engineered product like the ES. This is actually a great placement for the ES, because it opens up more options like AWD, Direct 4, an "L" model for China, more luxury features, and beyond. It's just hard to see the LS succeeding into the future as it stands now, even if they make it hybrid or BEV.

Weigh out the business opportunities. Could Lexus maintain the LS as a sedan? Yes. Is it worth it for a few hundred sales a month, even if on a shared platform with something like the LF-1? Probably not. Lexus can scoop most of the traditional LS buyers with an elevated next gen ES, and the sky is the limit for sales with an LS-branded LF-1.

When I think about all of those things, I end up back at square 1: The LS changing into something we've never seen before, most likely a premium CUV.
 
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This has me thinking especially now since the LF-1 has not went into production yet despite debuting almost 3 years now. I do think this idea is on the table considering the plans for the LS. My guess is that in the near future the LS will transform into something else and I do think it will more than likely be an electric car.
 

Levi

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CUVs killed sedans, and 4 doors killed 2 doors. S Class is a heritage legendary name as Golf and 911. The S is not going, it becomes EQS. The Taycan eats the Panamera. 8 GranCoupe eats 8 Coupe and 7 Series, but new i7 is coming. A5 Sportback eats A5 Coupe. IS500 will eat RCF (unfortunately for the coupe).

With the future being BEV as some say, somehow the new Jaguar XJ BEV died unborn, and the Jaguar XJ is not an insignificant car historically, yet it is now dead. The LS was a lot for Lexus, but now it is (sadly for us Lexus enthusiasts) expendable.

So yes new Flagship Lexus will be a CUV. I don't see the LX being one if it is just a more luxurious Landcruiser, which in first place is the be a "go anywhere (in comfort) off-roader".
 

Gor134

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a body style that incorporates the practicality of CUV and aerodynamic efficiency of coupe into a 4 door passenger car. This is a segment never touched by any manufacturer yet

Well.. there was the BMW 5 and 6 Series Gran Turismos which basically fulfilled this role.. and were kind of failures from a visual and sales standpoint. Unless Lexus is able to make it truly standout visually, this shape is pretty difficult to make look good, because it has to be larger than the typical "sportback" style cars of the A7 or taller SUVs X6
 

ssun30

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Well.. there was the BMW 5 and 6 Series Gran Turismos which basically fulfilled this role.. and were kind of failures from a visual and sales standpoint. Unless Lexus is able to make it truly standout visually, this shape is pretty difficult to make look good, because it has to be larger than the typical "sportback" style cars of the A7 or taller SUVs X6
The 5GT and 6GT failed because they are hideous. No design effort was put into making them aesthetically pleasing to any buyer.
 

maiaramdan

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WoW

And I thought that I am the wildest one in LE

@Gecko, honestly the sedan is here to stay especially the LS, I don't think that Lexus will kill it's own first ever model aka project F1

But the L line can be
LX
LS-X
LM
LC
LS

I don't see why they will kill the sedan and coupe, they will always be their own prestigious top of the line I even feel that the latest dark image of a car back with the fin antenna is actually the next LS as i see a lot of original LS400 resemble in it


Compare it for a second with this


I see a lot of same line honestly

So I don't see the sedan to be killed at all, it will tend to 25% at min and then be stabilized
 

mikeavelli

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I just feel the LS needs to be reinvented as a sedan. I think Lexus knows this. This includes an EV and a really jaw dropping hybrid and BHEV. Not sure a V-8 tt LS F helps.

McLaren today just dropped a V-6 new tech hybrid that’s barely heavier than the competition. I would like to see Japan challenge themselves for the best hybrids. And maybe this is all coming from what we have seen.

I like the current LS, but this isn’t the first time they had a LS that didn’t do so well. The 1995 change wasn’t particularly a home run and sales dropped until the very well done 1998 refresh.

Now what is odd is this refresh was really tame compared to the 1998 one and the 2004 one. Those two really got the LS back in the conversation and pumped sales back up.

But alas times have changed. All I hear from friends and clients is Q8 or X7 etc etc. Always SUV’s.

Finally I think it gives things an opportunity to have sedans shine as the anti contrarian. Everyone has SUVs. My hope is sedans can been cool again.
 

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To be honest I don’t understand why Lexus (in some markets like EU and UK) would kill the sedan (sport coupè) category, canceling IS and RC and now reading this it seems they would do the same with LS.
I understand the market want crossover, but a exit a category, that for sure will return after this moment where crossovers are up, in my opinion is a mistake.

ps: I don’t mention ES as in Europe, for who is customer from long time, it’s common said that it’s not a “real“ Lexus and it seems they does not sell well.
I am sure it will be withdrawn soon, like IS and RC
 
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LS nameplate will remain and the LS will stay a sedan. It just won't be the Lexus Flagship. De facto Flagship will become an uber SUV.

