Back in 1989, the comfortable and refined LS400 announced Lexus to the world, making established luxury manufacturers sit up and take note. Four generations on, this latest LS purports to do what Lexus has always threatened and be the complete luxury package while, at the same time, recapturing some of that first car's special feel in process.

There’s only one problem: the Mercedes S-class. Neither is it exactly glorious at first glance, for all Lexus’s talk of its L-finesse design language. But the LS600h will need to be a mightily good car to compete with the Mercedes, the favoured choice of diplomats and world leaders everywhere.

On paper, Lexus is certainly talking the talk. It still looks awkward, but it’s still the first big Lexus that, one could argue, is good-looking in an unconventional kind of way. And, crucially, it’s the first that looks like threatening the Germans without copying them, thanks to its unalloyed luxury without Germanic aggression.

It’s a car so complex that the manual explaining the LS’s many, many functions runs to 596 pages, and that’s before you dip into the 218-page tome that explains the navigation system.

So for all its obvious appeal to the head, can this be the first big Lexus that appeals to the heart? Or has Lexus’s pursuit of perfection gone too far?

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Lexus range

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    22 December 2014
    Entry-level diesel MPV shares its three-cylinder engine with Mini but, due to long gearing, lacks the authoritative punch of a convincing premium product
  • Car review
    17 December 2014
    The replacement for the CL grand tourer has some big boots to fill
  • Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 AMG Line Shooting Brake review
    First Drive
    16 December 2014
    Elegant, alluring and with some welcome improvements, but not good enough to lead the class
  • First Drive
    15 December 2014
    Hushed, flexible and remarkable value for money. Arguably more fit-for-purpose than any other ‘S’.
  • 2015 Mazda CX-3 review
    First Drive
    12 December 2014
    The Mazda CX-3 has style and substance, and deserves consideration for anyone wanting a compact urban SUV. Here’s hoping Mazda gets the price and equipment right