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Lexus LS facelift is more than just a nose job

The flagship Lexus LS has been given its second makeover in six years...

...but this time it needed to be anaesthetised.

At a glance it looks like Lexus has simply grafted the new HSV-like grille onto the LS limousine’s nose. But the company says there are more than 3000 changes and 13 Lexus firsts – only the doors, roof and glass are carried over from before.

It’s also loaded with technology – including seats that will heat and cool faster than before, an air-conditioning system that moisturises your skin and hair, and a tiny camera that checks if you’re too drowsy to drive. The big changes were brought about to try to arrest the sharp decline in sales of super luxury sedans.

In the past six years, sales of limousines priced in excess of $100,000 have dropped sharply – by 33 per cent – in a market that’s grown by 10 per cent in that time. This year alone the cars classed as the top end of town have dropped a further 27 per cent as buyers embrace luxury SUVs.

Lexus is lucky, however. It says 90 per cent of its LS buyers come back to buy another Lexus. And the Japanese maker is hoping it’s this one. The new LS goes on sale from February with sharper pricing across the range and a new sports model. The V8 and V8 hybrid power outputs are unchanged from before, although they are slightly more fuel-efficient.

The price-tag is still eye-watering at $189,900 – a $1000 snip less than the old model. But the new LS is significantly cheaper than the V8-powered German competition, which starts at $238,000 for an Audi A8, $281,000 for a BMW 7 Series and $296,500 for a Mercedes-Benz S-Class

But the Germans have diesel models under $200,000, whereas Lexus offers a V8 hybrid, which also happens to be all-wheel-drive. And costs $217,900. “The [$100,000-plus] luxury car market has become more competitive and diverse,” says Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb.

“In 2006 passenger cars account for 71 per cent of the of the total luxury market, today that has fallen to 64 per cent [with the balance being luxury SUVs]. Cramb said the Global Financial Crisis also killed much of the long-wheelbase sedan business, with most buyers preferring standard limousines. 

“As a result of these sales trends, the large luxury car scene in Australia can now be characterised as predominantly a driver market rather than a driven market. “In other words, Australian buyers [of these vehicles] now prefer to drive themselves rather than be chauffeured.”

TECHNOLOGY HIGHLIGHTS

The clock automatically changes daylight saving time – and new time zones as you cross borders thanks to GPS co-ordinates. The timber steering wheel goes through 67 processes and takes 38 days to make. The seat warmers have more power (up from 100w to 200w of power) so they heat up in half the time.

The perforated seats have larger holes which provide 42 per cent better airflow for faster cooling. Each front seat has 16-way electronic adjustment. The air-conditioning system uses nanoe technology, said to have a moisturising effect on skin and hair.

The new LS has a built-in fatigue management system. A tiny camera on the steering column has facial and eyelid recognition. It focuses on the driver’s face and checks for drowsiness and attentiveness. Lexus claims the new LS is the quietest car in the world. The alloy wheels even have a hollow section behind the outer rim to save weight and reduce noise.

The 12.3-inch-wide screen in the dash is the equal-biggest in the automotive world. The first was the Lexus GS mid-size sedan. Lexus claims the new LS has the smallest LED fog lamps in the automotive world (Poly Ellipsoid System, or PES). The indicators can be programmed to flash 3, 5,7, 9, or 11 times at half a movement of the stalk.

Lexus LS460

Price: From $189,900
Engine: 4.6-litre V8
Power: 285kW and 493Nm
0 to 100km/h: 5.9 seconds
Thirst: 10.7L/100km

Lexus LS600h

Price: From $217,900
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 and hybrid electric motor
Power: 327kW and 520Nm
0 to 100: 5.7 seconds
Thirst: 8.6L/100km

 

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