By on December 9, 2016

All four Lexus LS generations - Images: Toyota Canada

The current automotive climate is not a favourable one for full-size sedans, luxury or otherwise.

Many automakers have persevered, reinvesting in their flagship sedans despite decreased demand. BMW, for instance, suffered a 29-percent loss in U.S. 7 Series demand over the last decade, yet the company introduced two new generations of 7 Series during that period.

Lexus, however, has allowed the LS to wallow in a pool of its own misery. The car that started it all for Lexus was once a conservative, value priced, marketplace leader in the full-size sector; a car that could beat the overpriced Germans at their own game. Now, the decade-old fourth-generation Lexus LS has all but disappeared from the public consciousness. Sales have fallen 73 percent since 2006.

Toyota has finally determined that it’s time for a new Lexus LS. In fact, it’s been time for a new Lexus LS for quite a while.

Lexus last led the category in sales in 2009, ending a streak of three years in which the LS outsold both the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. (2016 will be the S-Class’s seventh consecutive year of sales leadership excluding the notion that the smaller Tesla Model S, sales figures for which are not reported, is the more popular car.) All of the new, third-gen LS’s successes in 2007 — when U.S. LS volume rose to a 16-year high — were washed away with the recession, and Lexus simply didn’t fight back once the market recovered.

2018 Lexus LS NAIAS teaser - Image: Lexus

In 2007, more LS sedans were sold every two months than will be sold in all of 2016.

Again, some of that decline can be attributed to the market’s shifts. But not all.

The Lexus LS offers a relatively small lineup: presently one engine, two wheelbases, rear or all-wheel drive. Despite a much higher price tag, Mercedes-Benz generates more than triple the U.S. volume with help from six sedan and three coupe variants.

Now, with the arrival of the Genesis G90 — essentially the new Lexus LS some three decades later — the pie doesn’t grow any larger, but the number of mouths to feed increases.

U.S. full-size luxury car sales chart 2002-2016 - Image: © TTAC11 years after Lexus displayed the fourth-generation LS at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and 28 years after the 1989 Detroit show hosted the arrival of the first LS, the fifth iteration will bow in January at 2017’s NAIAS. Lexus’ new premium rear-wheel drive platform already seen underneath the LC500 will be the foundation for the new LS.

Lexus promises, “a more dynamic experience on the road,” and “visionary technology.”

No promises yet regarding the Lexus executive barge’s ability to overcome years of decline and lost market share.

In spite of the LS’s downfall, overall Lexus volume climbed to record levels in 2015. Total Lexus sales through 2016’s first eleven months are down 4 percent, a decline caused by the car division’s 20-percent drop, including a 22-percent year-over-year LS decrease.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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58 Comments on “It’s About Time – Lexus Will Finally Show A New LS Flagship AT NAIAS In 2017...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Interested in seeing a new LS? Yes.

    Interested in seeing a “Predator face” LS? No.

  • avatar
    ajla

    This might be the last naturally-aspirated V8 sedan EVER.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I am pretty sure they will sell well , most LS buyers I know love their car and have not had a reason to buy a new ones as the changes have been slight vs what they own so there is some pent up demand, while sales are down their sucked cost were paid off a long time ago and the smaller amount of units sold are still making good profits for them, I still think the LS is the best used buy out there in this class.

    • 0 avatar
      seanx37

      There are still so many 1st generation LS on the road. I just assumed that these were the last cars their owners ever bought. They never had a need for a few one.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        And in addition, whatever has come after them, isn’t really a clear cut improvement. Just more layers of gizmos, complexification and new-new hype. Ditto for lots of “Peak Era” stuff out of Japan. LS, NSX, LC80, Legend, Miata….. And that’s just some of the cars….

        In some ways it’s pretty darned impressive. But in others, depressing. Enough so, that it at least goes some ways towards explaining why the generations of Japanese following in the peak’s wake, just decided to screw it, and work on going extinct instead.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Did someone say LS-F? Didn’t think so. At least give us a de Sade package!

    Yawn!

