Sharper new Lexus LS in SA soon
First, the good news - the all-new Lexus LS 460 luxury sedan will be here in November 2012, and its LS 600h hybrid sibling in January next year.
Now the bad news; there's no word from Toyota SA yet on whether or when we can expect to see the F Sport - the first-ever performance version of Lexus' formerly ultra-conservative status symbol.
The new LS follows on from the recent introduction of the new GS, adopting the new 'spindle' grille design and sharper styling overall - but there are also revised driving dynamics, better sound insulation and more sophisticated and effective preventive safety systems to back up the fancy new looks.
In all, says Lexus, more than 3000 detail changes, all based on customer feedback.
The most obvious, of course, is that distinctive grille, flanked by new headlights and vertical foglights with L-shaped, seamless light tube daytime running lights. In fact, for the first time on a Lexus, you can have LED lights throughout - head, tail and foglights as well as the running lights.
Then Lexus has taken a leaf from the Jaguar/Lotus book on bodybuilding, using a combination of laser screw welding and adhesive bonding to make the bodyshell stiffer - sufficiently so that it's been possible to soften the suspension for a more comfortable ride with no loss of handling agility.
But softer suspension - as anybody who has driven a 1970s American musclecar will attest - leads to body roll on corners and pitching under acceleration and braking. So Lexus has developed a new 'interlock control' for the LS' adaptive variable suspension that suppresses roll, pitch and heave vibration at all four wheels simultaneously, at the same time making damping response smoother and more controlled.
The steering geometry has been revised for better accuracy and turn-in response, while the braking system has been adjusted for more bite and better pedal feel - even the brake pedal's length of stroke, angle and contact surface has been tweaked to make it feel more responsive.
New on this LS is Drive Mode Select, operated by a rotary knob on the centre control, bringing all the car's mapping and set-up programmes (for economy, comfort, performance and handling characteristics) together in five switchable driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+.
The new LS 460 F Sport grade has all the right clothes - special front and rear bumpers, skits and spoilers - backed up with 10mm lower ride height, Brembo six-piston front brake callipers, a Torsen limited-slip differential and paddle shift controls that incorporate automatic throttle blipping on downshifts.
It sounds the part, too, thanks to an intake sound generator on the engine that amplifies the vibration of the intake pulse and feeds it into the cabin.
REFINEMENT AND COMFORT
Lexus claims to have improved noise insulation at all levels and, for the first time on a Lexus, you can ask for special hollow-chamber noise reduction rims (no Cyril, we're not kidding) that are claimed to reduce the level of noise experienced in the cabin.
Then, in what Lexus says is a world first, the heating and cooling of the front and rear seats, and the steering wheel rim, can be automatically co-ordinated and incorporated into a 'climate concierge' system, that uses an array of as many as 13 sensors around the cabin to deliver the desired temperatures, across four cabin zones.
The soft white interior and instrument panel lighting moves and changes in intensity as the car starts up or switches off, while a remote-touch interface controls the car's infotainment systems, via a 315mm multimedia display – that's big enough to show two types of information at the same time!
The LS also has a new pre-crash safety system that's designed to help the driver avoid an accident, or if the worst happens, reduce the consequences to vehicles or pedestrians. It can operate across a wide range speeds, and in daylight or darkness.
The lane-keeping system has also been upgraded so that it can respond to external factors such as changes in road camber and crosswinds.
All in all, quite a departure from the LS’ old ‘grey flannel suit’ persona.