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Lexus LS drops V8

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The V8 is gone – but it’s not going to help the hybrid. For the first time since the brand was launched in 1989 the flagship Lexus LS range will be without a V8.

However Peter McGregor, CEO Lexus Australia, said that 75 or 80 per cent of buyers are likely to opt for the new twin-turbo V6, even if the company decides to charge no premium for the more complicated (and higher tech) hybrid sold alongside it.

With the recently released LC coupe, where the hybrid is priced the same as the V8, more than 90 per cent of Australian buyers have shunned the petrol-electric model. Speaking at the international LS launch in California, McGregor said the underperformance of the hybrid was not a problem. “It’s not that I think they don’t want the hybrid, but given the choice, the 3.5 litre twin-turbo V6 is a beautiful powerplant, so you’ve got a choice.”

The new model is the fifth iteration of the LS and is longer, lower and roomier than any of its predecessors. It will be sold in Australia from April 2018. The new twin-turbo engine, Lexus is quick to point out, has a higher output than the previous V8 (310 kW and 600 Nm) and is more efficient. This engine is mated to the same 10-speed automatic transmission found in the LC coupe.

The hybrid system links a naturally-aspirated version of the same engine with an electric motor to give an overall power output of 264 kW.

Australians will be able to choose between a Sports Luxury model and an F Sport in a simplified model range. There is just one body offered, but the newcomer is even more substantial than the outgoing long wheelbase variant. It is 5235 mm (up 25 mm) and 25 mm wider as well.

The price, although not officially confirmed, is likely to be in line with the current model, which has the LS 460 starting at $185,691 (plus on road costs), about $35,000 cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series entry models.

The LS hybrid model currently starts at $213,741.

The limousine market has diminished enormously in recent years for all players, though Lexus has been hit harder than most. The industry VFACTS registration figures show Lexus sold just 16 examples of the LS in 2017. This compares with 195 S-Class Benz sedans and 193 BMW’s 7-Series in 2016. A mere three examples of the LS have found buyers in Australia so far this year.

McGregor – nor any one else – would speculate whether a much-need flagship luxury SUV was in the offing. He said: “The sedan market may not be as strong as it has been in the past but there are still people who want sedans and we want to be offering a product that represents the pinnacle of our product range.”

He accepts that the trend towards luxury SUVs over luxury sedans will continue for quite some time. “But I do expect this car will be probably be significantly more successful than the volumes we sold last year.”


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