Text by Guy Bird
Photography by Christian Stoll

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THE REVEAL

THE LS LAUNCHED THE LEXUS BRAND ALMOST 25 YEARS AGO.

WITH A NEW MODEL OF THE LS RECENTLY RELEASED,

AND THE APPROACH OF ITS QUARTER-CENTURY ANNIVERSARY,

WE CELEBRATE ITS PAST AND PRESENT

THE FLAGSHIP

THE REVEAL

THE LS LAUNCHED THE LEXUS BRAND ALMOST 25 YEARS AGO.

WITH A NEW MODEL OF THE LS RECENTLY RELEASED,

AND THE APPROACH OF ITS QUARTER-CENTURY ANNIVERSARY,

WE CELEBRATE ITS PAST AND PRESENT.

“Can we create a four-door luxury car to challenge the very best?” This innocent question was posed back in 1983 by Eiji Toyoda, chairman of Toyota at the time, to his top management team. Over the next six years, 60 designers, 1,400 engineers and 2,300 technicians proved they could by conceiving the first acclaimed LS and, in the process, a new luxury car brand.
The success of the project can be attributed to many factors, but in his informative book Lexus: The Challenge to Create the Finest Automobile, Brian Long sums it up well: “Each team had been given the task of identifying the manufacturer who led its field of expertise, analyse why it was the best and then beat it. There was no time limit imposed and, with the usual constraint of having to use common components taken away, the innovative Lexus engineers were in their element.”

WING MIRRORS

Subtle changes to the exterior make this 2013 version even more aerodynamic than the first one back in 1989. Notice the curious small black fins next to the wing mirrors near the base of the A-pillars? They’re there to help improve airflow and vehicle stability at higher speeds. The car has a commendable 0.26 Cd drag coefficient overall.

The LS finally launched in the United States in 1989, to almost universal media acclaim. Its bulletproof reliability, great value specification and whisper-quiet cabin, as well as Lexus’s superior customer service, allowed it to take on and outdo the offerings of older and more established European and US brands, notably in sales success. In many ways, this first-generation LS has been the template for Lexus ever since, as it expanded to become a global brand with a range that grew to include smaller sedans, coupes and SUVs.
The original LS was rightly lauded, but the model marked only the first step in the car’s evolution. In the subsequent 20 years, the sedan developed in both power and sophistication, repeatedly shaking up the market with innovations in performance and design.

The 1994 LS 400, for example, introduced an adjusted power steering system that vastly improved handling. (It was also one of the first luxury sedans to feature an automatic tilt telescopic steering wheel.) The LS 430, debuted in 2000, boldly increased the car’s wheelbase and height, and came complete with an overhauled suspension, a new 4.3-liter V8 engine and an advanced, collision-safe body. And the 2008 LS 600h, an evolution of the 2006 LS 460, became the first all-wheel drive hybrid model of the series, demonstrating Lexus’s ongoing commitment to corporate responsibility.
The environmentally focused hybrid power pioneered on the LS is now offered across the Lexus model range—including the most recent IS—while its excellent build-quality techniques and reliability lessons have also filtered down to smaller Lexus vehicles, too.

DAYTIME RUNNING LIGHTS

The headlights of the 2013 LS integrate horizontal L shapes for daytime running lights as a bright lower eyeliner, while at the back the red light clusters reveal a trio of orange-glowing L shapes that sit within one another to provide an engaging rear and side graphic.

INTERIOR LIGHTING

The inside of the LS features cool new interior lighting that illuminates various parts of the cabin in sequence to guide owners to their seats, and a very large 12.3-inch center screen that makes reading maps and instructions much easier.

The level of intense attention to detail that made the original LS stand apart from the competition is still apparent on, and particular to, the current 2013 model. Take, for example, Japanese craftsmanship like the Shimamoku (“striped wood”) veneer on the model’s steering wheel, which involves 67 manufacturing steps over the course of 38 days. Or the innovative body temperature-monitoring sensors that automatically adjust the air-conditioning for each passenger. The intense attention to detail is also apparent in the all-wheel drive, long-wheelbase LS 600h L—“the flagship of the flagships”—where the rear-seat area with ottoman sections comes with a quality Blu-ray/DVD player for the first time. On our brief chauffeured drive, the entertainment system added incredible visual authenticity to accompany the astounding Mark Levinson stereo—from which emerged the impossibly real-sounding thwacks, thumps and bumps in the action scenes of the demonstrator film Mission: Impossible 4—as we relaxed into the wonderfully comfortable semi-aniline leather seats.

Controlling the all-wheel drive, long-wheelbase LS 600h L from the driver’s seat is hugely enjoyable—some models benefit from a Drive Mode Select function, allowing ECO, Comfort, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+ options via a simple switch of a dial on the central transmission tunnel. And despite its luxurious size, this 389 bhp 5.0-liter gas/electric hybrid can still greet 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and 130 mph not long after, while offering an official combined EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg. This is an incredible achievement for a 5.2-meter-long (17-foot-long) car with all the accoutrements on board that you could wish for.
Overall, both up front and in back, the new LS still has the ability to make any journey special, just like Mr. Toyoda envisioned nearly 25 years ago.

SPINDLE GRILLE

The easy way to distinguish the latest LS from its predecessor is by the now signature Lexus spindle grille, interpreted on this model to give the grand sedan a more compelling and forward-looking front face.