Impeccable ride comfort has been a defining quality of the Lexus LS flagship saloon, ever since the model helped found the brand 30 years ago. The benchmark set by the original LS has inspired the teams developing each new LS generation to always seek improvements in any detail that might deliver even higher comfort levels.
It’s that commitment that has brought about significant advances in the ride quality of the new 2021 LS, achieved not through a single breakthrough innovation, but through a comprehensive review of the parts and controls relating to driving performance, ride comfort and quietness. The changes go beyond the fundamentals of fine-tuning the suspension to include adjustments to the tyres and even the materials and methods used to structure and upholster the seats.
The result is unprecedented ride comfort, but importantly without sacrificing the car’s rewarding dynamic character.
The fifth-generation LS, introduced in 2018, marked a leap forward in vehicle design, being the first to make use of Lexus’s GA-L platform. The immediate benefits of this underpinning included an excellent chassis balance, a low centre of gravity and much-increased body rigidity. New multilink suspension geometry was adopted and the performance of the Adaptive Variable Suspension was revolutionised, moving from a simple nine-stage system to near-seamless, continuous damping control through 650 levels.
These elements contribute to the Lexus Driving Signature, a combination of refinement, comfort and ride quality that is unique to Lexus.
LS Chief Engineer Toshio Asahi explains: “We have been implementing improvements year on year to ensure the continual evolution of the LS as a Lexus flagship. With the driving performance of the new LS, I decided that we should focus on the ‘refined driving performance’ which forms the model’s DNA, and indeed is the starting point for our brand. Therefore, we went back to basics and refined the fundamental performance from the ground up.”
Of course, damping performance is key to comfort, ensuring imperfections in the road surface are absorbed. The sophisticated AVS system has been revised with a new linear solenoid and an enlarged flow path in the control valve. The performance improvement not only helps improve the ride quality, it also plays a part in better steering response and stability.
Also, to reduce shock and vibration, the new 2021 LS has been fitted with liquid-filled engine mounts and rear suspension bushes. And to provide better control of the vehicle’s body roll when cornering, the thickness of the front and rear anti-roll bars has been increased.
The tyres form the single contact point between a car and the road and thus can make an important contribution to ride comfort. The 2021 LS is fitted as standard with run-flat tyres, which by their nature are more rigid than conventional tyres. Nonetheless, Lexus has been able to reduce their vertical spring rate to control the up/down movement of the sidewall. Even the tyres’ material compound and inner structure have been adjusted to factor out high-frequency vibrations.
In their turn, the car’s seats also have a critical role to play in how the occupant experiences ride comfort. The 2021 LS features the most sophisticated yet seen in a Lexus, with unprecedented, multi-direction adjustability, integrated heating and ventilation and different, precisely controlled massage functions. To improve comfort, the priority for the new model was the tactile sensation as you sit down, with greater cushioning to better disperse body pressure. The development team undertook repeated trials to select an ideal new low-resilience urethane material for the seat pad that will fit the body snugly and comfortably, with uniform performance at all temperatures.
Going further, the upholstery seams on the seat cushion have been set deeper than before, a detail that helps absorb vibrations and create a softer feel. With a focus on Takumi craftsmanship, the new seams have been designed without creating any tell-tale creasing in the leather.