We emerged from Hobart's airport terminal on a crisp April afternoon, darting across the road to confront an impressive roll call of brand new (like, straight off the boat, sub-100kms kinda shit hot) Lexus LS sedans. The thought had crossed my mind that, given my exposure to the product late last year at Spring Carnival's Lexus Design Pavillion, the novelty may not have been of the same calibre as it usually was for a press launch. Stepping inside as a genuine passenger, however, brought with it a level of flattery and excitement I did not expect at all.
I was whisked away by our driver through the uncluttered streets of the big country town, feeling as if I'd just escaped the wrath of frantic paparazzi or a group of armed attackers.
The Lexus LS is luxury. That may sound like I'm being incredibly lazy with my use of synonyms, but it really should be the only word matched to such a vehicle. Aside from, of course, the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, there are no other cars I've ever found myself sitting in that rival the sensory experience of the LS.
The ride is smooth, the tech intriguing. Seated in the rear, the floating sensation from such a stable long wheelbase and refined suspension was almost as pleasurable as the array of gadgets that took control of me like a kid on Christmas morning.
This fifth generation Lexus LS comes nearly three decades after its original entry into the market, with this refreshed offering an overtly targeted and strategic move towards clawing back at the big three German rivals. Not in quality, however, merely popularity. This car is huge; its bold and powerful presence asserted to varying degrees depending on your colourway of choice, with the metallic black and dark grey the most menacing in one's rear view mirror.
The two powertrain options return for the LS, a strategy similarly adopted for last year's LC, but this time with a seamless 10-speed turbo-petrol V6 for the LS 500, and for the petrol-electric LS 500h, a plug-in hybrid system that harnesses its battery charging power from regenerative braking.
The exterior, in all honestly, isn't much to talk about. It's best feature would undoubtedly be the 'Zorro' slashed headlights that bookend a beefy mesh grille. As you progress towards the rear of the vehicle, the design gets consistently more 'meh' - but that's completely fine, as no one is buying this car for any metaphorically loud reasons.
The magic, as previously teased and understandably so, is found within the intricacies and quality of the LS' interior. Any initially lacklustre impressions immediately fly out the window before you can even drop your jaw in awe.
The Takumi craftsmanship, one of my favourite features in last year's LC and in my opinion the champion of this entire design project, is reinstated for the LS but with room to breath on this occasion, finding its own twist on the comparably airy interior. The massaging seats were undoubtedly the most hyped feature of the LS, but how this quietly intersects with the overall objective of comfort, rather than being an overwhelming 'wow' factor, is what makes it such an enjoyable experience as opposed to a tacky gimmick. A very fine line to perfect.
For those seated behind the front passenger, you can actually move their seat forward to cocoon yourself within a business class-style airline suite, reclining as far as you need and extending your legs as you wish. The attention to detail is otherworldly. If, like me, you just can't stand even a 2-minute milk and bread run without your tunes blasting, the Mark Levinson sound system is quite possibly one of the best in the business and worth the investment alone. Ever since we went to town on a bit of Deadmau5 pumping in the LC last year, I've yet to hear a luxury in-car audio system that can top it.
So I guess this is the part that I'm here for, the job I've been paid to do, and that's comment on the driving experience. Well, to be real with you, if I wanted to drive a luxury Lexus on the daily myself, I'd just purchase the LC. While the 'F Sport' variant of the LS had a bit of pull on the twisty mountain roads of Tasmania, that's not what this car is suited for, nor is it was it'll be bought for, nor was it what I enjoyed most about it.
The LS was the first car launch I've attended that I willingly let my control issues go by the wayside to actually enjoy the experience more as a passenger.
So what clientele are Lexus actually catering to, then? An American one, judging by their Stateside sales as the third most popular in the space, and one where the owners spend very little time behind the wheel themselves. The LS is the ultimate corporate carrier, really. If I were to invest in a fleet of luxury cars, the reliability and safety of a Japanese limousine seem like a given. Next question.
Though in the wishful but ultimately imaginary scenario where I could actually afford to drop some coin on a luxury cruiser, one that I had no interest in driving, I know where my money would go - and I'd cop the next level of comfort for it.
The Lexus LS starts with the 'F Sport' from $190,500.