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?

Top 5 Luxury saloons

  • Mercedes-Benz S-class
    'Sporty' Mercedes have a three-pointed badge in the grille. Luxury Benzes get a three-pointed star atop the grille

    Mercedes-Benz S-class

    1
  • Tesla Model S
    The Tesla Model S is an upmarket rear-wheel-drive electric saloon

    Tesla Model S

    2
  • The latest XJ is a big departure from its predecessor, stylistically

    Jaguar XJ

    3
  • Audi A8
    The third generation Audi A8 is the best yet - and by some margin

    Audi A8

    4
  • The BMW 7-series features a new platform and entirely new bodyshell

    BMW 7-series

    5

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