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How to defy ageing the Lexus way

The new Lexus LS shows the last few years have been the most exciting for the brand, but what's next?

"The LS is a very important car for business use. But we felt it needed to be unique and also to appeal to newer set of younger buyers." Koichi Suga, chief designer

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LEXUS has been around for 28 years, so in luxury car brand terms it's still relatively young. Even so, the new LS limousine proves that the last few years of its life have been the most exciting, and buyers can expect a lot more from the Japanese luxury brand in the future.

"The LS is our flagship and it really stands as a forerunner for what to expect from Lexus in the future," Shinji Ishida, the assistant chief engineer for the LS, told The Business Times.

He admits that previous Lexus models had been overly focused on refinement and objectively bettering the competition, to the detriment of emotional appeal - which is why the new car has the aim of being - in his words - "subjectively better."

One very clear way of doing that is through design. The LS follows on the heels of the LC sport coupe, a car so flamboyantly curvaceous that "no one thought we would actually produce it", to quote the LC's own designer.

But that sort of appeal is even going into the once staid LS, which goes from a traditional 'three box' to a more svelte, low and coupe-esque silhouette. From a visual standpoint, it's a total about-turn from the vanilla styling approach of before.

Yet, going radical with design on the new LS wasn't something done lightly. The LS is a car, after all, that also is the face of corporate Japan and heads of state.

"The LS is a very important car for business use," its chief designer, Koichi Suga, told BT.

"But we felt it needed to be unique and also to appeal to newer set of younger buyers. After all, it's younger people who move things in IT, for example, and we also felt older customers would appreciate a more vibrant, younger spirit."

Lexus is also embracing one technology it's traditionally been against: Turbocharging. The brand's embrace of refinement meant it always relied on naturally-aspirated, or non-turbocharged, engines in the past.

In fact, its first ever turbo production engine was found in the NX 200t SUV and only launched in 2014.

The new 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6 that powers the LS 500, and which will be used in other models, changes that.

With a considerable 415hp, it's aimed squarely at the German competition, and beats equivalent V6s from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in horsepower-per-litre figures.

Though it falls short of Porsche's mighty 3.0-litre V6, that tells you exactly the sort of positioning Lexus has in mind with its sexier, new breed of cars.

Being "subjectively better" might sound like a tricky goal, but if Lexus successfully executes its plans to burnish its design and technology, its sales will be objectively better.

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