This Is How Japan's Culture of Craftsmanship and Perfection Forged the New Lexus LS
When Lexus came out with its first-generation LS flagship sedan in 1989, it came out with a 30-second TV commercial with a black LS400 mounted on top of rollers running at 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour) with five layers of champagne glasses stacked like a pyramid to show how smooth and vibration-free the car was. The narrative was, “After years of intense work, Lexus is ready to celebrate...because even at the equivalent of 145mph (around 233 kph), the Lexus LS 400 is designed to stir the soul...and not much else.”
It had reason to celebrate then, because as early as 1983, then-Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda started the company’s F1 project, which was the code for “Flagship” and “Number 1” vehicle. The project did not have a set budget or had any time constraints. Its aim was to product a world-class luxury sedan for its international markets to surpass rival European and American flagship sedans specially in cabin quietness, overall top speed, aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. It had 60 designers, 1,400 engineers, 2,300 technicians. Around 450 prototypes and 900 engines later, the Lexus LS was born.
Recreating the famous ad
Last year, Toyota’s charismatic CEO Aiko Toyoda recreated the famous and award-winning ad with the new Lexus LS, with him personally stacking the champagne glass pyramid and revving the LS to hit over 140mph. The ad summed up everything: the champagne glass is a symbol of celebration of the finer things in life, and the delicately balanced glass pyramid showed how stable and well-balanced a flagship car should be.
Just like all the cars that come out of Lexus, the new LS sedan is built under the watchful eyes of Takumi master craftsmen, each tasked specifically to work on glass, metal, wood and fabric to make sure the vehicle expresses the highest level of artistic expression that can only result in art. The creative and skillful interplay between these materials showcases the superior level of craftsmanship that Lexus is known for.
It takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert but over 60,000 hours to become a Takumi master. I went to visit their Kyushu plant a couple of years back and saw how these men dedicate their entire lives to honing their craft to perfection. From their daily hand-eye coordination practices to eye and ear sensory tests, they make sure nothing is left to chance and only the best comes out of the Lexus plant. With the new LS sedan, the interior becomes a showcase of all the skills and talents that define the brand’s unique signature.
Pinnacle of luxury craftsmanship
For Lexus, the LS is the pinnacle of luxury craftsmanship. The flagship sedan of the Lexus lineup offers personalization for each individual customer. What’s unique for its LS Hybrid 4-Seater Premiere variant is the kiriko glass art applique, which is crafted from the traditional Japanese way and is a key highlight in the LS interior. I’ve personally witnessed how a Takumi craftsman does this and it’s similar to the way an artisan cuts crystal glass for an expensive goblet or vase. When mounted on the side panels of the LS, the effect is simply amazing.
True to its flagship status, the rear seat passengers come with a retractable ottoman that supports the calves and adjustable seat cushions for optimum space and comfort. The rear seat of the LS is usually occupied by captains of industry, celebrities, and VIPs, so the power-adjustable ottoman seats are equipped with seven massage programs. Lexus also installed an infrared ray matrix sensor that automatically detects the body surface temperature of each passenger and intelligently adjusts the cooling or heating for each occupant accordingly. The combination of traditional old school craftsmanship truly blends well with modern tech. There’s also an audiophile-grade Mark Levinson Surround sound system with 23 speakers that ensure unprecedented hi-fidelity music reproduction.
Advanced safety tech
When it comes to safety, the all-new LS is equipped with Lexus’s most advanced safety technology. The Lexus Safety System 2.0 (LSS + 2) offers three of the Japanese luxury brand’s best tech to address three most common types of accidents: frontal collisions, lane departures, and nighttime accidents. It also has adaptive cruise control, adaptive high beams, and lane-keeping assist with lane-departure alert.
For the drivetrains and powerplants, the Lexus LS 500 has two options: a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine and a hybrid powerplant. The car’s Artificial Intelligence Shift Control allows a Drive mode switching control selecting the optimum gear by estimating the driver's driving preferences and intentions from the vehicle speed and the amount of accelerator operation. Lexus says this kind of intuitive control maximizes the potential of the direct-shift 10-speed automatic transmission and delivers a driving experience like no other. Adaptive Variable Suspension adjusts suspension damping on the fly, and this delivers a super-smooth ride. This is why five generations later, the Lexus LS is still king of the champagne glass pyramid challenge.
The LS 500 "base" model is priced at P5.928 million. There’s nothing “base” about it though. For about half the price of the Lexus LS 500h Premiere 4-seater, which is P11.408 million, you still get the best Japanese luxury saloon with most of the goodies included. Mid-variants LS 500h Premiere 5-seater is priced at P9.238 million and the LS 500 Premiere 5-seater is priced at P9.778 million.
Lexus will debut its concept car that will define its brand transformation on March 30, 2021 to chart the path of the next generation Lexus.