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The Geneva Motor Show hosted the world debut of the new Lexus LS 500h, the full hybrid version of Lexus’ new flagship saloon.
The model, revealed soon after the premiere appearance of the twin-turbo petrol V6-powered LS 500 at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, is a further manifestation of how Lexus has re-imagined the luxury saloon, presenting brave design, exhilarating performance and a sophisticated appeal to capture the imagination of forward-thinking, younger customers.
Notably the LS 500 was honoured at NAIAS with the EyesOn Design Award for excellence in interior design.
The LS 500h is equipped with the new Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System, a technology that transforms the performance and driver appeal of hybrid, providing improved responsiveness and more rewarding, linear acceleration, particularly when moving off from stationary. At the same time, the inherent fuel and emissions efficiency of Lexus Hybrid Drive has been further improved.
The powertrain features a 3.5-litre V6 Dual VVT-i V6 petrol engine and two electric motors, together delivering maximum system power of 354 hp/264kW. While the LS 500 will be available in Europe exclusively as all-wheel drive model, the LS 500h will be introduced in both rear and all-wheel drive versions.
The LS 500h’s Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System combines a 3.5-litre V6 Dual VVT-i petrol engine with two electric motors, together delivering a total output of 354 hp/264kW.
The engine makes optimal use of Dual VVT-i (intelligent variable valve-timing), with timing precisely gauged in line with driving conditions, helping secure high torque at all engine speeds.
Measures to reduce friction losses and thus improve engine efficiency include the adoption of narrow, lightweight roller rocker arms and low-friction timing chains, while D-4S direct fuel injection helps create optimum combustion conditions, contributing to good fuel economy.
The new LS 500h is equipped with Lexus’ Multi Stage Hybrid System, a breakthrough technology that transforms hybrid powertrain performance.
The system adds a four-stage shifting device to the Lexus Hybrid Drive combination of a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and two electric motors. The result is more direct response to driver inputs and an elevation of dynamic performance driving pleasure, while maintaining the characteristic smoothness and efficiency for which Lexus hybrids are renowned.
In a conventional full hybrid vehicle, engine output is boosted by the electric motor via a reduction gear, but with the new Multi Stage Hybrid System the power from the V6 engine and the hybrid battery can be amplified by the four-stage shifting device, allowing much greater drive power to be generated when accelerating from stationary and achieving a 0-100km/h acceleration in 5.4 seconds. High-speed cruising can be enjoyed at lower engine rpm and the LS 500h is able to run at higher speeds – up to 140km/h – with the petrol engine shut off.
The design of the system places the multi-stage shift unit immediately behind the power split device, on an axis aligned with the engine crankshaft. Although the unit has four speeds, the D range has a simulated shift control pattern that delivers the feel of driving with a 10-speed gearbox. As vehicle speed rises, engine speed increases with a linear, direct and continuous acceleration feel, free from the “rubber band” effect witnessed in some continuously variable transmissions. In the 10th gear range, the CVT control allows for high-speed cruising at lower engine revs for quiet, smooth and fuel-efficient performance.
The transmission further benefits from an improved version of the AI shift control found in conventional automatics. This enables intelligent, optimum gear selection to be made in line with driving conditions and driver inputs, for example when going up or downhill. The system also includes DMI (Driver’s Mind Index). This means it can adjust gear shifts to suit the driver’s style and behaviour, without the driver having to select a different drive mode to get the kind of performance they want from the transmission.
Thanks to the Multi Stage Hybrid System’s design, the driver is able to take advantage of an M mode to select and hold gears manually, using paddle shifts mounted behind the steering wheel – a function not previously available on a Lexus hybrid. Thanks to the co-ordinated control of the Power Split Device and the gear shifting mechanism, the gear shift will start instantaneously with the computer receiving the signal from the paddle shift, giving an exceptionally quick response.
The LS 500h is fitted with a compact, lightweight, lithium-ion hybrid battery. It is 20 per cent smaller than the nickel-metal hydride unit featured in the current
Lexus LS 600h, yet has a higher power density. It increases the luggage capacity by 25l (versus LS 600h).
Using lithium-ion technology has also reduced the component’s weight, helping reduce the car’s overall mass, thus supporting overall fuel economy, emissions performance and handling balance.
It is the first Lexus hybrid battery to feature a satellite construction design, in which the cell voltage monitoring function has been made separate from the battery ECU. This allows for efficient use of what would otherwise be empty space inside the battery pack to house the wiring harness and battery cooling blower, thus reducing the unit’s overall dimensions. The cooling blower itself has been made more powerful and thinner in size.
The infotainment system has a more inviting graphic user interface and is controlled using the next generation of Lexus’ Remote Touch control system. The intuitive operation is designed to mirror the way a smartphone is used; it can also recognise “handwritten” commands – outline letters traced using a finger on the touchpad.
