That was unexpected. At the Detroit Auto Show today, Lexus unveiled its newest flagship sedan, the 2018 LS 500. However, general manager Jeff Bracken dropped a bombshell soon after — namely, that the tip-top-of-the-line Lexus would no longer have a V8 under the hood, breaking a tradition that traces back as far a Lexus has existed.
To be fair, the engine it does have is a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6, good for 415 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. Though Lexus didn’t confirm, there will likely be a hybrid option, but the V8 appears to have balanced its last wine glass pyramid.
This is a stunning change to The Way Things Have Always Been Done. We’ve had mad respect for the Lexus LS since forever — the original was probably the most overengineered car ever made by man — but a V8 seemed like an essential part of what made the LS (and Celsior) so cool.
For what it’s worth, the new LS looks pretty cool, even if its a bit of a let-down compared to the LF-FC Concept we saw at Tokyo. It probably integrates the spindle grille — inspired by the spindles of thread used in the Toyoda looms that launched the Toyota empire — and L-shaped DRLs better than any modern Lexus before it. The interior is as properly gorgeous as Lexus’s should be, with a very cool grille that incorporates the vents and sweeps across the dashboard. But still, that engine.
As goes Toyota, so goes Japan. Is this the end of big V8-powered VIP sedans? Somewhere, Honda is thinking, smugly, “Told ya so.” In any case, that makes the USF40, to take a line from Mad Max, the Last of the V8 Lexus sedan-erceptors.