► New Lexus LM offers limo luxury in an MPV package
► Tops the Lexus range with prices reaching £113,000
► Practical seven or posh four-seater options available
The Lexus LM isn’t the sort of big MPV you’re likely to see at the school gates, no matter how many kids with triple-barrelled surnames attend. It isn’t the sort of MPV you’re likely to hire from the Hertz desk at Miami airport.
Instead, you’re more likely to see an LM picking up VIPs from the private terminal, or parked as an executive shuttle outside a five-star hotel. LM stands for ‘Luxury Mover’ according to Lexus, though it could just as easily be ‘Limousine Minivan’, and it’s intended to be a world apart from the usual commercial-vehicle-with-seats approach to executive buses.
While it looks for all the world like a van that’s had Lexus’ spindle grille uncomfortably grafted onto it, the LM is based on a car platform, and utilises a hybrid powertrain. Inside, it’s more akin to a private jet than a private car, and with the upper end of the range reaching £113,000 in the UK it’s a rival to some of the finest luxury limos around such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW i7. The closest parallel to draw is with high-end Mercedes V-Class MPVs, which offer similar dimensions.
It hits new highs for Lexus, with prices exceeding even those of the more traditional LS luxury saloon. It’s an approach to opulence that’s not too familiar to European tastes, but one which has been very popular in Japan for decades.
What’s it like in the back?
We’ll start this review in the rear because it’s the raison d’etre of the entire Lexus LM. Two versions are available, with four and seven seats.
The cheaper seven-seat variant has two large, luxurious captain’s chairs in the second row, while the third row is split 50/50 and can fold up to sit against the sides of the boot. A bit like my dad’s Mazda Bongo Friendee. These really are the servant’s quarters – the middle occupant has their cheeks spread across two seat bases with a big gap in the middle, and while they’re hardly uncomfortable you’ll be jealous of the passengers in the second row.
The captain’s chairs are heated, cooled, massaging and fully electrically operated with a rising footrest and loads of adjustment. There are even two smartphone-sized tablets built into the armrests, removable for easier use, through which you can control the climate, make seat adjustments, and adjust the 23-speaker Mark Levinson stereo (which sounds excellent).
The real wow factor comes on the four-seat Takumi variant, though. Here you only get two seats in the back – and in true business class style they’ll go right back almost into a lie-flat bed. They also come with natty little tray tables concealed in the armrest.
Naturally the heating, cooling, and massaging functions remain but what’s added is a partition separating the LM into distinct chauffeur and passenger environments. This partition contains – working upwards – a champagne fridge, a 48-inch ultrawide display, and an electrochromic glass partition that can be raised or lowered and made clear or opaque at the touch of a button.
All four windows have blinds, as do the twin sunroofs either side of the airline-style control panel in the roof, so you can lock yourself away from the outside world.
But the real luxury is space. The rear of an S-Class or an i7 is plush and comfortable, but within the LM’s van dimensions comes the freedom to really stretch out. Headroom is palatial, and the view out expansive. While most limos have reclining seats of some variety, the LM’s really do go all the way back.
Is it comfortable?
Yes, in a nutshell – to an extent we’ve not experienced in a long time. The rear cabin is specifically meant to evoke the feel of a private jet – indeed, Lexus has worked with private jet manufacturers as well as the so-called ‘hyper-affluent’ to help shape the environment back here. The seats have been designed to minimise head bobble, and a new ‘Rear Comfort’ driving mode takes this one step further. Crucially, Lexus hasn’t fitted air suspension, so you get little of the nauseating floatiness that permeates the German luxury limos.
The 48-inch screen is obviously ideal for movies, but it’s capable of turning the Lexus LM into a two-person mobile office. The central armrest conceals two HDMI ports, and the display can operate as one large screen for both rear occupants or split into two.
Connecting isn’t perhaps as seamless as you might hope – the outdated ‘Miracast’ is your sole wireless option, and the smartphone connectivity is geared towards the driver – but once set up we can imagine this might get a fair amount of use from the LM’s core customers.
Obviously, being a Lexus, quality is unparalleled. Everything operates with effortless slickness, from the seat adjustments to the soft-close windows. The carpets are thick, the leather buttery and the metal trim solid. You also get real wood in an attractive herringbone pattern.