  • avatar
    yamahog

    Every one wants Genesis to be the new Lexus but that isn’t the case. I can’t think of a single class where Hyundai makes a ‘best in class’ product, usually Hyundais are very price competitive.

    But the G90 isn’t best in class, we heard it before “this time it’s on par” with the old Equus (check out the prices for used ones BTW, those things plunged as though a black hole were feeding on it). The Equus wasn’t competitive, the G90 is competitive but not superlative.

    The 1989 LS400 was very good but not the best (or at least, it was flawed, the headlights sucked and a few other things were weird), but the 1992 LS400 definitely was the best in class and Hyundai can’t touch Lexus’ long term durability. Even in my northern state with heavy salt, I see a lot of 90s Lexus cars/suvs on the road. I can’t imagine Hyundais going the distance. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but as long as Hyundai refuses to go toe to toe and sells themselves at a discount, I won’t hedge my bet.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      So far, Hyundai has not managed to figure out two big things that Lexus cars did pretty well from the beginning: ride/handling balance (yes, many of them are ride-focused, but the choice is deliberate and the balance is very good) and interior durability.

      We’ll see if engineering for Genesis as a separate brand, and benchmarking nothing but established luxury cars, helps them get there.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        Interior durability is a good call out – I’ve seen 15-20 year old LSs with better interiors than 3 year old Equus cars. Lexus is unique and alone in long term quality / durability in luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Aside from the Germans having been “asleep at the wheel” during the 1980s-early 1990s, when was the last time, the LS was “best in class”?

      Exactly.

      And speaking of DISCOUNT – that’s exactly what Toyota did with when they launched the LS400, selling it at an incredible price of $35k (which made many think that Toyota was subsidizing sales).

      Say what you want, but there are a # of Lexus/LS owners who have driven the G90 and were impressed (stating that it rode better than the LS460 and had a better quality interior to boot).

      Now, of course, the new LS will likely surpass the G90, but Hyundai is working on the next gen G90 which will be a marked step up from the G90.

      The G90 could use to lose some weight, get better sheetmetal (get some of the New York concept design cues) and improve the interior even more so.

      The most compelling Genesis sedan looks to be the upcoming new G70 model.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “And speaking of DISCOUNT – that’s exactly what Toyota did with when they launched the LS400, selling it at an incredible price of $35k (which made many think that Toyota was subsidizing sales).”

        This comes up periodically. I did the math, and Toyota was selling similarly-equipped Celsiors for the same price in Japan. The post-Plaza Accords appreciation of the yen pushed the price in dollars up to $50,000 by the mid-90s.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I rarely see an LS anymore, unless it’s an old one.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “…the smaller Tesla Model S, sales figures for which are not reported, is the more popular car.” How are you supposed to take an automaker seriously, when they won’t publish sales figures? Maybe they aren’t selling very many cars.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    I love the 2000 LS400, which is last year of the 4.0 V8 and of that body style before then went with more triangular headlights… Once i’m in the market for “new to me” vehicle in a year or so, it’ll certainly be on my short list….

    • 0 avatar
      MR2turbo4evr

      I’ve owned a ’00 LS400 for about 4 years now. What an awesome car. It’s been Corolla-reliable since in my care. I’ve always wanted a ’04-’06 LS430 until my dad bought a mint condition ’05. His has less miles than mine and is significantly better condition, but I actually prefer mine after taking a closer look at his. The LS430 is still a great car but the interior quality is just not on the same level as the LS400.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    What a stodgy car the 2001-2006 LS was! On par with the Volvo 960. Style certainly wasn’t its asset.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I would love to get an older LS – and may do so if my current Mini conundrum isn’t satisfactorily solved.

    The past LSs are just so right – conservative, not flashy, but with gravitas. The Predator maw, however, just doesn’t do it for me – at least not on a car like this. It would be way too much for a vehicle of this size.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I currently own an LS430.

    I like the exterior styling on the LS460 generation, but there is a “cheapness” there, especially in the interior, that is hard to put your finger on. On the previous generation, it felt much more upscale, like a Bentley interior.

    This generation just doesn’t seem to be a substantial step up from the ES model to warrant nearly double the price. And there is a lot of similarity in the styling that I would wager many casual observers couldn’t tell the difference.