The quality, precision and pride in perfection that define Lexus’ Takumi craftsmanship are richly evident in the luxury detailing in the new LS, as befits a flagship saloon.
Lexus has produced a unique aesthetic for the new LS which can be witnessed in elements such as the interior lighting and an exceptional attention to detail in the finish and appearance of everything you see and feel.
The hand-pleated door trims were inspired by Origami, the Japanese art of creating three-dimensional forms from a single piece of paper. The door panels were originally rendered in paper by a skilled fabric artisan. The finished three-dimensional pattern captures the Lexus “L” motif in its intricate and precise folds, conveying a different effect when seen in daylight or the cabin’s night-time illumination.
For the ornamentation panel, the aim was to express Lexus’ Time in Design philosophy. To achieve this, the team called on the skills of Kiriko artisan glassworkers who produced hand-carved designs that capture the contrast created by light and shadow. Through painstaking trial and error, a design was chosen that looks beautiful and sensual from any angle. Although fragile in appearance, the glass has been treated using reinforcement technology to ensure it is robust for use in a vehicle interior. The hand-carved design was reproduced using advanced glass production technology, which precisely scans and digitises tens of thousands of facets. In the next step the glass ornamentation undergoes a series of treatments such as polishing and strengthening conducted by specialised Japanese Takumi craftsmen.
The Multi Stage Hybrid System adds a four-stage shift device to the LS 500h’s Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain, which features a 3.5-litre V6 Dual VVT-i petrol engine and two electric motors. The result is more direct response to driver throttle inputs – a quality that is particularly noticeable when pulling away from stationary.
Although the system comprises a four-stage shift, its operation replicates the feel of driving with a 10-speed transmission, like that featured in the twin-turbo 3.5l V6 petrol engine powered LS 500, with a linear, direct and continuous acceleration feel, making for a more rewarding driving experience.
It is possible that no single automobile has, upon introduction, upended its category as decisively as the first Lexus LS did when it launched the luxury brand 28 years ago. The 1990 LS 400 was the original luxury disruptor, winning critical acclaim and astonishing customers by setting new benchmarks for comfort, powertrain performance and smoothness, quietness, build quality, attention to detail, and dependability. The brand supported that ground-breaking vehicle by setting and maintaining new standards for customer service and satisfaction.
Now, Lexus is about to repeat history with the introduction of the all-new, fifth-generation LS flagship saloon for 2018, unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. Inside and out, the new LS reflects a strong, uniquely Japanese identity and approach to luxury. Yet, the LS was designed to be the brand’s latest global citizen, available in about 90 countries. “Not only will the LS symbolize the Lexus brand, it will become the definitive new-generation luxury car embodying Japanese tradition and culture,” said Toshio Asahi, chief engineer for the new LS. “As such, this global pinnacle must go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury car.”
Longer and lower than the saloon it replaces, the all-new LS debuts a strikingly bold design with a coupe-like silhouette punctuated by the new Lexus design language. A new driver-centric performance feel comes from building the LS on the company’s all-new global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA–L). This premium rear-wheel drive platform, an extended version of the one used for the stunning new Lexus LC 500 coupe, will offer a more dynamic experience on the road while further elevating renowned Lexus comfort. The original Lexus LS won acclaim by anticipating what luxury customers would want, rather than simply amplifying what established luxury automobile brands offered at the time.
In that spirit, the 2018 LS saloon’s spacious cabin, unique appointments and visionary technology will once again surprise customers by resetting expectations for a global flagship saloon. “We set previously unheard of targets and resolutely pushed ahead towards these ambitious goals,” said LS chief engineer Asahi. “The customers that are going to want to own a Lexus flagship are already surrounded by luxury on a daily basis, people who have a sharp eye for authenticity to begin with. We wouldn’t turn their heads with a conventional premium product.”
Just as the original LS launched the Lexus brand, the all-new 2018 LS continues the brand’s more dynamic direction. Each generation of LS saloons leading up to this iteration advanced luxury, craftsmanship, performance and safety in their own way, with the most recent also introducing a far more emotional design and engaging on-road performance.
To create the all-new LS, Lexus took the approach of starting from new, reimagining what a flagship saloon should be, as if launching the brand all over again. The goal was not to improve on what Lexus has done, but to exceed expectations of global luxury customers.
A common thread going through all LS models remains: Omotenashi, the concept of Japanese hospitality. Applied to a luxury automobile, it means taking care of the driver and passengers, anticipating their needs, attending to their comfort and helping to protect them from hazards.
