Looking for an Alternative to an SUV? The Lexus LS Indulges with Massage Seats and Origami Details

Ewok Lake Lexus Ls Luxury Alternative Suv
On the beach, overlooking Ewok Lake, at Skywalker Ranch. Photo: James Halfacre

Comfort, luxury, speed… what’s not to like?

According to Lexus Vice President of Marketing Cooper Ericksen, 80% of the Lexus LS sedan buyers will be men, most in their late 50s. The price tag elicits a vision of someone well-to-do, for certain: base models will be priced around $75,000. This is not a first car, for most. When you check out the design features and feel what it’s like to drive this vehicle, you’ll probably agree that this is one of the best luxury sedans on the market for both men and women. For buyers who want to move up from driving an SUV – or forgo the trend altogether – this luxury sedan has style to spare.

“Why would a buyer choose this sedan when everyone is buying SUVs?” asked Ericksen at a Lexus event AGirlsGuidetoCars attended in San Francisco. “Well, for this income bracket, it’s safe to say they probably have an SUV in their household fleet already. The LS plays a more luxurious role in their lives.”

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2018 Lexus Ls Best Luxury Sedan

Not far outside of Lucas Valley, this little chapel forms the perfect backdrop with blue skies for the F-Sport 500h. Photo: Kristin Shaw

The 2018 Lexus LS is forged from passion, and you’ll feel it

The latest LS model is intricately designed and the features carefully considered. It easily fits into the same class as the best luxury sedans on the market: Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, and the Audi A8, vehicles synonymous with luxury.

LS 500 Chief Designer Koichi Suga says the team focused on omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality, as the theme for the interior. And for the exterior, the modeling theme, “Forged from Passion,” was created from the idea that passion protrudes toward the four wheels. He sketched his ideas on Post-It notes, looking for an idea to help defeat the perception that driving a Lexus was boring, to some.

Blazing from this beginning, Suga-San began to portray the four wheels as fireballs in his sketches. This inspired him to create a lower, longer profile for the car that gives it a feeling of motion, even when it’s sitting still.

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2018 Lexus Ls Best Luxury Sedan

“As the designer clicked away thousands of times [to create this spindle grille], we were worried that either her hand or her mouse would break. Fortunately, both are OK.” – Chief Designer Koichi Suga. Photo: Kristin Shaw

World-class design features are made for women who appreciate details

We were wowed by many features in this model including the spindle grille which was created with computer data: the Takumi CAD modeler. A woman named Machi Hosoi, took on the task of repeatedly clicking for 8 hours a day for 6 months straight to create this visually appealing face of the Lexus LS. There are 5,000 surfaces for the LS grille and 7,000 for the F-Sport model. ?

The lines inside the LS are flowing and integrative, taking inspiration from the koko, which is a Japanese harp, and the chasen, which is the whisk traditionally used for Japanese tea ceremonies.

2018 Lexus Ls Best Luxury Sedan

The Kiriko glass and origami cloth on the door paneling are both breathtaking. Photo: Kristin Shaw

Decorative Kiriko glass – a world first in a production vehicle – is incorporated into the door panels, giving it a prism-like feel. Traditional Kiriko patterns are created using a technique that involves hand-cutting clear colors and delicate lines in a piece of glass, which are then repeatedly polished to a soft glow.

Unique wood paneling was created by the design team by laser-cutting thin slices and then boding them together to create the patterns. Incidentally, Suga-San says, the wood sample alone took a month to create because the craftsman wanted to capture the feeling of a blazing fire.

2018 Lexus Ls Best Luxury Sedan

Three words: Hand. Folded. Cloth. The wow factor is high with this one. Photo: Kristin Shaw

And this interior design detail took our breath away

The Lexus team went to the largest furniture store in Japan and found their favorite chair. Then they created the seats in the LS to mimic the comfortable, buttery leather and substantial arm rests. When you sit in the car, you’ll appreciate both the feel and the style. It’s clearly well thought-out and improved even from the last model.

But here’s the design feature that took my breath away: hand-pleated cloth in the door panels, folded origami-style to create a gorgeous three-dimensional surface that must be seen to be believed. There are women in Japan who are carefully and lovingly crafting these works of art.

2018 Lexus Ls Best Luxury Sedan

Take a peek under the hood, and you’ll find typical Japanese attention to detail: the engine is covered with a protective casing. Photo: Kristin Shaw

A new engine and platform give you more zoom for your money

You may already know that I’m kind of a gearhead, so I was also thrilled to meet the Lexus LS 500 Chief Engineer Toshio Asahi. Asahi-San says his engineering team pursued “brave design, imaginative technology, exhilarating performance, and takumi craftsmanship.” In Japan those recognized as master craftsmen are known as takumi.

Asahi-San’s team looked to Formula One technology to create the new Twin Turbo V6, paired with a 10-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The result is that it has the power feel of a V8, but with better fuel economy. The engine designer on his team worked on this for three years, and he says he sees the faces of every person who contributed to it when he looks at it.

2018 Lexus Ls Best Luxury Sedan

The cylinder at the top of the photo pops up in case of a crash, creating a pillow of air between a pedestrian and the engine block. Photo: Kristin Shaw

This car is smarter than its driver

Lexus is also serious about safety, and the new LS pioneers advanced systems like a pre-collision system (PCS) and active steering avoidance. The PCS is engineered to detect an imminent frontal collision. And, while retracting the front seatbelts, it automatically prepares Brake Assist to help provide increased braking pressure the moment you step on the brake pedal. Active steering avoidance helps prevent collisions that cannot be avoided through automatic braking alone.

And the hood is outfitted with a four-point pop-up system to help enhance pedestrian protection while also maintaining a low hood design. Pedestrian protection sensors communicate with the airbag sensor system and will raise the hood in the case of a collision. To explain, let’s imagine a pedestrian is hit by a car. The airbags will inflate and trigger the hood pop-up system to activate, creating a pillow of air between the hood and the engine block.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Looking For An Alternative To An Suv? The Lexus Ls Indulges With Massage Seats And Origami Details - Lexus 12

My driving partner, Brandy Schaffels, and I took the opportunity to talk with Chief Engineer Asahi-san at Skywalker Ranch  in northern California. Photo: Kristin Shaw

Who rules the world? Girls. In a great car.

Driving the LS, there is no doubt that you’re in a luxury car. It’s quiet, takes the corners firmly and confidently, and the new profile with a lower center of gravity makes you feel as though you are one with the car. Truly, I felt more confident while driving it.

If you like a high-performance feel, test drive the F-Sport. If your partner doesn’t mind chauffeuring, go with the Executive trim, which features a foot rest in the passenger back seat with massaging nodules built in. Or, if you’re like me and appreciate luxury with the boosted fuel economy of a hybrid, check out the 500h.

2018 Lexus Ls Luxury Alternative Suv Chauffeur

Yep, those are my legs, lounging in the back of the Lexus LS for the chauffeured experience. Massage controls are in the console between the seats. Photo: Kristin Shaw

Between the design elements, the safety features, and the smooth ride of the Lexus LS, this is a car that women will love as much as men. Why drive what everyone else is driving? Ditch your SUV for a while and go with this alternative.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the LS sedan for my test drive; all opinions expressed are my own.

Need a luxury and not ready to give up your SUV? The Lexus GX 460 is just the ticket.

2018 Lexus Ls Best Luxury Vehicle

Writer. Car fanatic. Mom. Kristin is the co-owner of auto review site Drive Mode Show and a nationally-published writer... More about Kristin Shaw