Lexus LS – Oriental Express

The Japanese believe the luxury end of the market should not be a German feud and this is how they materialise that belief: the fifth generation LS.

The Lexus LS is not small. It is not cheap. And it is not like any other car. The LS is a car for a certain kind of client: one who wants the best, as long as everyone else doesn’t own it as well. I kind of like that.

When the first LS landed on the market in 1989, it sent shockwaves throughout the industry. News of German rivals – BMW, Mercedes and Audi – buying examples of the LS to tear it apart and analyse it, piece by piece, spread all over the globe. Put simply, they could not quite grasp how it was possible to have so much quality for the same price as their own products.

Developed by 1,400 engineers dedicated exclusively to the project for a period of six years, the original LS will always be one of the most important cars in automobile history. The level of excellence Lexus demanded from its engineers was of a standard never before seen in a mass-produced car, meaning without the LS, the luxury car market wouldn’t be what it is today. A Mercedes Class S wouldn’t be as good. Even a Rolls-Royce probably wouldn’t be as good. Lexus made everyone stop and look carefully at what they were doing – and then do it better.

The LS is produced in a different way to the rest of the brand’s products, by highly specialised artisans who have to go through a series of tests to prove that they meet the standards required by such a prestigious model. The Takumi, as they are called, must, for example, create an origami cat in 90 seconds using their least dominant hand. 90 seconds? I cannot create an origami cat with my good hand in one whole day.

The Takumi allocated to the project work alongside the engineers, designers and the commercial department. They are responsible for endowing the LS with the four pillars that must define the Lexus flagship: adventurous design, Japanese craftsmanship in every detail, imaginative and innovative technology, and thrilling performance.

But that’s not all. The ancient principles of Japanese hospitality, called Omotenashi, are applied in the way that the vehicle receives the occupants and provides them with the utmost comfort, safety and relaxing environment.

Depending on the models and the versions, the technical specifications vary greatly. I can only speak of what I drove, which was the LS500h. This innovative, state-of-the-art hybrid features a Multi-Stage system, with two electric motors and a petrol V6 engine 3500cc, for a total of 354 horsepower.

The LS is such a big car you barely feel the 0 to 100km in 5.4 seconds. More relevant, I think, is that the technology patented by the Japanese brand also has the ability to allow the LS to cruise at speeds of 140km/h with the combustion engine turned off, offering a much more ecological footprint for passengers.

Driving a Lexus also means buying into the idea that diesel is dead. I am not a believer in that, not just yet, but when you see an average of 8.5 litres in the dashboard in a car weighing two tonnes with over 300 horse power, it at least shows there is life after diesel – and it’s a good one.

The LS is built to perfection and the quality is felt in every detail of the car. The interior is absolutely stunning: the materials, the fit and finish and the depth of engineering in every button, every knob you touch is mesmerising. The 3D Surround Mark Levinson sound system with 23 speakers makes it a moving concert hall.

At the end of the day, the Lexus LS is not the world’s most exciting driving experience, but it never wanted to be that. It is about luxury. It is about being its own special kind of car. Above all, the LS doesn’t try to copy the Germans, but rather treads its own path. The Japanese personality is ever present in a very, very good way.

The way I see it, it isn’t a car for those who can buy it, but rather for those who want one and would settle for nothing else, because the LS really is like nothing else. An LS buyer won’t look at a Mercedes S-Class or a BMW 7 Series. I like that every time I see one on the street, I feel a sense of admiration for the person who bought it. Here is someone who knows how to properly spend their money.

CEOs of the world: proceed to the nearest Lexus showroom.

By Guilherme Marques