First drive: The all-new 2018 Lexus LS loads up on luxury

Striking design and a luxurious interior make the Lexus LS quite a catch.

The 2018 Lexus LS
The all-new 2018 Lexus LS luxury sedan. –Lexus

Twenty-eight years ago, the Lexus brand launched with the introduction of the flagship LS sedan. Today, the fifth generation of this luxury car has a new engine and transmission, new advanced safety technologies, and a new design that’s sleek, modern, and thoroughly luxurious.

Crossovers are taking over the streets, but luxury sedans like the Lexus LS aren’t going anywhere. This isn’t a car for someone who simply needs a way to get to work. This car is an experience. Completely restyled, the new LS is longer, lower, and wider than the outgoing model. Despite having four doors, it looks a lot like a coupe, especially from the side. Up front, that signature Lexus spindle grille steals the show. You will not go unnoticed when you arrive in this sedan.

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As handsome as it is outside, the inside is where the LS reveals itself as a luxury car. It’s spacious and comfortable with an available 28-way adjustable driver’s seat and 22-way adjustable passenger seat. Those seats are also available with five massage settings. Rear passenger seats provide an even richer experience with available reclining massage seats and a power footrest for lounging.

The level of passenger comfort in the LS is enhanced by the beauty and quality of the materials used on every surface. Soft, rich leathers abound with truly stunning packages available, including glass accents inspired by Japanese Kiriko glassware. There are also door panels featuring hand-pleated upholstery made from a single cloth folded like a sheet of origami paper.

When it comes to power, you have two powertrain choices. The first is a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque found in the LS 500. This twin turbocharged engine posts a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds with powerful, smooth acceleration. The 10-speed transmission makes sure the engine never feels (or sounds) strained. It delivers power exactly when you need it — without a fuss — so passengers can enjoy the ride.

This is a large sedan, but it’s not unwieldy. It handles well with a choice of drive modes accessed through a dash-mounted dial to tailor your ride from relaxed and easy to aggressive and sporty. The only time this car’s size becomes noticeable is in tight turns. Here the car feels heavy, and it’s not one that can easily toss through corners.

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Those who want the most performance-oriented experience can opt for the F Sport model, which has the same luxurious styling with the addition of sporty accents inside and out, sharper handling, and more aggressive power delivery. The F Sport makes it easy to forget you’re behind the wheel of a large luxury sedan.

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The second powertrain choice is a hybrid variant with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and two electric motors paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) found in the LS 500h. It has 354 horsepower and posts a slightly slower 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds, which still makes it darn quick.

Lexus pulled off a bit of a trick with the hybrid’s transmission. There’s some wonderful technobabble to explain how it works, but basically, they designed it to mimic the experience of a traditional automatic transmission. You’ll even hear the engine pitch change like it does when gears shift in an automatic instead of the annoying whine typical of CVTs. It makes driving the hybrid more fun.

The LS also features numerous advanced safety technologies including the new Lexus Safety System+ Advanced package. This package adds features like lane trace assist to help keep you in your lane and a comprehensive pre-collision system. It’s capable of identifying vehicles and pedestrians, applying the brakes, and even steering the vehicle safely out of the way to avoid a collision.

The 2018 Lexus LS elevates the brand’s flagship sedan with stunning style, a beautiful interior, and powerful engine choices. Exact pricing hasn’t been announced, but will start around $75,000 with the highest trim levels coming in around $100,000.