It takes a lot of confidence to introduce new vehicles at The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—the prestigious anchor to the annual Monterey Car Week in Northern California—so hats off to the gutsy perfectionists at Lexus for unveiling not one, but two important 2016 luxury models. Taking place at a secret cliff-side Pebble Beach estate during a dramatic Pacific Ocean sunset (complete with whale sightings), the cars were kept hidden beneath satin covers until their big reveal later in the evening. VIP guests mingled with Lexus executives, enjoyed a private concert by Stevie Wonder protégée Andra Day, sipped custom “LX” and “GS” craft cocktails, and enjoyed hor d'oeuvres before the four-course dinner by Lexus Master Chef Dean Fearing (AKA “The Father of Southwestern Cuisine” and founder of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, Texas).
After the last bite of BBQ Shrimp Tacos and Beef Filet with Chicken-Fried Maine Lobster was gone, the Japanese designers of Lexus’ newest models were introduced so they could take a bow right before the 2016 LX and GS were finally revealed. The muscular LX was Lexus’ first utility vehicle when it was introduced in 1995 and when the cover over the 2016 Lexus LX 570 was raised, one glance told the onlookers that new auto will reenergize their flagship sport-utility. The mammoth vehicle features a powerful V8, sophisticated 4WD chassis and seating for eight, while combining sumptuous luxury with genuine off-road capability.
Upon first view, it was quickly evident that Lexus barely left any surface of the LX 570 untouched in their sweeping upgrade for 2016, with only door panels remaining from the 2015 model. The restyled front end wears an even bolder rendition of the Lexus signature spindle grille, framed by satin chrome trim and complemented by distinctive new standard LED headlights, turn signals and fog lights. The LX 570 design makeover also gives the taillights and rear bumper a new look, and showed off upgraded multimedia with a large 12.3-inch screen, several new safety features, a panoramic view monitor, climate “concierge,” and beautiful burgundy leather interior—though it will also offer a fresh new orange leather option.
“The upgrades for 2016 go beyond skin-deep,” said Brian Smith, Lexus’ VP of Marketing. “An eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the former six-speed for enhanced performance and efficiency. New Drive Mode Select allows the LX 570 driver to tailor powertrain and suspension responses by using a dial on the console.” The system also controls responses of the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), “which continually adjusts shock absorber damping rates while driving, helping to ensure optimal comfort even as the road surface changes.”
The 2016 GS luxury sedan unveiling was next, revealing a bolder design, a new GS 200t rear-wheel drive model, and new luxury finishes. The engaging performance and amenities of the GS 200t, the GS 350 and GS 450h epitomize the intersection of style and refinement with a strong rendition of the Lexus signature spindle grille for 2016, flanked by distinctive new standard Bi-LED headlights. The car’s designer, Toru Kato (Deputy Chief Engineer at Lexus International headquarters in Japan) assured that the nighttime glow is unmistakably the look of Lexus. Pointing to the front’s design, he singled out his proudest contribution: “The inside design of the grill…is inspired by horizontal motion,” he said. “For the first time the double spindle design is three-dimensional and rendered in multiple grey tones.”
A new front bumper and rocker panel further sharpen the GS’s coupe-inspired profile, with the makeover extending to revised taillights, an updated rear trim and new 18- and 19-inch machine-finish wheel designs. A bold new look deserves bold color, and so the 2016 GS will offer new Matador Red Mica, Nightfall Mica, Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 and many other hues. The mica colors use a complex multi-layered, twice-baked process that has previously only been used for concept vehicles or custom cars.
“Globally, the most significant addition to the new GS lineup is the GS 200T model,” Smith said after the unveiling. “With its efficient drivetrain, the GS is better poised to compete against the popular mid-luxury 4-cylinder turbo-equipped sedans that are offered by our luxury competitors in key markets all over the globe. We haven’t had a vehicle to compete. Well, we’re excited that this new 2016 GS has arrived.”
Both the GS and LX are impressive for their added muscle, progressive design and generous amenities. It was torture not being able to hijack them for a test-drive around Pebble Beach’s sensational 17-Mile-Drive since we were so close, but the vehicles had an important engagement elsewhere. The day following the Lexus reveal, the LX and GS made their public debut as the stars of the Lexus tent on the Inn at Pebble Beach grounds of the Concours d’ Elegance—right where they belonged.