The Dubai Autodrome is a fully functional race course sitting in the middle of the Arabian desert. It was originally intended for greater things, but then Dubai lost its bid to host an F1 race to Abu Dhabi, and the Autodrome was consequently abandoned. But not today. Today, we are rocketing through its courses in the Lexus LS 500 (2018), a family-friendly sedan that will have to drift between tightly positioned cones, avoid smashing into metal-enforced concrete walls and cut around acute-angled red and white strips.
Am I supposed to drive over the red and white strips or are these low-friction surfaces that will send my Lexus into a spiral? I’m getting tunnel vision just looking at the track from our air-conditioned lounge.
That said, Lexus’s new brand positioning demands nothing less than pushing its new flagship model in a world-class racing circuit. Lexus now wants to be associated with all things young and hip, first to challenge now-masstige marques like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, then take it to once-exclusive brands like McLaren, Aston Martin and Maserati, which have been gradually dropping the prices of their entry level models during these poor economic times.
Like any becoming sports car, the 2018 LS features several drive modes, but also intuitively analyses road conditions and driving demands so as to continually adapt and fine-tune its settings.
The agile 2018 LS pleasantly surprises me with how it confidently grips onto the tarmac and corners through the aforementioned perilous cones with minimal screeching – the new Lexus and its hybrid and sport variants employ an air-tight tire-and-wheel system that blocks out peripheral noise.
Like any becoming sports car, the 2018 LS features several drive modes (Normal, Sport S and Sport S+), but also intuitively analyses road conditions and driving demands so as to continually adapt and fine-tune its settings. Upon reaching the pit lane stretch, the command is given for me to floor the accelerator and I attempt to go as close to the LS’s maximum velocity of 250kph.
“How was it?”
I’m still shaking, but of course I’m going to play it cool and reply, “Yeah, it was all right.” I hope the air-conditioning evaporates my palm marks off the steering wheel before anyone notices.
“Are you ready for the hot lap in the LC?” I almost spill my chamomile tea.
Before I know it, I’m riding shotgun in the ultra-high-performance Lexus LC and the centrifugal force, which is way stronger than my neck muscles, is slamming my helmeted head against the side of the car. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m someone who likes to play down immense distress. “So how long have you been doing this professionally?” I try to make small talk while the LC is screaming around the bend.
I enjoy simply knowing that Lexus is an increasingly impressive badge that gearheads of all ages can rely on.
“Just a few years,” the driver replies while swinging the LC’s lithe wheel 180 degrees to the left. Not the most reassuring answer, especially since I can hardly see through this man-made storm of sand and burning rubber. Once again, I make it back to the pit building without wetting the seat. Just like many proud fathers around the world, I might never push a Lexus as hard as this thrill seeker just did, but enjoy simply knowing that Lexus is an increasingly impressive badge that gearheads of all ages can rely on.