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Geneva show: Lexus embraces Japanese heritage

Rising sun: The Lexus LS features origami-inspired hand-pleated door trims, which emphasise the limo’s country of origin.

LS to stand apart from rivals with hybrid tech, Japanese interior design theme


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16 Mar 2017


LEXUS says its pioneering hybrid technology and Japanese heritage will give it an advantage over its traditional rivals in the upper-large premium sedan segment when the all-new LS arrives next year.

The Japanese luxury car-maker uncovered its LS500h hybrid sedan at last week’s Geneva motor show, and it is expected to roll into Australian showrooms early next year at the same time as the combustion-powered LS500 V6.

The LS competes against predominantly European rivals such as BMW’s 7 Series, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi’s soon-to-be-replaced A8, Jaguar’s XJ, the Maserati Quattroporte and Porsche’s Panamera.

Lexus International executive vice-president Yoshihiro Sawa said that hybrid technology was the company’s strength and added that it was important to differentiate itself from its rivals.

“We believe we have a stronger powertrain so we are proud of that,” he told Australian reporters at Geneva. “Of course we have to compete with the traditional European luxury brands, but we would like to compete in a different way. Lexus is a young brand. We shouldn’t do the same thing as the traditional makers.”

While Mr Sawa believes its hybrid technology will help set Lexus apart, most of its key rivals now offer either hybrid or plug-in hybrid versions of their flagship sedans.

BMW and Benz offer their respective 740e and S500e plug-ins, while Porsche will soon have the 4 E-Hybrid as well as the 500kW/850Nm Turbo S E-Hybrid plug-in.

Audi is expected to offer an e-tron version of its next-gen A8 as well.

While Mr Sawa would not be drawn on any other powertrains for the LS beyond the already announced LS500 and 500h, he did reiterate the company’s plans to develop a hydrogen fuel-cell version as previewed by the LF-FC concept from the 2015 Tokyo motor show.

He also confirmed that the new-gen LS, that is offered only in stretched long-wheelbase guise, would not be offered in a shorter wheelbase version.

Mr Sawa said while Lexus acknowledged the LS’s European rivals, it did not want to compete on size and engine power alone.

“We would like to provide technology and sophistication within the luxury category ... We tried to find our own position. We would like to compete with previous competitors or successors, but mainly we try to build our own position. Personally I don’t want to say the target is that (specific) car...”

When asked by GoAuto if Lexus had taken a while to embrace its Japanese heritage, Mr Sawa said: “Of course, but not in an obvious way.

“Japanese have our own sense of beauty. For example we will do the Milan design week activities. We will show the Lexus design exhibition. That is based on the sense of beauty which is Lexus’ design philosophy. We try to harmonise contradictory elements, then create a brand new value that is very Japanese.”

Mr Sawa said Lexus wanted to include “traditional Japanese craftsmanship” in the LS’s interior, which is influenced by Japanese design.

Lexus said in a release prior to its reveal that the LS interior was designed with the principle of Omotenashi, which expresses the “unique sense of Japanese hospitality”, making for a “whisper quiet” cabin that envelops the occupants and “treats the driver like a partner”.

Lexus’s Takumi – 10 Japanese craftsmen that work out of the company’s Tahara plant – contributed to the LS500h’s cabin with new trims, materials and detailing that includes origami-inspired hand-pleated door trims and hand-crafted designs created by Kiriko artisan glass-workers for the inner door panels.

The LS took out the EyesOn Design Award for excellence in interior design at the Detroit motor show in January.

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