How the newest Lexus flagship luxury sedan stacks up against Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.

Ever since the first version debuted in 1989, the Lexus LS has been designed to compete one-on-one with the best German luxury sedans. The same is true of the all-new 2018 LS introduced this week at the Detroit Auto Show; it’s positioned to take on the likes of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. So, how does the newest Lexus flagship stack up against its three German targets?

To be fair to the Lexus LS, which so far has been shown in only one model, we’re comparing the German sedans that most closely match it in terms of size and powertrain: the Audi A8 L 3.0T, BMW 740i, and Mercedes-Benz S550. 

2018 Lexus LS
Audi A8 L
2017 BMW 7 Series
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Size And Spaciousness

The 2018 Lexus LS measures 206.1 inches long and sits on a 123.0-inch wheelbase. That makes it a smidge smaller than its competitors. We don’t yet know how much space will be available inside the LS; in vehicles like this that are intended to provide a luxurious ride, rear legroom is key.

  2018 LEXUS LS 500 AUDI A8 L 3.0T BMW 740i MERCEDES-BENZ S550
Wheelbase 123.0 Inches 122.9 Inches 126.4 Inches 124.6 Inches
Length 206.1 Inches 207.4 Inches 206.6 Inches 206.5 Inches
Rear Legroom N/A 42.9 Inches 44.4 Inches 43.1 Inches
Rear Headroom N/A 39.1 Inches 38.9 Inches 37.4 Inches


Among the Germans, it’s the new BMW 7 Series that has the most rear legroom, at 44.4 inches compared to 42.9 in the A8 and 33.4 in the S-Class. Headroom, too, impresses in the BMW, at 38.9 inches.

Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me

Lexus has not yet divulged a weight for its new LS, but the company does say it cut at least 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms) compared to the outgoing model. That lets us guesstimate a starting curb weight of somewhere between 4,033 to 4,695 pounds for the new LS, based on the range of masses quoted for the 2017 car. That will compete very nicely against the Germans. The A8 L 3.0T is 4,464 pounds, the 740i is skinnier at 4,195 pounds, and the S550 is a heftier 4,663 pounds.

  2018 LEXUS LS 500 AUDI A8 L 3.0T BMW 740i MERCEDES-BENZ S550
Curb Weight 4,033 - 4,695 Pounds (est.) 4,464 Pounds 4,195 Pounds 4,663 Pounds

 

Powertrain Choices

On sale for some time already, the Audi, BMW, and Mercedes luxury sedans offer several different powertrains. So far, the Lexus LS 500 has just one, a 3.5-liter biturbocharged V6 good for 415 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. With a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, Lexus says that’ll send the big sedan to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. Both RWD and AWD variants will be available.

The BMW 740i and Audi A8 L 3.0T are right on top of the LS in performance. From BMW, its a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with 320 hp and 332 lb-ft, sent through an eight-speed automatic; both rear- and all-wheel drive are offered. With rear-drive, you’ll reach 60 mph in a claimed 5.4 seconds. The Audi, which comes only with all four wheels driven, extracts 333 hp and 325 lb-ft from a 3.0-liter supercharged V6, sending it through an eight-speed automatic. It’ll reach 60 mph in 5.5 seconds.

  2018 LEXUS LS 500 AUDI A8 L 3.0T BMW 740i MERCEDES-BENZ S550
Engine Biturbo 3.5-Liter V6 Supercharged 3.0-Liter V6 Turbo 3.0-Liter I6 Biturbo 4.7-Liter V8
Power 415 Horsepower 333 Horsepower 332 Horsepower 449 Horsepower
Torque 442 Pound-Feet 325 Pound-Feet 332 Pound-Feet 516 Pound-Feet
Transmission 10-Speed Automatic 8-Speed Automatic 8-Speed Automatic 9-Speed Automatic
0-60 MPH 4.5 Seconds 5.5 Seconds 5.4 Seconds 4.8 Seconds


This is the point, however, where we must note that the S550 is the outlier in this comparison. It’s the least-powerful non-hybrid S-Class variant sold here currently, but it still is a sledgehammer compared to its competition. A 4.7-liter biturbo V8 delivers 449 hp and 516 lb-ft through a nine-speed automatic. That’s enough for a 4.8-second sprint to 60 mph.

Luxury And Technology Features

The 2018 Lexus LS options sheet includes highlights like a Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, various wood and aluminum trim pieces, heated/cooled/massaging rear seats, air suspension, 28-way heated/cooled/massaging front seats, active noise cancellation, a 12.3-inch navigation display with handwriting recognition input, and a 24-inch color head-up display. In terms of active-safety tech, look for pedestrian detection that can brake and/or steer around someone walking in the roadway, pre-collision braking, lane-departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.

The German rivals mostly compete very well in terms of luxury features, and some even go farther. The Mercedes S-Class, for instance, has heated armrests in addition to heated seats. The BMW 7 Series has an active system to prevent you from changing lanes if there’s a car in your blind spot. And both have sophisticated semi-autonomous highway driving features; it’s unclear how much steering input the Lexus LS will provide. The Audi A8 is the oldest entry in this class but still has all those features, like air suspension massaging seats, LED headlights, night vision, an available high-end sound system, and so on.

2018 Lexus LS
Audi A8 L
2017 BMW 7 Series
Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Design

Though style is always very subjective, the 2018 Lexus LS is a great update to the nameplate. The brand’s enormous spindle grille dominates the nose, but elsewhere the styling cues are reasonably subdued and subtle. Note the gently flowing surfaces with few dramatic creases, the bulbous rear haunches, and upswept beltline aft of the rear doors.

The new BMW 7 Series was only an evolutionary update, visually, from its predecessor. It is still defined by a bit hockey stick-like design cue on the body sides. The Audi A8 wears perhaps the sharpest, tautest sheetmetal, with lots of straight lines across its body. And the Mercedes S-Class splits the difference, with plenty of curves all over, but also several sharp character lines.

Inside, the biggest similarity between the S-Class and the new Lexus LS is the use of big widescreen displays for the instrument cluster and navigation displays that are integrated in-line with the dash. The Audi A8’s infotainment displays pops up and rises out of the dashboard, while in the 7 Series, the display is fixed atop the dashboard.

How They Drive

Of course, the real test will be when we get behind the wheel – and into that reclining back seat – of the 2018 Lexus LS later this year. The car is scheduled to go on sale by the end of the year, with pricing to be announced at some point over the next several months.

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