More than ever before, luxury saloon drivers demand greater handling agility and performance feel without sacrificing comfort. It’s one of the most difficult balances to achieve in a vehicle, yet the new Lexus global architecture for luxury vehicles (GA–L) meets the challenge. The new platform debuted in the LC 500 coupe and now, with a longer wheelbase, underpins the new LS. To enhance centre of gravity height and weight distribution, the new LS is offered only as a long wheel base model, with a wide and low design.
The GA-L platform is the stiffest in Lexus history, setting the stage for enhanced handling, ride smoothness and cabin quietness. The 3,125 mm wheelbase is 35 mm longer than the current LS long-wheelbase model.
Helping to provide the uncanny ride and handling balance in the new LS is the latest generation of a chassis control technology known as Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). This system implements cooperative control of all vehicle subsystems – braking, steering, powertrain, and suspension – to control basic longitudinal, lateral and vertical motion as well as yaw, roll and pitch. Optimal control of these motions helps to enable exceptional ride comfort, enhanced traction and safety and handling agility. Handling is further enhanced by active stabilizer bars and the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) System with independent front and rear steering. VDIM is capable of aiding stability when the car is traversing split-friction surfaces, such as dry pavement and ice.
In creating the new LS, engineers used lightweight materials including ultra-high tensile steel sheet and aluminium to carve over 90 kg from the current LS platform and body. These savings, along with the implementation of the new V6 engine and enhanced body rigidity, allow for a more dynamic driving experience.
Critical to its driving performance, the new platform lowers the car’s centre of gravity by placing most of the mass, including the engine and the occupants, in a position more centralized and lower in the chassis to help enhance the centre of gravity. Special braces in the engine compartment, stiff aluminium front and rear suspension towers, and other features help bolster the strength of key chassis structures.
The LS has a history of outstanding suspension compliance, yet Lexus saw opportunity for new gains in this realm as well. For example, the multilink suspension employs double ball joints on the upper and lower control arms to help allow for control of the smallest movements from the driver inputs and road conditions. Beyond sharing workload, a dual ball joint arrangement helps optimize suspension geometry to increase wheel control and yield more precise steering response with better initial effort. To reduce unsprung weight and therefore aid agility and comfort, aluminium is used extensively in the suspension.
For both high power and excellent fuel efficiency, Lexus designed an all-new 3.5-liter V6 engine specifically for the new LS with all-new twin turbos developed through the company’s F1 technology. This new engine in the LS is indicative of the more dynamic approach being taken by Lexus, offering V8-level power without sacrificing fuel economy—all while minimizing noise and vibration. The new LS engine offers the output one would expect in a flagship saloon: 310 kW / 421 PS / 415 hp and 600 Nm of torque, sizeable gains over the current LS model’s V8. The long stroke and optimized stroke-to-bore ratio contribute to high-speed combustion and the efficiency of the twin turbos, which assist the LS with a projected 0-100 km/h of 4.5 seconds (AWD).
Perhaps more critical is how Lexus tuned the engine and transmission to deliver instant acceleration and a constant build-up of torque toward the engine’s redline.
A ladder frame structure in the cylinder block, redesigned engine mounts, electric waste gates and numerous other features help ensure the remarkable powertrain smoothness, a Lexus hallmark. The driver will be able to tailor powertrain response and feel by choosing from Normal to Sport to Sport+ modes, and just enough of the exhaust note can be heard to enhance the sporty feel.
The first-ever 10-speed automatic transmission for a luxury saloon, having already debuted in the Lexus LC 500, is also used in the new LS flagship saloon. It is a torque-converter automatic, yet with shift times that rival those of dual-clutch transmissions. The wide bandwidth afforded by ten closely spaced ratios is ideal for all forms of driving, helping to provide an optimal gear for all conditions.
Shifting via paddles is available, yet many will prefer the advanced electronic control system, which anticipates the driver’s input. The system chooses the ideal ratio by monitoring the acceleration, braking and lateral-g forces.
For starting acceleration, the close ratios of the low gears and the shortened shift time enable a rhythmical and exhilarating acceleration feel. The high torque of the twin-turbo engine matches ideally with the higher gear ratios for effortless, serene highway cruising, yet very quick downshifts yield direct acceleration with no lag in G response.
Torque converter lock-up activates in all ranges except when starting off to provide a direct feel, while also supporting fuel efficiency.
“The LS is the flagship of the Lexus brand,” said Chief Designer Koichi Suga. “More than any other model, it embodies the history and image of Lexus and serves as a symbol for everything the brand stands for.” Following the “Yet” philosophy that has been passed on since the first-generation LS, Lexus created a design offering the room and comfort of a prestige “three-box” saloon, yet with the stylish silhouette of a four-door coupe that holds stronger appeal for younger luxury customers. Lexus designers took full advantage of the new platform, with its lower profile and length on par with that of a prestige long-wheelbase saloon, to give the new LS a stretched, ground-hugging appearance. Compared to the current LS, the new model is about 15 mm lower, while the hood and trunk are approximately 30 mm and 41 mm lower, respectively.
