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The new Lexus LS 500 is pure perfexus

2018-06-24 00:00

Melinda Ferguson

Rich Ride: Lexus is one of both the hippest and most coveted brands in the US, attracting huge street cred among the likes of Jay-Z, Ice Cube and will.i.am Pictures:supplied

Lexus LS 500
Price: R2 141 400 (includes a best-in-class seven-year warranty and full maintenance plan)
Five stars

In 1985 Eiji Toyoda – the founder of Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus – sent 20 designers and engineers to the US on a covert operation to create “the world’s best car”. They moved into a huge house in Laguna Beach, California, to study the habits of the locals and immerse themselves in the lives of their “market”. They photographed locals in shopping malls, on morning school runs, at restaurants and in grocery stores.

And so began the intricate relationship with research and detail with which Lexus has become synonymous.

Four years later, in 1989, the first Lexus LS 400 was dramatically unveiled at the Detroit auto show. Lexus’ extraordinary efforts had paid off, and the huge premium sedan immediately attracted international praise, drawing serious guns on the German Beemers and Mercs that had up until then ruled the US premium sedan roost.

Between 2000 and 2011 Lexus was the bestselling premium brand in the US. And in 2017 the Lexus RX and NX clinched number one and number three top-selling luxury SUV brands, respectively, in the US. Today, 28 million Lexuses later, Lexus is one of the hippest and most coveted brands in that country, attracting huge street cred among celebrities including Jay-Z, Ice Cube and will.i.am.

Three weeks ago I was handed the sculptured keyless remote to the fifth generation LS (the LS 500) to cruise the beaut on the streets of Cape Town. For five days I became queen of the town in my twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6, a breathtakingly luxurious spaceship with 310kW of power and 600Nm of massive torque.

Based on a new GA-L platform (which also underpins my 2017 Car of the Year, the sporty LC 500), the drive was velvet smooth, stiff-chassied and a brute when in Sport+ mode with its 10-speed torque converter.

The new LS is made all the more impressive with the latest generation of VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management). In simple terms, this is a stability enhancer to adjust braking, steering, powertrain and suspension, coming together to create a superb and agile ride.

Design-wise the LS 500’s exterior is a masterpiece with its bold new spindle grille, drawing the eye with over 5 000 individual surfaces, while the shark fin-like LEDs give the coupé-like sedan a mean “don’t mess with this machine” feel.

But it’s inside where you really get up close and personal with the Japanese concept of “omotenashi”, an ode to hospitality. The stitch work, wood and metal details combine traditional Japanese aesthetics with futuristic design and tech by way of Takumi craftsmanship. The origami-inspired creased leather on the doors and metal speaker pods are simply works of art.

But it was in the front seat that I truly cemented my passionate love affair with this Lexus. With a mere press of the “seat” button, my lust for comfort was sated as I spent hours choosing Shiatsu massages for my partner and I on the heated (or cooled) 28-way power front seats. But it’s not just the driver and front passenger who get to kick back. The rear seats (also with massage and temperature functions) resemble first class aircraft seats with ginormous legroom as well as a raised ottoman with a decline angle of 48 degrees. Bliss.

And then there’s the sound. The Mark Levinson system with 3D surround sound and 23 speakers could outbeat most high-end home sound studios.

By the end of the week I had become so attached to the car that my palms grew sweaty as the time that I was to hand back that curvy key drew near.

Thankfully, the Lexus team made our parting less severe by hosting media at the iconic Tintswalo Atlantic, one of Cape Town’s most premium escapes, perched on the lip of the moody Atlantic ocean.

As I wrenched myself away from my coveted LS, I was led to our luxury suite and gently invited to lie down for a 90-minute massage to re-acclimatise.

By the end of my brief romance with the LS, I only had one question: Why haven’t more South Africans caught on to this classy, stellar brand?

  • Ferguson was a guest at Tintswalo Atlantic. Book at tintswalo.com
Read more on:    lexus  |  cape town  |  new model

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