Instead the LS will become a full fledged Panamera killer ie a hyperstylish incredibly well handling 4 door Grand Coupe in the vein of the AMG GT4, Audi S7, BMW 8 Gran Coupe and of course the Porsche Panamera.

Essentially, it will move into the middle zone in between the previous Lexus GS and current LS : half a size larger than the GS, probably keep the same exterior dimensions and interior space as the current 5LS since current LS is already half size smaller than the German Flagships like 7/S/A8 but with significantly upgraded handling, suspension, chassis and styling. Basically German midsize sedan interior space with LC styling/build quality/luxury and LS money. Next Gen IS will increase half a size to straddle both current IS and GS market ie RWD sports sedan market while FWD based ES will become the huge but affordable spacious people carrier sedan with no performance pretentions.

So the F-Sport models/F cars that Lexus hints at and online speculation is about will be, in the near future :

IS300, IS350 F-Sport, IS500 F-Sport (NA V8 or TTV6)
LC500, LC500h, LC650 F-Sport (either a boosted V8 or a performance hybrid with a NA V8/boosted V6 same as the Panamera Performance Hybrid)
LS500, LS500h, LS650 F-Sport (share powertrain with LC650 F-Sport)

Going forwards, F-Sport will always connote a power bump so base engine models of each line ie IS, LS and LC will not be F-Sports. An ISF may well have the LC/LS650 powertrain.
 
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Rydo

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A number of 4LS owners finally went somewhere else, then when they came back to Lexus to look at the 5LS, the car was smaller inside with a V6, and very different from what many experienced as an LS before.

This is the irritating thing though, they can't just build a total disappointment and then blame poor sales on shift to SUVs. This is like the garbage where they've killed the CT citing poor sales - you didn't update the thing in what, a decade? It was pathetic next to the Germans in the same segment. So no wonder the UX had vastly better sales with the up to date interior design language and exterior design cues.

If they built the LS people actually wanted, a traditional 3 box design that looked like the LF-FC with a V8, don't tell me that wouldn't have sold 5x more than what the disappointment we got is selling.
 

Lexus Cohen

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But alas times have changed. All I hear from friends and clients is Q8 or X7 etc etc.

We cannot keep the RS Q8 in stock at my dealership, it's really a beast! The X6M is a better vehicle though.
 

Gecko

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LS nameplate will remain and the LS will stay a sedan. It just won't be the Lexus Flagship. De facto Flagship will become an uber SUV.

Instead the LS will become a full fledged Panamera killer ie a hyperstylish incredibly well handling 4 door Grand Coupe in the vein of the AMG GT4, Audi S7, BMW 8 Gran Coupe and of course the Porsche Panamera.

Essentially, it will move into the middle zone in between the previous Lexus GS and current LS : half a size larger than the GS, probably keep the same exterior dimensions and interior space as the current 5LS since current LS is already half size smaller than the German Flagships like 7/S/A8 but with significantly upgraded handling, suspension, chassis and styling. Basically German midsize sedan interior space with LC styling/build quality/luxury and LS money. Next Gen IS will increase half a size to straddle both current IS and GS market ie RWD sports sedan market while FWD based ES will become the huge but affordable spacious people carrier sedan with no performance pretentions.

This is pretty much what they have already done with the 5LS and it didn’t work. Not sure they will go the same route again.
 

James

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Just a quick question...how did Lexus eff this all up? And what I mean is how did they screw up being the leaders of the SUV market? They always seemed ahead of the game with SUVs did their top management not see the SUV craze coming? Were they focused on something else for like the last 5-10 years that they are still hiding? I just don't really understand how they just completely dropped the ball on adding more SUVs and having them all updated. Anyone have any idea on really what happened? I think I would be okay with them dropping the GS (so sad still!) and not having a V-8 in the LS if their SUVs were tops of their class but they aren't. Sorry @Gecko might not be the right thread just had the thought reading all of this.
 

Lexus Cohen

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This is the irritating thing though, they can't just build a total disappointment and then blame poor sales on shift to SUVs. This is like the garbage where they've killed the CT citing poor sales - you didn't update the thing in what, a decade? It was pathetic next to the Germans in the same segment. So no wonder the UX had vastly better sales with the up to date interior design language and exterior design cues.

If they built the LS people actually wanted, a traditional 3 box design that looked like the LF-FC with a V8, don't tell me that wouldn't have sold 5x more than what the disappointment we got is selling.
I agree with you.
 

ssun30

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Just a quick question...how did Lexus eff this all up? And what I mean is how did they screw up being the leaders of the SUV market?
They were underfunded in the last decade. They had to choose between projects they could develop. And their lean workforce means they are already overworked. TMC only started remedying those situations at Lexus recently.
 
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