What is it?
It’s been three decades since Eiji Toyoda secretly challenged a regiment of technicians to build him a luxury car capable of overhauling the huge lead enjoyed by American and European rivals.
The resulting car, the original Lexus LS, took six years and 450 prototypes to perfect, and although it was not everything it might have been, it set new standards in refinement and duly took the United States by storm.
Now moving into the facelift phase of its fourth generation, the standard bearer is still not everything Europe equates with luxury, but the brand created to sell Toyota's flagship abroad continues to earnestly fine-tune its own idea of perfection.
To that end, the latest styling cues have been absorbed into slightly meatier overhangs and updated headlights, while outlandish new interior features such as a four-zone climate control system that uses an infra-red sensor to monitor face temperature and multi-phase LED lighting appear as standard in this, the £99,495 LS600h L Premier.
What is it like?
Along with the longer wheelbase, the range-topper remains a four-wheel-drive hybrid that sources its power from a familiar collaboration between a muffled 389bhp 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine and a downright silent 221bhp electric motor.
Despite getting on for two and a half tonnes, this flexible partnership enables its allotted autocrat to reach 62mph in 6.1sec through an E-CVT transmission, and, let's face it, a full-time driver.
For the benefit of the employee upfront, Lexus has extensively reinforced its flagship for better rigidity, switched to a progressive rebound spring design, stiffened the bushes in the multi-link suspension to reduce roll and added five different modes in a new Drive Select system.
Seated considerably higher than they would be in any of its rivals, most chauffeurs should find the LS600h easy enough to navigate for such a big car, and better suppression of neck-straining, mid-bend lean will be gratefully received by those told to get a hurry on.
Elsewhere they will have their work cut out: even with revised settings, the variable-ratio steering makes every distant answer to helm inputs vaguely inconsistent, and while there is certainly plenty of grip on offer from the permanent all-wheel drive system, it's anyone's guess where it eventually runs out.
That will be of little consequence to the mover and shaker sat in the back having their ears massaged by a phenomenal Mark Levinson audio system amid the leather-clad hush. However, despite the Ottoman-style seats, some may feel that they are being moved around and shaken a little more than is strictly necessary.
Rather than forming a symbiotic relationship with the road as a Jaguar XJ or Mercedes S-Class do, Lexus hopes to sail you blithely over it. Faced with a mill pond, it does feel noiseless and absorbent, but present it with continuous British ripples and the LS all too often fails to isolate its occupants from the chassis' nervous palpitations.
Should I buy one?
Even leaving aside the subjective shortfall of its firmer setup, cold hard facts continue to haunt the stretched Lexus flagship. A 4.2-litre TDI-engined Audi A8 L would be a substantial £20k cheaper, emit 1g/km of CO2 less at 198g/km, manage 37.7mpg compared to 32.8mpg, look sleeker and go faster.
Alternatively, if value for money is as redundant to you as a permanent driver, a Mercedes S600 L would be around £15k more, just as opulent, and, frustratingly for Toyota, still better embody the ultimate ambition of Eiji Toyoda’s thirty-year-old crusade.
Lexus LS600h-L Premier
Price £99,495; 0-62mph 6.1sec; Top speed: 155mph; Economy 32.8mpg; CO2 199g/km; Kerb weight 2440kg Engine 8 cyls, 4969cc, petrol plus electric motor assist; Power 439bhp at 6400rpm; Torque 383lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox E-CVT auto