Active Noise Cancellation aids refinement, which is excellent (with caveats, as we’ll mention later). Lexus specifically hasn’t turned this up so high that it feels like you’re travelling in a vacuum – that’s too disconcerting, apparently. The hideaway divider between cab and rear exists for this purpose, too – it’s so that you can keep your eyes on the road ahead in case you start feeling carsick in the rear.
We may just have strong stomachs, but we didn’t find we needed it. The LM feels at its most special when you raise the divider, lower the blinds, and put your seat back. It’s here that it stops feeling like the back of a car and more like a living room for the road. Those private jet comparisons really feel apt.
Okay, it’s comfortable. What’s actually under the skin?
The Learjet 70/75 Series is powered by two 17.1kN Honeywell TFE731-40BR turbofans with thrust reversers… oh, the Lexus. Well, it’s based on Toyota’s GA-K platform rather than commercial vehicle underpinnings, a move that gives it access to the latest Lexus tech and powertrains that underpin vehicles such as the NX and RX SUVse.
As such it’s powered by the same self-charging hybrid system you’ll find in those cars, combining a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine with electric assistance. Total system output is 247bhp, with two or four-wheel drive.
Quick it ain’t. 0-62mph takes nine seconds in the four-wheel drive Takumi, though if you aim for that you’ll spoil the serenity of the rear cabin with the typical mooing of Lexus’ CVT. Due to the sheer bulk of the LM this does happen more regularly than it would in an NX, particularly up hills. However, driven gently, it’s unobtrusive, and round town it’s particularly hushed as it’ll do much of its low-speed work on electric power alone.
What’s it like at the pointy end?
Parker gets his very own heated and ventilated seat and a cossetting if slightly cosy cabin. Taller drivers may find the bulkhead limits the seat movement a touch too much, but if that’s a problem you’ll just hire a shorter chauffeur.
More seriously, it’s quite lovely up here too. You never lose the sensation that you’re driving an MPV, peering over a colossal expanse of dashboard and sat in a commanding driving position. But you’ve all the goodies you could want, accessed through a 14-inch touchscreen infotainment system. You still get the same lovely wood finishes, the same fantastic quality and lush materials, and a digital rear-view mirror to make up for the visibility lost by that divider.
Get over the powertrain’s lack of verve and drive the LM as it’s designed to be driven and it doesn’t disappoint. The steering is reasonably direct and helps when placing this mammoth vehicle on the road – a tight 11.6m turning circle and standard surround-view cameras help when parking, too.
The sublime ride quality isn’t just for the rear-seat passengers, either, and nor are the toys, with a full suite of safety aids proving surprisingly unobtrusive. And that sluggish hybrid system claims to deliver 39mpg on the combined cycle – seriously impressive from something with the proportions of a house brick.
Who’s going to buy one?
Lexus has found itself surprised at the interest in the LM. European orders already number over 600 – over a quarter of them come from the UK, and shockingly around half are private buyers. Most orders are for the £113,000 Takumi (you just would, wouldn’t you).
So in a strange twist, perhaps this isn’t just a vehicle for elite hotel guests. There’s certainly an argument that the 7-seater could be a useful family transport for those who find a VW Multivan insultingly plain, and as for the 4-seat Takumi, there must be more CEOs than we thought buying their own vehicles.
Competition at the lower end comes from the Multivan, also car-based and hybrid, but in reality it’s the Mercedes V-Class and its all-electric EQV sibling that give the Lexus its most compelling challenge. While the standard V-Class is significantly less luxurious than even the base LM, we’ve had a sample of the new range-topping V-Class Exclusive due to launch next year. With a similarly opulent four-seat layout and supremely comfortable business jet-style seats, it should run the LM damn close for executive comfort. We’ll find out when we drive it.
The idea of ‘luxury’ only coming in the shape of a big saloon is outdated. Reams of luxury SUVs are now available but truly, they don’t do the job any better.
The Lexus LM offers something truly different – the luxury of space, of quality, and of obsessive levels of design. Despite its strange looks and positioning, it does a fantastic job of pampering those inside and really conjuring up that ‘business jet for the road’ feeling. If you prefer to drive rather than be driven, get a BMW. Otherwise, the Lexus might be for you.