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2018 Lexus LS First Drive

On Thursday, September 28th, 2017

When one imagines the enormous executive sedan that might be driven by a wealthy lawyer or banker (or their chauffeur), the mind naturally goes to the Mercedes S-Class or the BMW 7-Series. Venerable, enormous and expensive.

2018 Lexus LS

But for those wanting to keep their driveway a little more understated, we also have the Lexus LS. Sure, it’s not as ostentatious as the big saloons from Munich and Stuttgart, but it has a dignified elegance all its own. For nearly three decades, the LS has been a discrete and dependable Japanese luxury sedan.

Lexus engineers are extremely proud of the fuel efficiency of the new engine, which required some clever technical innovations (a longer bore stroke and increased valve angle) as well as tech borrowed from Formula One, including a “laser clad valve seat” that allows for a more direct flow of air into the combustion chamber and a high “tumble ratio.” In other words, Lexus figured out how to get more bang out of each gasoline-powered buck.

The Lexus Safety System+ offers things like a front pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control (which disengaged itself unexpected on some particularly sharp corners), and lane-keep assist. Those are all great — but they’re table stakes for even midlevel luxury cars at this point.

If you want to get into the more advanced safety tech, like front-cross-traffic alert, road-sign assist (the system can read speed limit and a few other road signs and display them to the driver), and a clever auto-steering assist to avoid pedestrians in the lane — you have to opt for the Lexus Safety System+ A (advanced) package.

Lexus thinks it can sell around 12,000 LS cars per month, snagging some 15 percent of the luxury sedan market. It made an aggressive case to us that there was a value proposition in the car, starting significantly below the S-Class, 7 Series, and A8 — but we wonder how much of a difference price really makes to someone spending more than $75,000 on an executive sedan.

To be sure, the Japanese style, especially of the interior, will help the new LS stand out from the Germans a little bit, and that alone will help move some units. But as nice as the new Lexus LS is, we’re hard-pressed to come up with a reason why you would buy it over an S-Class without mentioning price. And if you’re trying to be price-competitive around $80,000, you’re probably in for a tough time.

Posted in Auto Reviews

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