    I do think it will be a shame is Lexus has to put a 6 cylinder in their flagship over CAFE nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Have you sat in a 2013+ LS460? For me the 2013 redo really brings the interior upscale.

      Although I don’t find my own 2008 to feel cheap either, in most respects. There’s just one thing that looks cheap, and it’s the hard dark gray plastic on the control portion of the center stack. Most of the materials are excellent and it has the solidity, lack of rattles, and solid control feel that you’d expect.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Tell us more about how great a 15 year old car is.

      The fact of the matter is this – everyone who drives an LS460 can afford an LS430, the converse isn’t true. There’s obviously some merit to the LS460.

      The LS430 is no Bentley – no more so than a Chrysler 300. The LS430 is a nice car, I own one and it’s in good condition, and in terms of vibrations it’s on par with any other gas powered car. But it definitely crashes over things more so than any post 1996 Bentley would and it’s louder at 80 mph than a Bentley. And the interior is nice, but the leather (even in the UL models) is a step down from what you’d find in a car that costs 2x as much.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        There are enough early 460s out there that the run-of-the-mill ones have gotten cheaper than the desirable 430s (post-facelift UL). People really like their 430 ULs and those are starting to retain value while the 460 is dropping (sadly for me, although at least my car is low-mileage and Comfort+ equipped).

        • 0 avatar
          yamahog

          Sure, a base 2007 LS460 with 200k miles isn’t as much as a 30k mile 2006 LS430 UL with saddle leather in white/black with chrome 18s in perfect condition.

          But for every functional clean-titled LS460, there’s a more affordable LS430.

          Across equipment levels, LS460s tend to be more but 05/06 LS430s carry a bigger ‘low mile’ premium. The base car is the same as relatively cheap 01 base LS430s.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Tell us more about how great a 15 year old car is.”

        Pick some models.

    • 0 avatar
      AJT123

      I know exactly what you mean. It takes a sec to “put your finger on it”, because still, an early 460 interior is certainly a nice place to be. But overall it’s a clear step below its predecessor.

      Just look at the seats of a 430 vs 460. 430 seats are the epitome of plush and luxurious while 460 seats look straight out of a 35k middize sedan. Leather is much higher quality in 430. Wood is also much richer, and more of it.

      I like the actual design of the 460 interior but it doesn’t feel nearly as luxurious.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    Older that dirt, outdated platform and tech, wonky styling inside and out.

    And, if money were no object, a current-gen LS460L is still the only car I could see purchasing by simply walking into the Lexus showroom, pointing to “that one,” and handing over a check.

    Even with a few glaring faults, they remain sublime executions of my definition of a luxury automobile, what Cadillac and (more recently, and more justifiably) Mercedes used to be.

  • avatar

    You need a full size V8 sedan to be an all around player in the luxury segment. Its the “halo car” for the entire line.

    Lexus with the LS played the same game as M-B with the SL keeping a model too long until it gets too old and flies under the radar. They probably lost some customers, although in Canada the LS has always had a loyal customer base.

    The new LS will be a great halo car for the entire Lexus line up, which is exactly what Lexus is seeking.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I think the halo car is not really the sedan anymore but the big SUV. For Lexus, that’s the LX. Everyone thinks of Cadillac as the maker of Escalades, not CT6es. And of course Range Rover may be the best luxury car brand in the business right now, able to get people on waiting lists to pay Bentley prices for their loaded models, while keeping volume much higher than anyone like Bentley.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        I think the LX was always their defacto flagship. It was always the most expensive model, had the most features, and was definitely the rarest and probably most coveted.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “Most coveted”: you are probably right. But for nine years the rarest, most expensive, and most highly equipped car in the Lexus lineup has been the LS600hL. It was quietly discontinued for 2017.

          The 600hL (and 460L if loaded with all options) had a whole lot of luxury content you won’t find on any LX.

          • 0 avatar
            kmoney

            Yeah, that’s true actually — I just forgot about it since I’ve seen literally two of them on the road here. I wish they would put that hybrid drive train in the LX. As I’m betting it would make a massive improvement in its city MPG. I own a 2008 LX aND if they had a hybrid option, I know I would have paid the premium.

