We experience the epic Lexus LM luxury people carrier – from the driver’s seat, and as a pampered passenger…
Lexus appears to have pulled off a masterstroke with its LM (luxury mover). An exclusive niche market has been identified and LMs will soon be seen shuttling the wealthy between airports and plush hotels, depositing celebs on red carpets, and generally ferrying movers and shakers around the country.
The ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz V-Class isn’t for everyone and limousines are a little ostentatious, so Lexus is on to a winner with the LM. What’s more, the price range of £89,995 to £112,995 doesn’t appear to have put off buyers. Orders are already way above expectations.
The secret of the LM is that it’s not too flash and it offers a flexible space that can be used as a sumptuous people mover, spacious mobile office, or somewhere to simply relax in abject luxury on the move.
Two versions are offered, with four or seven seats. The flagship four-seater features two “captain’s chair’ rear seats (inspired by those found in first class airline cabins) which can also be fully reclined.
The seven-seat model has two seats with massage functionality, plus a third row of flip-up seats which can be folded away when more load space is required.
The standard Lexus LM is front-wheel drive (AWD is optional) and comes with a 14.0-inch screen in the rear, dual sunroof, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and a goodies list as long as your arm.
The top-of-the-range Takumi gets the wow factor with a partition between the front and rear cabin housing a 48-inch screen, plus a fridge and 23-speaker 3D surround Mark Levinson sound system.
First impressions count, and it’s fair to say that the Lexus LM is more of a statement than a looker. The designers have done their best to make it special, and not just another slab-sided MPV.
The combination of clever contours, bold creases, massive signature ‘spindle’ grille with slim LED headlights, plus the illusion of a floating roof, result in a people mover with serious road presence.
And at 5.1m long, 1.9m tall and 1.89m wide, it’s no shrinking violet. Though weirdly, behind the wheel it’s far more manageable than you might think, as long as you steer clear of narrow country lanes.
Built on the GA-K platform shared with the NX and RX SUVs, Lexus is keen to emphasise that the LM has more in common with a car than its rivals, which tend to be van-based.
The driving experience proves the point. The front cabin and seating position have the feel of a big crossover.
We suspect most LM buyers and users are unlikely to get behind the wheel themselves, but for the record, here goes…
From a driving point of view, all-round visibility is best in the seven-seater without the partition and widescreen (a rear-view digital mirror helps), but otherwise it’s a comfortable, spacious and well-equipped place to be, with a car-like dashboard layout.
There’s no shortage of power, thanks to the same 247bhp self-charging hybrid system you’ll find in the NX 350h and RX 350h models, combining a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with electric assistance.
Acceleration from rest to 62mph can be accomplished in 8.7 seconds (9.1s for the FWD model) and maximum speed for both models is 118mph. CO2 emissions are in the 152-163g/km range, while fuel economy is as high as 42.1mpg.
Like the NX and RX 350h models, the LM uses a CVT gearbox which spoils the ambience of the cabin if progress is anything but stately. You see, the revs shoot up if you’re anything but soft with the right pedal, producing a temporary din.
It may not be possible, but I’d suggest fitting the hybrid powertrain from the RX 500h F Sport which uses a six-speed automatic gearbox and is far more relaxed.
That said, chauffeuring is all about smoothness, so the LM is still a delight to be driven in by a professional, even with the CVT.
At nearly three tonnes (gross weight), it’s a substantial vehicle, yet it’s easy to drive and surprisingly manoeuvrable. It would be an exaggeration to call it agile, but it floats around nicely, switching seamlessly between petrol and electric modes at lower speeds.
I can’t help feeling that a plug-in hybrid or 100% electric version might further boost sales where regular journeys take in ultra-low emissions zones, but maybe that’s one for the future.
However, the Lexus LM is all about the rear compartment. Both the four-seater and three-row options are a treat to travel in, though being able to fully recline in the former is particularly relaxing.
Each of the main two seats in both versions get individual digital handsets to control everything from the audio to the window blinds (they all close), while the seats are super comfy. There’s also an overhead console with some storage and controls for features such as the power-sliding doors.
Overall, as you’d expect from Lexus, the materials used in the cabin are top notch and the quality is faultless.
A special mention for the panoramic screen in the top spec version which can also be split so that one passenger could be watching a movie, while the other is scrolling through a presentation.
A ‘Rear Comfort’ drive mode has also been developed to further refine the passenger experience with new braking and body control systems. There’s also tech to counter cabin noise and vibration, which worked particularly well.
I’m very sensitive to travel nausea and I managed perfectly well as a back-seat passenger while in a normal sitting position, but not so much when I was lying down on anything other than smooth, straight roads.
The two versions have their plus and minus points. As a passenger I prefer seeing out front, so the seven-seater without the partition works best, but nothing can quite match the opulence of the widescreen, two seats and extra space of the top-of-the-range Takumi model.
Verdict: The bold new Lexus LM luxury people carrier recaptures the feeling of flying on a private jet, offering a winning combination of superb comfort, quality, practicality and privacy.
Review in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk