BY MARK KEAST

There are flagship brands and then there are flagship brands.

Few people back in 1989 thought a Japanese company could produce a pure luxury automobile brand, competing with German brands like BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S Class.

But they did, and here we are. The Lexus LS 500 is the bellwether of the fleet, with industry-leading technology, luxury, refinement and sophistication – personified in part by the Takumi, master craftsmen, meticulous to detail at all stages, making sure all aspects of the Lexus production process is flawless. Of the 7,700 workers at the Miyata Lexus Plant in Kyushi, Japan, there are just 19 Takumi – no higher honour among engineering ranks at Lexus. Each Takumi has at least 25 years of experience in their field. They pass on Lexus traditions, skills and prowess as team leaders.

That says everything about Lexus and their fleet overall – their human-centred spirit and belief in perfection. They go at it the opposite way – Lexus technology is nurtured by the finest human craftsmen.

Just look at the interior of the LS 500 – the organic flow, right down to the level of workmanship, the hand-stitching on the fine leather seats, the comfortable seating, the 12.3-inch wide navigation display, the 24-inch head-up display – best in the business.

The seats are firm, like the German-made luxury sedans. The 23-speaker and 16-channel amplifier sound system is the most advanced Lexus has produced to date. Audiophiles are absolutely enveloped by sound – a true concert hall experience.

The ride is very quiet – except when you rev the 415 hp twin turbo engine, melded with the precision of a 10-speed direct shift automatic transmission. That growl takes you from acceleration to exhilaration.

Canadian driving brings its own set of unique challenges. The LS 500’s handling is another difference-maker – the VDIM system controls six types of vehicle movement – longitudinal, vertical, lateral, yaw, roll and pitch – in response to accelerator, steering and braking inputs, resulting in dynamic performance and seamless control of the vehicle, in a whole range of driving situations.

Another cool feature is in the back seat luxury – like with the front seats, heated or ventilated seats, all the climate controls, privacy blinds for the windows, two USB ports, nice-size coffee cup holders. The real difference is in the reclining seats and massage functionalities, creating far more comfort and leg room in the back than on first look. First-class seating all the way – ideal for the back seat passenger who wants to take a nap on longer journeys.

We love the spindle grille on the LS 500 – that sets a sculptured, aggressive, sporty tone. A sloped roofline and wind-cutting silhouette, low-centre-of-gravity platform and optimum weight distribution improves aerodynamic stability.

The Lexus LS 500 full suite of active safety technologies to support your awareness and decision-making under a whole variety of driving situations and conditions. Included in this – pre-collision safety system with pedestrian detection (a must for downtown Toronto driving), lane departure with lane-keep assist, automatic high beam, and evasion with active steering and braking.

For more information on the Lexus LS 500, head here. And to look into leasing or buying a Lexus, head here.