            Also what luxury equipment? One has wood trimmed grab handles and the other plastic. Aside from that, they have the same rear DVD, ML reference system, radar cruise, power and ride modes, the LX has a way more advanced suspension, same semi-analine leather if you get the UL package, 2 fewer forward gears, and no sunshades…. I’ve never really seen one as spartan compared to the other…

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Look in the back seat. A fully loaded LWB LS has heated, cooled, reclining, power-adjustable rear seats with memory, four-zone climate control and an ottoman and massage feature on the right side. (My SWB car has the heating, cooling, and power adjustment, but not the four-zone, ottoman, or massage, which are LWB only.) The car also has redundant front-seat controls for back seat passengers and a few “chauffeur controls” in the front to help the driver get things just right for those passengers. LWB cars can be had with power rear and side sunshades as well. Of those features, the 570 has only the heated rear seats.

            Also look at the dash and door panels. The 600 dash is full leather from top to bottom. 600s and Luxury or Comfort+ 460s also have leather-upholstered door panels.

            Finally, fully loaded LSes have a couple of front seat adjustments the LX lacks.

            Meanwhile the LX distinguishes itself not with luxury features but with off-road hardware.

  • avatar
    Chan

    Flagship cars usually last about a decade, so it’s about time for Lexus. Nothing out of the ordinary for this segment.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      A decade is longer than the norm, esp. w/o any material improvement of the powertrain (nowadays, 386 HP is underpowered for higher trim-level, luxury midsize sedans).

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        I bet the engine goes forward unchanged or makes maybe 400HP even, as they’ve probably sandbagged a bit on the 1UR-FSE for refreshes. They did the same thing with the new LX and its 5.7. Lexus have never really cared about power figures.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Waste of time.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I don’t know why they’re bothering to tease. They’ve already showed us the new LS, with last years LF-FC concept. Just add door handles, normal mirrors, a skosh of ground clearance, and slightly less radical lighting treatments, and you’d be looking at the production car.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    The gen 2 in two-tone, with gold badges and Coach package is the place to be!

  • avatar
    RRocket

    I own an 04 LS430 UL. And I agree with an above poster. During my test drives I too noted the 430 feels more special..almost hand built compared to the 460. For that reason (among others) I ended up in the 430.

    Also the styling, while conservative has held up well…And the car still has great presence and curb appeal.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    So Lexus is promising “a more dynamic experience on the road” for the new LS. In other words, a stiffer suspension, bigger wheels, lower profile tires and a sh**ier ride. This isn’t working too well for Cadillac and it won’t help Lexus sell more of their LS either. Give it a magic carpet ride with competent handling and plush seating (with a high-end fabric option). What do they think, that an LS driver is going to take their car to a gymkhana?

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      Some folks default to blaming Satan, Illuminati, Jews, Masons, Mormons, SJWs etc… I blame Akio.

      It’s too bad that the number of people who can appreciate the meaning of Peak Jethro is so rapidly dwindling.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    I know Lexus holding off on redesigning the LS has cost them a lot of sales…the whole point of a flagship car is that it’s a cutting-edge status symbol, and a decade-old design, no matter how facelifted, cannot offer that.

    For example: my grandfather bought six LS between 1995-2010, starting with the standard LS400 and upgrading to loaded LS460Ls once Lexus started moving the model upmarket. In 2013, when he went to get a new car, the LS on offer was…the same as his last two. He switched to a BMW 750Li and just took delivery of its ’17 replacement, the THIRD 7-series design that has been on the market simultaneously with the current LS. I’m sure the new LS will be a worthy competitor, but it’s taken Lexus an unacceptably long time to get here.

