- Max Speed
Twenty years ago, the Lexus LS put the wind up the Mercedes S-Class, helping to launch Toyota's posh division with a bang. Sadly, its cars' competitiveness has been declining ever since.
This heavy facelift does little to turn the tide, despite the fact it's a thorough re-engineering that stretches right down to the methods used to weld the chassis together. No stone has been left unturned. The steering wheel is smaller, the steering column has more adjustment. The wheelarches have a new type of sound insulation. Seat cushions are 20mm thicker. The climate control uses infrared sensors to measure occupants' body temperature and adjust accordingly. Even the analogue clock hasn't been forgotten - it's now automatically controlled via GPS. Truly obsessive.
This much we expect from Lexus. The LS's newfound style is a welcome surprise, though, particularly the ‘spindle' grille that's becoming a Lexus signature. It's particularly striking in new F-Sport trim, which gets big wheels, Brembo brakes, lowered ride height and even a Torsen rear diff. Sadly, you can't get it on the £100k hybrid.
For several years, this petrol-electric variant has been the only model on offer in the UK, but sales have tumbled, so the plain V8 petrol is being reintroduced, lowering the entry price by £20,000.
Saving the cash gets you the better car. The hybrid is immaculately refined in city driving, but the E-CVT transmission is inept, and it only manages 32.8mpg. Why so inefficient? And what's happened to the concept of downsizing? A hybrid using such an enormous engine seems ridiculous - a 44mpg A8 hybrid has a 2.0-litre four-pot, remember.
Four-wheel drive is a boon, the over-light and disconnected driving experience does come with a decent ride, plus the Lexus is staggeringly quiet when the CVT isn't flogging the engine to death, while the rear of this stretched variant is palatial. But it's not good enough. Today's S-Class beats it. Tomorrow's will knock it for six.
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