In 1990, Toyota made the audacious decision to launch its upscale Lexus brand with the LS, a full-size luxury sedan conceived to take on cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series. Now, the brand is ready to launch a fifth-generation version that is among the most comprehensively updated cars in the nameplate’s history.

It starts with a twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 engine that replaces a V8 in an entry-level LS 500 trim. Lexus says that engine makes 416 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, a big bump over the old V8’s 386 hp and 367 lb-ft. It’s connected to an also-new 10-speed automatic transmission that boasts two more ratios than the gearbox it replaces.

Meanwhile, the hybrid LS 500h also moves to a V6, but this one a naturally-aspirated unit that combines with two electric motors to generate 354 hp through a continuously variable transmission.

Both powertrains come with standard AWD; Lexus claims the LS 500 will sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, while the hybrid accomplishes the same feat in 5.5. Two available F Sport trims will bring stylistic tweaks as well as upsized wheels and brakes.

Lexus says the new LS is longer, lower, and wider than the car it replaces, riding on a wheelbase stretched 35 mm (to 3,125 mm) longer than the outgoing long-wheelbase variant and standing 15 mm lower overall and with a hood and trunk that are 31 and 41 mm lower, respectively. In order to preserve headroom inside the cabin, the new LS uses a sunroof that slides back above the roof rather than between the roof and headliner.

The new dimensions combine with a new interior to offer 86 mm more rear-seat legroom than any previous generation LS. As before, the rear seats can be optioned with massage and heating functions, plus a raised ottoman in cars fitted with the executive package. That configuration also brings the ability to recline the passenger-side rear seatback as much as 48 degrees and even raise the entire seat by 24 degrees to ease egress.

The exterior design centres around Lexus’s trademark spindle grille, dressed up in a unique textured treatment whose appearance the manufacturer says changes according to the light it’s viewed in.

The 2018 Lexus LS will reach Canadian dealerships early next year.