    Having grown up in every LS model except the first, I have to laugh at the above comments referring to the LS430 as feeling “handbuilt” or “like a Bentley.” Aside from the pre-facelift LS430 being the dowdiest LS ever made (including some of the ugliest wheel designs ever fitted to a luxury car), the interior was generic and full of mediocre plastic. The center vents mounted beneath the bulbous, low-def nav screen sheathed in dark grey plastic is hardly the height of good taste. From a design, engineering, and materials perspective, the LS460 was a MASSIVE leap forward and the *first* LS that really felt like a standalone flagship instead of an S-class competitor at an E-class price.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Agreed, the LS460 was massive improvement in sheetmetal and the 2nd (major) refresh was a massive improvement for the interior.

      But any way you look at it – 10+ years is too long w/o upgrading the flagship sedan (Mercedes built the W221 S Class for almost 9 years, but they can get away with that time period for the S Class).

  • avatar
    stereorobb

    ive been waiting for a new LS to show up for a long time. im a lexus enthusiast and ive owned 19 of them, ten of which have been LS400s and they are by far the best ones ever built and the sleekest. the 430 was hideous in my opinion. it was shit ugly, had a very weird drivers position that feels like im sitting in a hole, and just doesn’t feel as solid or as good as the 400. its also slower. having said that my 95 LS400 which is my current DD is really getting up there in age and has well over 200k miles, which isn’t a problem at all because miles are just a number for these cars. I hate the 430 so much im just bypassing it all together and getting a 460. im not rich so the early 460s have depreciated enough that I can actually afford one. I remember around November of 06 when the 460s first started showing up and I went to a dealership which was closed for whatever reason that day. it was 39 degrees and raining and I had my face pressed against the window of the showroom to get a look at the LS460. ive wanted one since they came out. however…

    the 2007-2009 LS460s had a lot of bugs. unlike the earlier LS the fit and finish was different. it is a heavily computerized car and is an absolute nightmare to work on from what ive seen. by 2010 the 460 got its act together and was vastly improved with its reliability and the bugs worked out of the computers. I hate electronic parking breaks and sealed transmissions. the fit and finish is nowhere even close to the LS400 sadly, and they wont ever build them like that again. I do need to change up the 400 though into the 460, mostly for my wifes piece of mine because the 400 is getting so old she is getting scared of it, even though its never let us down. I love my car and you couldn’t drag me kicking and screaming from it.

    as far as the 10 year lifespan of the 460 its actually pretty normal. the LS400 ran ten years however there was HEAVY refreshes every few years, unlike the ls460 that is now at its end stage cycle and well.. from a side profile, it looks identical to an 07. when the 07s hit the streets they were absolute spectacular cars with all kinds off neat bells and whistles that many people didn’t have, and wowed people almost as much as the original LS400 did back in 89. but now, its an old man dying in bed covered in his own feces that everyone just wishes would hurry up and die. don’t get me wrong the LS460 is still a nice car, but in the modern car world its an archaic dinosaur compared to its competition. its still rock solid but its lacking on just about every single aspect of what an LS should be. now, cosmetically, the post 2013 current gen LS460 may be a relic compared to the others, but it is truly a beautiful car. the most beautiful LS ever made, and the fit and finish is on point as well.

    but still, the 460 is played out. everyone is sick of it. I work at a lexus dealership and we will be happy to kick the bumper when we cast the last one out of our showroom into the abyss of its lifespan. I cant wait to get behind of the next one, the LS500, which will feature the same 5.0 that’s currently calling the GS-F and RC-F home.

    heres a few facts I DO know being an insider.

    the long wheel base will NOT soley face the misery of a 6-cyl engine, or that absolutely hateful turbo 4-banger that just needs to be ripped out of the cars and thrown into a dumpster. there will be a 5.0V8, and it has been confirmed that an LS-F will show up sometime later but we will get one eventually. I just hope lexus gets its name back with the next LS. they really need it because back in the early 90s, the Germany was terrified. now they are kicking our asses.

    either way an LS460 is in my near future, and I have a feeling that when 2018 arrives, those 07-09 460s will fall like a rock. looking forward to being able to get one lol

  • avatar
    Johnster

    I like the LS and although the previous models (up through the 2008 model year) were pretty conservative, the newer Lexus design language doesn’t work for me. The newer pinched ant-face styling is ugly.

    While we do need a new LS, I have fears that the latest incarnation will look like a cross between the latest Prius and the Mirai, only on steroids.


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