Lexus LS

A technical marvel, with plenty of features, but probably too expensive for most

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

This new flagship is a technological marvel with an astonishing array of advanced and useful features. They join the traditional LS virtues of refinement and build quality – but just look at the hefty price! A bland interior and exterior – plus no diesel option and fears over residuals – mean that until the advanced hybrid arrives, the LS will trail behind rivals.

When it comes to luxury cars, heritage and image are everything - but try telling that to Lexus. The firm's flagship LS model only arrived in the UK in 1989, yet it has been snapping at the heels of the established German brands ever since.

The all-new model is the most advanced and luxurious example yet - and has the class-leading Mercedes S-Class firmly in its sights. We tried the range-topper on British roads to see if it hits the target.

From the outside, there's no mistaking the manufacturer's familiar look. However, the bold chrome grille and swept-back headlamps that sit so well on the firm's smaller models are less suited to the massive LS.

Smart details, such as the integrated exhaust pipes which form part of the rear bumper and the highly polished window trims, shout quality, but the overall effect is imposing rather than stylish. Inside, the cabin has every conceivable luxury - and a vast array of gadgets. These include a special diffuser above the rear passengers to recirculate the air and a camera that monitors the driver and warns of any obstacles ahead if your eyes stray from the road or you start nodding off.

Other groundbreaking safety features include a Honda-style Lane-Keep Assist set-up that prevents the car from drifting out of line on the motorway and emergency steering assistance, which sharpens the wheel's response to help the driver avoid a collision. There are also clever pre-crash systems designed to reduce the impact of both front and rear collisions.

The big LS can even park itself, thanks to a clever self-steering set-up which measures the size of a space before twirling the wheel - all you have to do is operate the pedals! Rear passengers, meanwhile, enjoy plenty of legroom and even get their own set of controls for the impressive 19-speaker stereo system. Electric reclining seats also boost comfort.

The Lexus has an all-new 375bhp 4.6 V8 engine and an eight-ratio auto - a world first. Engineers claim the new transmission optimises performance and fuel consumption, with combined economy of 25.4mpg and a claimed 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds.

Great refinement is another welcome by-product, and at motorway speeds wind noise is the only sound to disturb the peace, while the automatic air-suspension is in its element soaking up any bumps. However, it's less accomplished in town, struggling to cope with smaller potholes and imperfections.

Negatives include the grabby electro-hydraulic brakes and the lifeless steering. And then there's the price, because the flagship SE-L costs a whopping £71,000. Cheaper rivals can't match the LS's kit count, but that's still a daunting figure. Entry-level models start from £57,000, while the SE is £65,000. Importantly, the new LS is an evolution of the outgoing car, so it won't alienate loyal owners - the firm has already taken 200 deposits. Sales projections are modest, though, with around 525 conventional cars and a further 250 LS600h petrol-electric hybrids expected to find homes next year. That at least guarantees customers some exclusivity.

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