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Lexus tips new F Sport hybrid as top LS seller

Spindle shuffle: Central to revised Lexus LS luxury limousine’s more aggressive new look is the brand’s distinctive ‘spindle grille’ styling.

February launch for heavily revised Lexus LS limo range in Oz, priced from $189,900

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Lexus logo8 Nov 2012

LEXUS will drop the price of entry to a hybrid-powered flagship variant of its heavily-revised LS limousine by more than $25,000 when it launches in Australia next February, following its first public outing at this week’s Melbourne Cup Carnival.

The Japanese luxury brand’s Australian arm expects the new $217,900 (plus on-road costs) high-performance LS600h F Sport to become the most popular LS here, ousting the outgoing model’s purely petrol LS460 Sports Luxury as top-seller.

To achieve the price drop, Lexus has introduced a short-wheelbase version of its all-wheel-drive hybrid LS and consigned long-wheelbase versions to special order status.

Also contributing to the more affordable petrol-electric LS is the falling cost of hybrid technology due to its increasing uptake around the world.

Opening the LS range is the $189,900 LS460 F Sport, $764 less expensive than the previous entry level Sports variant, while the mid-spec LS460 Sports Luxury costs $192,400.

Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb said giving prominence to SWB versions of the LS was in recognition of local buyers preferring to drive themselves than be chauffeured, citing 384 LWB sales in the luxury limo segment in 2008 compared with just 80 in 2012.

He said the revised car has a broader appeal and that Lexus recognised the need to “offer something more” in order to engage customers.

Fittingly, the new LS promises to deliver a more involving drive than before, especially with the new F Sport variants that were introduced due to the fact a quarter of all Lexus cars sold in Australia wear the F Sport badge, including a third of IS350 sedan and CT200h hatchback models.

Mr Cramb said the new LS enters a far smaller segment than its 2007 predecessor, with the post-GFC luxury limo market having contracted from 1200 annual units to 800 in five years as more buyers opt for luxury SUVs or other alternatives Meanwhile new entrants from Aston Martin and Porsche have increased the number of players fighting for slices of a smaller pie.

Lexus says the new LS is more than a mid-life facelift and application of the new ‘spindle grille’ styling, as 3000 changes have resulted in 50 per cent of the revised car being new, with the only exterior panels carried over being the roof and doors.

The new LS is claimed to be a more engaging driver’s car than before, with a 60 per cent more rigid body – due to a new ‘laser screw’ construction method, extra cabin reinforcement and bracing for the body and suspension – plus a 20 per cent stiffer steering support for improved feel and feedback.

Already renowned for quietness and refinement, the new LS has also received further reductions to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), and Lexus claims the new car provides almost 100 per cent rear-seat ‘conversation clarity’ at 100km/h.

The new dashboard is inspired by the GS that made its Australian public debut this time last year but takes craftsmanship and technology up a few notches, with a massive 12.3-inch infotainment display, 5.8-inch instrument panel multi-function display and a GPS-synchronised LED analogue clock that automatically updates to time zone changes.

Lexus has reduced the amount of switchgear by incorporating the latest version of its mouse-like Lexus Remote Touch controller for the central screen and an advanced interior ambient lighting system with 17 light sources.

As before, the LS comes comprehensively equipped with creature comforts and technology but the new LS460 F Sport entry variant adds aggressive F-Sport styling, 19-inch alloy wheels, six-piston Brembo front brakes, revised suspension with 10mm lower ride height, a Torsen limited-slip differential, F-Sport branded sports seats and steering wheel and aluminium pedals.

Equipment updates include improved safety and collision-avoidance systems, a new adaptive cruise control feature that works at any speed, a five-mode drive select function with new ‘comfort’ mode and improved seat heating and cooling.

The LS460 Sports Luxury loses F-Sport items like the tweaked suspension, Brembo brakes and sports seats but otherwise comes fully equipped with the only option being the choice of special hollow-rimmed, noise-reducing alloy wheels.

A Blu-ray player for the rear entertainment system is standard, along with a large extendable ottoman for the front passenger.

Significantly, the Sports Luxury has a world-first ‘climate concierge’ system that uses 13 sensors, 20 vents and four temperature zones to “go beyond simply managing the air temperature within the cabin”, and has ‘nanoe’ technology that pumps out ionised water molecules to moisturise and deodorise the cabin.

All the sports upgrades are added to the flagship LS600h F Sport – the most powerful Lexus F Sport product yet – with the addition of unique active stabiliser bars that firm individual dampers during cornering to reduce body roll, and LED high- and low- beam headlights.

Lexus has tweaked the 4.6-litre V8 petrol engine of the LS460 and its eight-speed automatic transmission to improve fuel efficiency and meet Euro 5B emissions criteria while boosting power output 5kW to 285kW and maintaining torque output at 493Nm.

Combined consumption (of 95 RON premium unleaded) drops from 11.1 litres of per 100 kilometres to 10.7L/100km and acceleration from 0-100km/h remains at 5.9 seconds.

The LS600h continues to combine a 290kW/520Nm 5.0-litre petrol V8 with two electric motors producing a combined 165kW and 300Nm driving through twin planetary gear-sets to deliver a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with eight stepped ratios and all-wheel-drive.

All that combined power and torque enables the LS600h to hit 100km/h in 5.7 seconds (down from 6.3 seconds) while fuel consumption drops to a frugal 8.6L/100km (previously 9.3L/100km) and the regenerative braking system has been boosted for stronger deceleration.

Lexus Australia marketing manager Peter Evans told GoAuto only 10 examples of the outgoing LS have been sold here year-to-date because it has stopped importing the model as it is “not appropriate” to runout an LS and the company had been focussing on launching the all-new GS sedan and facelifted RX SUV.

Of the 730,000 LS models sold world-wide since its 1989 launch, 3800 LS limos have found homes in Australia – one of its first export markets.

Mr Cramb said the LS enjoys exceptional customer loyalty in Australia, with 90 per cent of owners returning to buy another Lexus.

2013 Lexus LS pricing*
LS 460 F Sport $189,900
LS 460 Sports Luxury $192,400
LS 600h F Sport $217,900
LS 600hL $POA
*Plus on-road costs

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