Riding high in Lexus's ultimate luxe limo
RECLINED in the back on a plush leather-clad seat with the ottoman extended, this is how the other half rolls.
Welcome to the Lexus LS - business-class travel on bitumen. There is no change from $200,000 once you have this 5.2m-long limousine on the road, ensuring it's destined for only an exclusive few.
The flagship of the Lexus sedan range was overhauled last year and this new model showcases the best of what the brand has to offer.
Among the big changes was the shift away from V8 power, with only a twin-turbo V6 petrol or V6 hybrid drivetrains on offer.
Yet this is one occasion where, strangely, the driving experience doesn't matter. All the traditional Lexus hallmarks are there, but it's the all-round cabin experience which leaves a lingering appreciation for the LS, rather than sprint times or dexterity in the corners.
Expectations are rightly high for a vehicle which starts at $190k.
Well, for starters there is a massage function in every seat. Not an average massage either (some in other vehicles feel like the kids are just sticking their feet in the back of the seats), this is the full shiatsu treatment.
Integrated air bladders kneed the body to mimic thumb-like pressure, with those up front getting a choice of centripetal or centrifugal, or focusing on the lumbar, upper and lower-back regions. Those in the back can choose from three full-body programs or four which target the upper body, lower body, shoulder or lumbar. The seats also have spot-heating functions to improve the massage experience.
Occupants receive the treatment in refined surrounds. There are 16 monitoring areas to provide the best climate control for each passenger, each of whom can select their own temperature in four zones.
Among the other highlights are a 23-speaker 3D Mark Levinson stereo system, power-operated boot lid, high-quality leather trim, head-up display, power rear and side sunshades and a central 12.3-inch colour display.
The Sports Luxury variant we tested also has a rear-seat entertainment system with 11.6-inch LCD screens in the front seat backs partnered to a Blu-ray disc player. Within the rear centre armrest is the touchscreen operation panel for the massage seats, communication controls, HDMI port and head-phone sockets.
Warranty coverage is similar to others in the prestige realm at four years/100,000km, but one upgrade for the LS is a 10-year free roadside assistance program. There is no capped price servicing program with Lexus, but it's typically cheaper than the German rivals - and you get a free loan car during services.
The gamut of safety equipment comes standard, with 10 airbags and a suite of technical assistants helping achieve five-star status.
Among the kit is autonomous emergency braking which can apply the brakes if a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian is detected and the driver fails to act (also works in reverse), blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, lane-keep assist to maintain the limo within the white lines and automatic high-beam.
The head-up display also has a useful feature which warns of oncoming traffic at intersections and shows which direction the vehicles are coming from - most often before the driver has noticed.
Sit back and relax. It's almost like the LS is the destination in itself.
When unlocked, the air suspension rises 40mm to a hip height of 555mm in four seconds. The lighting is dimmed, seats drop back, the steering wheel raises to enable entry ease and the seat belt buckles rise from the floor to save excessive bending.
The rear seats have 22-way adjustment options and they can recline up to 48 degrees. Three pre-set positions offer varied levels of relaxation, while the front passenger seat can fold forward to provide more than 1m of rear legroom.
While excelling in the realm of luxury, functionality is a bugbear for Lexus.
Control of the primary operations comes via a mouse-style keypad on the console. Haptic feedback and pulsing highlights when you have landed on menus.
Often the process of finding what you're after is convoluted and difficult to navigate while on the move. Other marques have adopted dials and touchscreen functionality which proves far more cohesive.
Previous iterations of the LS had a pulsing naturally aspirated V8, but this new twin-turbo 310kW/600Nm V6 generates more power than the outgoing bent eight (285kW/493Nm).
Hauling from standstill to 0-100km/h in five seconds, this limo is outstandingly quick. That sprint figure is quicker than many standalone sports cars.
Given the dimensions, the LS is surprisingly easy to drive. At more than 5.2m long, it can take some manoeuvring in tight car parks, but an array of cameras and sensors make the task simpler.
Overall performance is impressive, as long as you don't attack corners, and the LS feels more lithe than its dimensions would dictate.
Typically Lexus-quiet, the hushed road manners often means you underestimate the speed and it's only when the right ankle is exercised that a gravelly V6 tone emanates from the engine bay.
Official fuel consumption from Lexus is less than 10 litres for every 100km, but our test saw it drink about 12 litres on average of premium unleaded. Those concerned about fuel consumption would be better served by the hybrid variant.
Life's been good, I'm time poor so I'll have someone drive me rather than waste time behind the wheel.
Big and bold, the sizable spindle grille showcases class and stature. I want luxury, and this is opulence personified.
AUDI A8 TFSI FROM $195,000
Sublime experience behind the wheel... enjoyable to drive and be driven. Powered by a 3.0-litre turbo 250kW/500Nm 6-cyl which is not as quick as the Lexus - 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds.
BMW 7-SERIES 740i FROM $199,900
Proves comfort needn't compromise chassis control. Great legroom and boot space and owner drivers will brag about the bling and the drive. Powered by a 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo, 240kW/450Nm.
Speed cameras, traffic ... do you really want to drive? Get a degree in the Lexus infotainment operation and live an amazing life on the road.
AT A GLANCE
LEXUS LS500 SPORTS LUXURY
PRICE $190,500 plus on-roads (exclusive)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 4 years/ 100,000km (average), no capped servicing
ENGINE 3.5L V6 twin-turbo, 310kW/ 600Nm (fast)
SAFETY 5 stars, 10 airbags, AEB, 360-degree camera, auto high-beam, rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise (comprehensive)
THIRST 9.5L/ 100km (pretty thirsty)
SPARE Run-flat (not ideal)
BOOT 480L (good)