The new LS is the first Lexus saloon with a six- side window design. Also a first for a Lexus saloon, the flush-surface windows smoothly integrate with the side pillar. To preserve headroom with the lower profile, the new LS features an outer slide-type moonroof. The unique rendition of the spindle grille mesh, with a texture that seemingly changes in different light, is the result of both intense CAD development and hand-adjusting thousands of individual surfaces. The LS debuts five wheel designs, including two new 19- and three 20-inch wheel designs. The 20-inch premium wheels employ a brilliant appearance created using an electroplating technique known as sputtering. All but one of the wheel designs feature a hollow rim structure that helps reduce the resonance sound generated by the tires.
Creating a new standard of flagship luxury is not simply a matter of adding more features. Inspired by the omotenashi principle, Lexus sought to instil the new LS cabin with luxury that welcomes and envelops the occupants while treating the driver like a partner.
“I suggest that you simply open the door and experience that immediate, intuitive sense that you’re looking at an interior that is unlike any luxury car before,” said Chief Designer Suga.
New seating designs, including available 28-way power front seats that feature heating, cooling and massage, exemplify this approach. The organically shaped dash design clusters information displays at uniform height to support the “seat-in-control” layout that emphasizes the driver’s ability to operate all systems without the need to change posture.
While making the new LS even more of a driver’s car, Lexus also lavished attention to the rear seat, developing a design that creates seamless, enveloping continuity between the trim and seatbacks for passenger egress.
Options for heating, cooling and massage make the rear seat a most welcoming environment. The available power front and rear seat with Shiatsu massage and a raised ottoman, part of a wider rear seat luxury package, offers the most legroom of any previous-generation LS. In addition, the seat behind the front passenger in this optional package can be reclined up to 48 degrees, and can be raised up to 24 degrees to help assist the rear-seat passenger in exiting the vehicle.
Because the new LS is lower than previous versions, Lexus for the first time equipped the available air suspension with an access function. Activated by unlocking the car with the smart key, access mode automatically raises the vehicle and opens the seat bolsters to welcome drivers behind the wheel.
Lighting and attention to detail express a unique aesthetic in the LS. A new approach to creating trim elements again turned to Japanese culture, combining traditional Japanese aesthetic with advanced manufacturing techniques. This is reflected in signature touches, such as beautiful interior ambient lighting inspired by Japanese lanterns and armrests that appear to float next to the door panel.
Inspired by Shimamoku wood patterns, the new forms that combine the artistic combination of natural woodwork and application of Japan’s sophisticated sliced wood and laser cutting manufacturing technologies can be seen in the new LS. New patterns include Art Wood/Organic, Art Wood/Herringbone and Laser Cut Special. Compared to the straight-grain Shimamoku pattern, the new LS cross-grain is a larger pattern featuring bolder contrasts between light and dark, giving the wood a more vibrant appearance.
Lexus tuned the LS exhaust to convey a more authoritative tone, yet also designed the cabin to ensure utterly quiet cruising. New sound suppression methods further hush the environment compared to previous LS models. Active Noise Control further quiets the cabin by detecting the sound of the engine coming into the vehicle and cancelling certain frequencies using antiphase sound from the audio speakers.
The serenity of the LS cabin provides an ideal stage for the standard premium audio system or the audiophile-worthy available 3D surround Mark Levinson audio package with in-ceiling array speakers. The package features a more inviting graphic user interface. Its next-generation remote touch is designed to mimic smartphone operation, also supporting handwritten input. In addition to its 12.3-inch wide navigation display, the LS can incorporate an optional large colour heads-up display (HUD) that projects a variety of information onto the driver’s forward view.
Structurally, the all-new Lexus LS offers a high degree of passive safety for occupant protection in collisions. Lexus has also equipped the LS with technologies that can possibly help prevent crashes from occurring or mitigate their effects. The LS will feature the brand’s Lexus Safety System + and offer an advanced safety system, which features the world’s first intuitive pedestrian detection with active steering.
With this system, if a pedestrian is detected in the lane ahead and a collision is imminent, the LS will automatically brake and steer around the person while staying in the lane. The available colour HUD is utilized in alerting the driver. High-level Driving Support called Lexus CoDrive is also introduced in the new LS. It enables control steering in accordance with the driver’s intention and continuous driving support in highways.
|Vehicle type||Full size premium luxury saloon|
|Engine||3.5-liter V6, direct fuel injection, twin turbochargers|
|Overall length||5,235 mm|
|Wheels||19 or 20-inch|