Monday, May 7, 2018


You can thank designer Tokuo Fukuichi for the ‘spindle grille’ which now adorns all Lexus models, but the execution on the flagship is more about technology than the appearance.

Apparently it took three designers six months, with assistance from a CAD program to create the 5000+ separate surfaces, ending up with something that appears to replicate a giant spider’s web.

This revelation is necessary, to impress on you that the Lexus LS500h is something special, and Toyota reckons this car meets, and beats, its competition – Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series and Audi’s A8.

Really, it’s no luxo-barge, more precisely a luxury liner, with some heavyweight, and next to useless batteries; some nifty fully reclining rear seats; and enough ‘bling’ to dazzle Paris Hilton. 

Actually, I should mention there’s more, optional, bling you can order, in case the standard offering is too passé.

I cannot fathom why Toyota even bothered with a ‘Multi-Stage’ Hybrid version of this model.

"Move along, nothing to see here." Underneath the sea of grey plastic is a 3.0L V6 Hybrid

It’s gutless, and out on the highway you can forget about spirited driving, because it sounds and acts like an asthmatic when answering the throttle demands.

However, I do have to say the chassis control and dynamics are very good, and for a car weighing more than 2.5 tonnes, it's points pretty well.

It will sell to Japan’s top shoguns, and I’m sure will be a big hit in China. In Australia it costs close to AUD$200,000 and despite Toyota’s claims that the LS500h belongs in the ‘German Club’ it’s really just a slick, tricked-up limo suited to chauffeurs wafting the occupants between city and airport than anything else.

When the LS400 debuted in 1989 I, along with everyone in the global car industry, was very impressed with the design, engineering and execution. More so, the customer service, which saw Lexus replace ‘whole’ cars, even if the problems were caused by the owner!

However, despite 30 years of being in the marketplace, the Lexus flagship has become a bit of a parody of the ‘ultimate luxury liner’. With no genuine history and traditions bolstering the image, Lexus relies on the nifty, dazzling tech it can build into the car to impress the buyers.

It’s loaded with every conceivable feature you could imagine, or want. Heated and cooled seats; fully reclining ‘Business Class’ rear seats; massaging surfaces; Home Theatre screens and (right) a great 'Mark Levinson' sound system (more about that in a later post).

However, every service or application is managed by the driver through the dash-mounted screen and a touchpad in the centre console.

After a few days I decided that the touchpad is so disruptive in use, and distracting, that I think it should be rendered useless once the car is on the move.

The surface is too sensitive, and finding the centre to execute functions whilst driving is not only difficult, it’s downright dangerous.

Not only do you have to watch where you're putting your fingers, but then you have to look at the screen to ensure you selected the desired function!

However, disabling it means you then can’t execute any changes, to aircon, seat comfort, entertainment or information feedback. Which means all the hi-tech is then useless too! Huh?

Take away the tech and what are you left with? Well, the exterior styling is now generic Toyota, but the interior and dashboard design is exceptionally well-resolved.
With your hands at 10 to 2, you can't see the clock. Even if you could, its highly reflective dial makes determining the time difficult. When the designer was alerted, he said: "Oh, yes, very sorry."

I asked an 8 year old friend if he liked it, while being driven along the motorway with him reclining on the rear seat, and he said: “No, if I wanted impress people, I’d have a Rolls-Royce Phantom.”

Here’s a young man who can easily see through the marketing and hi-tech BS! And he understands the value of heritage, lineage and tradition.

He added: “Remember, it’s only a big Toyota.” Says it all, I reckon.

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