LEXUS NEWS
LEXUS LS: 25 YEARS

03/28/2014—Twenty-five years ago, Lexus launched itself with a vehicle that shook things up in the luxury car market. We’re talking, of course, about the Lexus LS, which has remained the Lexus flagship through four generations of updates, and continues to live in a class by itself.

We’ve recently argued that the vehicle is the finest luxury car ever made, but in honor of the last 25 years of automotive excellence, we felt it appropriate to back up that claim up with a little more muscle—like 25 reasons it’s the finest automobile ever made. Consider:

1. It threw other luxury automakers off their game: In the years after its 1989 debut, the LS overtook its BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac rivals in U.S. sales. These manufacturers responded with lower prices and added features, and Mercedes-Benz even reorganized its operations, switching to production processes similar to Lexus’s.

2. The vehicles last: Lexus dealers have many great stories about Lexus owners who’ve driven their LS more than 500,000 miles, because longevity has been woven into the car from the beginning. Even back in the 80s, a special LS “anti-aging” team was set up to ensure an LS with 50,000 miles would not look, feel, or sound perceptibly different than a brand new model.

3. The reclining ottoman seat[1]: In 2007, the Lexus LS started offering its optional Executive-Class Seating package in the long wheelbase models, which included a rear-reclining seat in the back, living-room style...

4. ...Except it’s better than a living room, thanks to shiatsu massage: That’s right. The long wheelbase models also began offering an optional massage function. Since then, the system has advanced to include both a conventional vibration massage system and an air-assisted system with eight pneumatic chambers that cover the occupant’s shoulders, back, and hips. Oh yeah.

5. No spilled champagne: The current LS engine is an even more refined version of that first engine, which didn’t spill a drop as it revved past 140 mph with 15 glasses of champagne stacked on its hood—a now iconic feat.

6. It can stop by itself: As part of the vehicle’s current capabilities, this optional feature in the LS Advanced Pre-Collision System[2] (APCS) is designed to automatically bring the LS to a stop at speeds below 24 miles per hour.

7. Too many automotive firsts to name: But here’s a few—first production eight-speed automatic transmission; first rear seat infrared climate control in an automobile; first production V8-powered full-hybrid vehicle; first production car available with a Reactive Pedestrian Detection System; first advanced parking guidance system in a luxury vehicle...you get the picture.

8. Self-repairing paint: A few years ago, Lexus LS engineers gave the vehicle Anti-Scratch Clear Coat, which can actually spring back to its original shape and gloss when nicked.

9. It’s a home-movie theater: The latest model also offers an optional Blu-ray DVD Rear Seat Entertainment System so rear-seat passengers can enjoy movies. While reclining. And getting a massage (with the right package).

10. The stethoscope treatment: Think about this: every Lexus LS engine is fired up on a test bench and personally inspected before it goes in the vehicle. A skilled technician pores over the running engine personally, looking, touching, and listening with a stethoscope to help make sure it hums according to rigid specs.

11. Its design team worked in cool places like Laguna Beach (sort of): During the original LS testing, a five-person design team set up shop in the California coastal town to harness the high-end Laguna Beach vibe, which they then applied to the vehicle’s design at nearby Calty Research. Every LS generation since then has included this approach—harnessing the environments that are made for the LS, and then working that energy into the design thinking.

12. Anti-fatigue seats: Lexus LS engineers designed the front-seats’ cushion shape and seatback positions to help counter the occupant’s tendency to slip forward or tilt the pelvis back—basically keeping the sitter in a posture that counters fatigue.

13. Climate concierge: This optional system is like the quarterback for all the LS climate-control features. It essentially coordinates an array of systems like the heated steering wheel, seat warmers, and HVAC system to hold your desired cabin temperature.

14. Shimamoku: LS interiors have a history of finely crafted wood trim options; the latest is a beautiful layered wood trim called Shimamoku. Making it involves 67 steps that require more than five weeks of craftsmanship to complete, and the result is a work of modern art.

15. It’s made with lasers beams: The LS body components around the doors are joined with an advanced welding technique called laser screw welding—targeted laser welds that make the vehicle stronger, which enhances ride comfort and agility.

16. Noise-reducing wheels: The LS has always been an amazingly quiet, cocoon-like space; noise reduction was a priority even in the first LS (the design team pioneered special quadruple door seals, among other innovations). Since then, LS engineers have been refining and refining, even recently introducing special hollow-chamber wheels that reduce noise.

17. A mobile concert hall: Nineteen speakers. That’s how many you’ll find in the model’s optional Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System, which technicians spent more than 2,000 hours tuning to create a sound to rival the concert-hall environment (it helps to have a cabin that blocks exterior noise, but still).

18. Brilliant chief engineers: Lexus LS engineers have always been the elite of the elite—literally some of the best automotive minds in the last quarter century, from Chief Engineer Ichiro Suzuki, who supervised the initial LS in the 1980s, to current LS Chief Engineer Hideki Watanabe.

19. Orchids: The Lexus LS cabin is such an inviting, finely controlled space that a team once grew 50 delicate orchids inside an LS interior.

20. Extreme quality control: The Lexus LS set the standard for Lexus’s intense quality-testing culture. Lexus engineers drove the first-generation prototypes more than a million miles around the world, used electro-magnetic interference chambers to bombard the electrical systems, and otherwise established the real-world testing used, and later expanded, for future LS models.

21. The awards: Just a few accolades from the last 25 years—World Car of the Year; International Car of the Year; Top Gear Limousine of the Year; highest-rated luxury car in Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver, and MotorWeek; Ward’s 10 Best Engines; Edmunds.com’s Best Sound System in Cars Over $30,000...you get the picture.

22. Reliability: In vehicle studies, the LS consistently ranks among the most reliable car in its class.

23. It’s merged with supercar technology: The LS F SPORT version draws from Lexus’s 10-plus years of LFA performance development, such as an optimal center of gravity and a limited-slip rear differential (on the rear-wheel drive model) that instantly distributes power to the right and left rear wheels to help enhance even cornering.

24. The Tahara plant: Every Lexus LS is born from the most robotized, precision-minded, quality-controlled automotive plant in the world. The human factor is extreme, from the elite takumi masters who own various aspects of quality control to an assembly culture that allows any plant worker to stop the line if they suspect that even the slightest thing is amiss.

25. And finally, LS refinement never, ever stops: You’d think a car that began with such meticulous standards as the LS would be perfected after 25 years, but that’s not the Lexus way. There’s always an improvement, no matter how minute, which means the LS will likely continue its reign as the world’s finest automobile for decades to come.

—BRIAN GILL

Legal Disclaimers

[1] Do not allow passengers to sit in a seat that has been fully or severely reclined while driving. This feature is intended for use only when the vehicle is parked. While the vehicle is being driven, all vehicle occupants should have the seatback upright, sit well back in the seat and properly wear the seat belts provided. In the event of a collision, the more the seat is reclined, the greater the risk of death or personal injury. See Owner’s Manual for additional information.

[2] Advanced Pre-Collision is designed to help reduce the crash speed and damage in certain frontal collisions only. Driver Attention Monitor is designed to alert the driver if a potential hazard is detected ahead and the driver’s face appears to be turned away. They are not collision avoidance systems and are not substitutes for safe and attentive driving. System effectiveness depends on many factors. See Owner’s Manual for details.