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Lexus aims to reset the luxury saloon benchmark with its bold new LS flagship

Lexus will probably never launch another car with the impact of the legendary original LS limousine. Before the 1989 LS, Toyota’s luxury car brand simply didn’t exist.

Not long after it came along, the industry was alive with gossip among Lexus’s European and American rivals, who had prodded, poked, tested and disassembled examples of the car and were, by and large, at a total loss to understand how a luxury saloon could be so refined and assiduously well put together in every detail.

Lexus’s ‘Takumi’ master craftsmen, who hand-build parts of the LS’s interior, qualify for their revered status by demonstrating that they can make a perfect origami cat in 90 seconds, using only their non-dominant hand

In causing the established powers to take a long, hard look at themselves, the original LS probably did change the luxury car industry. But can it repeat the trick? Almost 30 years after it originally caused such head-scratching concern, can the fifth-generation LS be another transformative luxury car?

Those are the questions driving this week’s road test – and it’ll be a top-of-the-range, petrol-electric LS 500h Premier supplying the answers.

The new LS is a car with which its maker hopes to recast perceptions of exactly what a Lexus is and what it can do. In the company’s own words, the LS is “a reimagined flagship vehicle whose mission is to go far beyond what the world expects from a luxury vehicle”.

And like any flagship, it has to be a rolling manifestation of the pillar-like strengths on which its maker will stake its reputation for the next decade or so. As defined by Lexus, they are: brave design, distinguishing Japanese craftsmanship, imaginative and innovative technology and exhilarating performance.

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When combined, those four pillars sound like a convenient four-cornered basis on which to judge the success of this car. Stand by, then, to find out whether Lexus has hit its targets and surpassed every expectation of a luxury car.